The Sikh Religion – Max Arthur Macauliffe (1909) (1st ed)


The Sikh Religion – Max Arthur Macauliffe (1909) (1st ed)


The first edition of a now super rare work. The first and easily the most important English-language work on Sikhism by an Englishman who converted to Sikhism. 

Title: The Sikh Religion, Its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors

Author: Max Arthur Macauliffe

Publisher: Oxford, at the Clarendon Press, 1909. First and only edition. Impossibly rare.

Condition: Hardcover, cloth. 6 volumes in 3 books – complete. Some wear and rubbing on covers, edgewear, interior is good. With many black and white reproductions of traditional paintings.

About the book:

This is one of the first (and still one of the few) comprehensive books about the Sikh religion in the English language. MacAuliffe had extensive access to manuscripts of the Sikh sacred writings (the Granth), as well as support from Sikh scholars — such as Bhai Kahn Singh Nabha and Pratap Singh Giani — and leaders of the time.

About the author (from wikipedia):

Michael MacAuliffe, also known as Max Arthur Macauliffe (10 September 1841 − 15 March 1913), was a senior Sikh-British administrator, prolific scholar and author. Macauliffe is renowned for his translation of Sikh scripture and history into English.

MacAuliffe was born at Newcastle West, County Limerick, on 10 September 1841. He was educated at Newcastle School, Limerick, and Springfield College. He attended Queen’s College Galway between 1857 and 1863, being awarded junior scholarships in the Literary Division of the Arts Faculty for 1857-8, 1858-9, and 1859-60. He was awarded a B.A. degree with first class honours in Modern Languages in 1860. He obtained a senior scholarship in Ancient Classics for 1860-1, and a senior scholarship in Modern Languages and History for 1861-2. He also served as Secretary of the college’s Literary and Debating Society for the 1860-1861 session.

MacAuliffe entered the Indian Civil Service in 1862, and arrived in the Punjab in February 1864. He was appointed Deputy Commissioner of the Punjab in 1882, and a Divisional Judge in 1884. He retired from the Indian Civil Service in 1893.

MacAuliffe also wrote a rendition, English translation of the Sacred scriptures of the Sikh religion, the Guru Granth Sahib. He also wrote The Sikh Religion: its Gurus, Sacred Writings and Authors (six volumes, Oxford University Press, 1909). He was assisted in his works by Pratap Singh Giani, a Sikh scholar.

Macauliffe converted to Sikhism in the 1860s and was even derided by his British employers for having “turned a Sikh”

His personal assistant remarked in his memoirs that on his death bed, Macauliffe could be heard reciting the Sikh morning prayer, Japji Sahib, ten minutes before he died.

Macauliffe is held in high esteem amongst Sikh communion, for his attempted translation into English of the Sikh Scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib. At a lecture at the annual session of the Lahore Singh Sabha Macauliffe proclaimed that the Guru Granth was matchless as a book of holy teachings.

He was awarded the degree of M.A. (honoris causa) by his alma mater in 1882. MacAuliffe died at his home in London on 15 March 1913.

A lengthy and detailed biography is available here.