Al-Bustani, Butrus بطرس البستاني (1819–83) By Luce, Mark D.
Butrus Al-Bustani is known as the “father of the Arabic Renaissance” and was a leading pioneer of the Al-Nahda (النهضه) or cultural awakening. Al-Bustani sought to promote Arabic as a national language, long neglected by the Ottoman Turks, and to make it a suitable vehicle for communicating, implementing educational reform, and imparting new scientific and technical knowledge from Europe and the West. He also helped to found the Syrian Scientific Society ( الجعمية العلمية السورية Al-Ja’miyya al-’ilmiyya al-suriyya).
Al-Bustani participated in the American Protestant Mission’s Bible translation project. In 1870, he completed his large Arabic dictionary The Ocean of Oceans ( محيط المحيط Muhit al-Muhit) and the first volume of his encyclopedia, the Dictionary of Knowledge (دائرة المعارف Dairat al-ma’arif) appeared in 1876. He died while engaged with this massive project. He was able to produce only six volumes. His son Salim carried on his father’s work and completed another two volumes. This encyclopedia was never completed but eleven volumes were published.