In an era of extraordinary encyclopedias, Boutros al-Boustani undertook the contribution from the perspective of the Arabic world. Encompassing 11 volumes and the work of three generations, this encyclopedia, while containing standard encyclopedic fare, focuses on the Middle East and its people, history, science, and literature.
An historic encyclopedia for the Middle East, The Arabic Encyclopedia is an invaluable resource for nineteenth-century Arabic wisdom. Compiled like other major encyclopedias, this 11-volume set covers many of the usual fields found in encyclopedias: for example, natural science, law, politics, philosophy, chemistry, physics, theology, astronomy, and literature. What makes this reference work in Arabic stand out is the focus on the Arabic world of the Middle East. In addition to the kinds of material found in the other great encyclopedias of this period, The Arabic Encyclopedia concentrates on the Arabic Christian and Muslim Middle East, giving uncommon, if not unique, biographies of important figures from that part of the world. This work, rare in the western scholarly world, contains a collection of information of great interest to those who research into the role played by the Middle East in the realms of science, philosophy, and literature. All entries are transcribed into Roman letters, and there is a comprehensive French index.
Boutros (Peter) al-Boustani (1819-1883) was born in Lebanon. He assisted Cornilius van Dyck in his historic translation of the Bible into Arabic, and was brought in to work as a translator at the American consulate. After beginning the Encyclopedia, the work was carried on to 11 volumes by his son and grandchildren.