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Few works about the Middle East have exerted such wide and long-lasting influence as Edward William Lane's An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians. First published in 1836, this classic book has never gone out of print, continuously providing material and inspiration for generations of scholars, writers, and travelers, who have praised its comprehensiveness, detail, and perception. Yet the editions in print during most of the twentieth century would not have met Lane's approval. Lacking parts of Lane's text and many of his original illustrations (while adding many that were not his), they were based on what should have been ephemeral editions, published long after the author's death. Meanwhile, the definitive fifth edition of 1860, the result of a quarter century of Lane's corrections, reconsiderations, and additions, long ago disappeared from bookstore shelves. Now the 1860 edition of Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians is available again, with a useful general introduction by Jason Thompson. Lane's greatest work enters the twenty-first century in precisely the form that he wanted.
Edward William Lane (1801-76), a name known to almost everyone in all the many fields of Middle East studies, was the author of a number of highly influential works: An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (1836), his translation of The Thousand and One Nights (1839-41), Selections from the Kur-an (1843), and the Arabic-English Lexicon (1863-93). In 2000, his long-forgotten manuscript Description of Egypt was published for the first time by the AUC Press.
Jason Thompson is currently a visiting professor at Bates College. He is the editor of Lane's Description of Egypt (AUC Press, 2000) and the author of A History of Egypt: From Earliest Times to the Present ( AUC Press, 2008) and Edward William Lane, 1801-76 ( AUC Press, 2010).