The Qur’ân

By Edward Palmer

First Edition (1880)

The Qur’ân

Edward Palmer, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1880
“INTRODUCTION. Before entering upon an intelligent study of the Qur’ân it is necessary to make oneself acquainted with the circumstances of the people in whose midst it was revealed, with the political and religious aspects of the...


Edward Henry Palmer (1840–1882), was an English orientalist, a Cambridge scholar (fellowship at St John College Cambridge) and translator of Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Turkish. Palmer was the first Arabist English translator who lived among the Arabs and was fully immersed in the spoken language. Palmer published his translation of the Quran in 1880 with an introduction on the history of the life of the Prophet. The translation appeared as part of the series “Sacred Books of the East”, published by Oxford University Press (imprint Clarendon Press in Oxford), which later republished the set as part of its sequel series “The World’s Classics.” With Palmer’s translation the image of the Quran witnessed a huge transformation. To aid the understanding of the text, he gives a precis of each chapter. Unlike the translation by J. M. Rodwell, who rearranged the chapters, Palmer keps the traditional arrangement. His accompanying notes are minimal, and for more extensive commentaries he refers the readers to George Sale’s work. However he objected to the very different style of language used in Sale’s translation which he felt did not reflect the original. Likewise, he criticised the style of Rodwell’s translation of being too literary. Palmer’s translation is definitely clearer compared to the two other translations mentioned, but lacks the passion and rhythm of the Quran. From the first edition in 1880, Palmer’s translation was always published by the Clarendon Press in Oxford, but in 1929, R. A. Nicholson writes a new introduction that returns to the more combative style of earlier introductions to Quran translations.

About the author

Edward Palmer

  • Born: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, 7 August 1840
  • Died: Wadi Sidr, Egypt, 10 or 12 August 1882 (aged 42)
  • Full name: Edward Henry Palmer
  • Other names: E. H. Palmer Edward H. Palmer E Henry Palmer Palmer, Edward Henry
  • Creed: Christian


Palmer’s translation went through several editions in Britain, through its association with the Clarendon Press, perhaps as many as thirty, and was reprinted in the United States as late as 1965, since when it was replaced by Arberry’s 1955 translation.