Urdu Book of Psalms

Urdu Book of Psalms. Daud ke zabur [in Arabic].
Serampore: Printed at the Mission Press for the Calcutta Auxiliary Bible Society, 1825. (BRB1424)

This is the earliest printing of the Psalms in Urdu, based on a translation by Mirza Muhammad Fitrat (active ca. 1800–1850) with revisions by Thomas Thomason (1774–1829) and Daniel Corrie (1777–1837). The work was printed entirely in Arabic at the Mission Press in Serampore for the publisher, the Calcutta Auxiliary Bible Society. The Bridwell Library copy is bound in the publisher’s two-tone Cambridge style binding with a contemporary spine label inscribed “Persian Psalms” and “Calcutta Auxiliary Bible Society” stamped in blind on the upper cover.

The Mission Press was founded in 1800 by the English Baptist missionaries William Carey (1761–1834) and William Ward (1769–1823), who had moved from Calcutta to the nearby Danish colony of Serampore to avoid the strictures of the British East India Company. From 1801 to 1837 the Mission Press printed Bibles and scriptural selections in forty-five different South Asian languages, including thirty-five editions that were the first appearances of the scriptures in those languages. Rev. Carey, a self-taught speaker of numerous Indian languages, produced the translations with the aid of several indigenous assistants, while Rev. Ward, a trained printer, produced the typefaces required by the various languages. A special paper used for these editions, impervious to local insects, was produced at India’s first paper mill, established by the missionary John Clark Marshman (1794–1877).

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