“Wise up to these things!”
—Jamal al-Din Abd al-Rahim al-Jawbari, The Book of Charlatans
This comprehensive work by Syrian Arab author Jamal al-Din Abd al-Rahim al-Jawbari is as inciteful and entertaining in the 21st century as it was when it was first written 800 years ago. At the urging of a Turkmen ruler, al-Jawbari composed this succinct compendium—his only surviving work—to guide readers on the common tricks and scams of the time by the likes of conjurors, quackeries, and thieves among others. Portions of the work have not aged well, particularly the author’s misogynistic views and his disdain for various ethnic, tribal and religious groups. However, the book offers a unique window into the lives of everyday and marginalized people in the Middle East, Northern Africa and West Asia. This edition features the original Arabic on the left side, while Davies’ translation sits on the right. Overall, the book’s short, entertaining anecdotes and descriptions allow for an excellent read, even if a little at a time.