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Hachette UK imprint Sceptre has pre-empted a biography of the Egyptian city of Alexandria written by the British academic Dr Islam Issa.  Juliet Brooke, associate publisher at Sceptre, secured world rights in Alexandria: The City that Changed the World from Adam Gauntlett at PFD.  Sceptre plans to publish in September 2023.

If today the title ‘capital of the world’ might belong to New York or London (with Dubai in the ranking too), there was once a time when it indisputably belonged to Alexandria, to the city that was a meeting point of east and west and which had the world’s greatest library.

The publisher says: “Combining rigorously researched history with the myth and folklore of the city, Alexandria is an authoritative history of a city that has shaped our modern world.  This the first ever history of a city whose story tracks key moments in Western civilisation from the invasion of Alexander the Great to the Arab Spring.

“Alexandria was the crucible of cultural exchange between East and West for millennia and the undisputed global capital of knowledge that constantly pressed humanity into its next era. It also witnessed natural disasters, plagues, crusades and violence.  As a British-Egyptian historian whose family has roots in Alexandria, Islam Issa is uniquely placed to tell this story.”

Issa, who is reader in Literature and History at Birmingham City University, says: : “I don’t think there’s a city in the world that has as captivating a history and influence as Alexandria. Its story is packed with surprising events and absorbing characters that combine with its cultural mythology to create something extraordinary. The city is also an important part of my identity and ancestry so I’m excited to be publishing on such a dear topic and thrilled that it’s found the perfect home at Sceptre.”

Issa has written a number of books and contributes to a wide range of newspapers and magazines.  He is also a TV presenter and broadcaster.

At Sceptre, Brooke  commented: “I was immediately gripped by Islam Issa’s exceptional proposal and I’m absolutely delighted to be publishing him. Most of us know about Alexander the Great and the famous library, but this brilliant book will demonstrate quite how crucial Alexandria has been to the history of modern Western civilisation.

“Like Istanbul and Jerusalem, the story of Alexandria is that of a city at the crossroads of cultures, languages and religion, of influential figures and dominant empires. Islam Issa will also show us the side of the city we don’t know – the seven Queen Cleopatras, the theft of the body of St Mark the Evangelist from an Alexandrian church, and the city today, still wrestling with its identity.”

Melis Dagoglu, head of rights at Sceptre’s parent division Hodder said: “When I first read the proposal for Alexandria I knew this was something special. Not only because it will appeal to history lovers like myself, but readers all around the world will be fascinated to learn more about this ancient civilisation which revered books and knowledge above all or about the incredible women who made their mark on this fascinating city. We’re excited to see where this book will land internationally.”