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1829: History of the Afghans

Neamet Ullah; Dorn, Bernhard, translator History of the Afghans: Translated from the Persian of Neamat Ullah, by Bernhard Dorn, Professor of Oriental Literature in the Imperial Russian University of Kharkov. Parts I & II. London Oriental Translation Committee 1829-1836
First edition, two volumes bound in one, folio, pp.xv, [1, errata], 184; viii, 131. A very good set bound in recent half calf, marbled boards. Light foxing to first few leaves.

Ni'mat Allah al-Harawi, anglicised as Neamat Ullah, was historiographer at the Court of Jehangir 1609-11. His work, Makhzan-i Afghani, is the earliest known history of the Afghans from their beginnings to the sixteenth century. Dorn's translation was from a manuscript copied in 1718 belonging to the Royal Asiatic Society. This work is as much origin myth as it is factual history. The Makhzan traces the Pashtuns' origins from Abraham down to a king named King Talut (Saul), that is agreed by Muslim and Hebrew sources to be the same King Saul in Palestine around 1092 B.C.E., but after that date has little corroboration. According to Ni'mat Allah, Qais was the ancestor of most of the existing Pashtun tribes. He met Muhammad and embraced Islam. The book plays a large part in various theories that the Pashtun people are descended from the Israelites, as one of the Ten Lost Tribes. The book also covers Pashtun rulers in Bengal, contemporary events, and Pashtun hagiography. The first part contains the translation in full; the second part, issued seven years later, includes a Pushtoo Grammar and Vocabulary as well as notes on the Afghans from other sources. The first part was published by the Oriental Translation Fund in 1829; Dorn's appointment to the faculty of the University of Kharkov in 1829 delayed his work by several years. The second part, and its extensive annotations, benefit greatly from a second manuscript copy lent to Dorn from the private collection of a Dr Lee; in Dorn's words "it served to elucidate almost all the passages that had previously been obscure". Johannes Albrecht Bernhard Dorn (1805-1881), was a German who specialised in the history and language of Iran, Russia, and Afghanistan. He was a professor at Kharkov from 1829 until 1835 when he moved to teach at St. Petersburg. He taught oriental languages including Sanskrit, history and geography of the Muslim east, and offered the first ever class in Pashtu in Europe. From 1842 he was also director of the Asiatic Museum and head of the oriental section of the Imperial public library. He was a pioneer of Iranian studies in his time, not just in publications but in collections and preservation of archaeological finds. He was also prolific in publications relating to the Pashtuns and Afghan tribal history, as well as the first systematic description of Pashto.