Edward Rehatsek

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Edward Rehatsek (3 July 1819 – 11 December 1891) was an Orientalist and translator of several works of Islamic literature including the Gulistan of Saadi Shirazi, ibn Ishaq’s Prophetic biography, and the Rawẓat aṣ-ṣafāʾ. All three translations were originally published by the Kama Shastra Society founded by Richard Francis Burton and Forster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot at the end of the 19th century.


Rehatsek was born in 1819 in the town of Ilok, Hungary, which at that time was within the borders of the Austrian Empire. The town today lies within Croatia. Rehatsek attended university in Budapest and received a master's degree in civil engineering. Between 1842 and 1847, he visited France, lived four years in the United States, and sailed at last to India, arriving in Bombay (now, Mumbai) where he spent the rest of his life.[1][2]

In Bombay, Rehatsek studied eastern languages, literatures and customs. He supported himself first by employment in the Public Works Department, later as Professor of Latin and Mathematics at Wilson College. Rehatsek was a proficient linguist, fluent in twelve languages. He provided private lessons to students in Latin and French, as well as Persian and Arabic, and wrote scholarly articles and translations on Asian, particularly Islamic, history and custom, publishing in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. After retiring from Wilson College in 1871, Rehatsek continued to work as Examiner at the Bombay University in Latin, Arabic, Persian, and French until 1881.

Although he was a man of chaste habits, Rehatsek was not squeamish in worldly matters. His association with Sir Richard Burton’s Kama Shastra Society proved he was not prudish. He was in frequent correspondence with Burton, and was a friend of Forster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot, the cofounder with Burton of the Kama Shastra Society, which Rehatsek appreciated would not expurgate his work. Rehatsek was scrupulously devoted to the fidelity of his translations at a time when such fidelity to indelicate tales of eastern literature might lead to western prosecutions for pornography.

Rehatsek died in 1891 of cystitis and was cremated in the Hindu fashion.


  1. ^ Edward Rice Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: A Biography 2001- Page 550 "He and Burton immediately plunged into a discussion of plans to publish various Indian and Arab works. One of the participants in their plans was the extraordinary scholar Edward Rehatsek, an Austro-Hungarian. He had been born in 1810, ..."
  2. ^ Thomas Wright The Life of Sir Richard Burton - 2010 -- Page 154 "Born on 3rd July 1819, at Illack, in Austria, Edward Rehatsek was educated at Buda Pesth, and in 1847 proceeded to Bombay, where he settled down as Professor of Latin and mathematics at Wilson College. He retired from his professorship ..."
  • Arberry, A. J. Classical Persian Literature. London: George Allen and Unwin, Ltd., 1958.
  • Arbuthnot, F. F. "Life and Labours of Mr. Edward Rehatsek." In Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland For 1892. London: Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1892.
  • Rosenbaum, David M. Introduction to The Gulistan or Rose Garden of Sa'di. Trans. Edward Rehatsek. Omphaloskepsis Books, 2010.
  • Wright, Thomas. The Life of Sir Richard Burton, 2 vols. London: Everett & Co., 1906.