Rariora qu 54

Kâtip Çelebi, Kitâb-i Cihân-nümâ li-Kâtib Çelebi

Rariora qu 54

Kâtip Çelebi (pseudonym of Mustafa Abdullah), Kitâb-i Cihân-nümâ li-Kâtib Çelebi. Constantinople, Ibrahim Müteferrika, 1732 (1145).
Binding Modern half-leather binding of coated linen over pasteboard.
Provenance Purchased in 1973.

From the beginning of the sixteenth century works in Arabic were printed by Christian and Jewish printers in various European cities as well as in Constantinople. The first works printed in Arabic by an Islamic printer were published in Constantinople in the beginning of the eighteenth century (the twelfth century according to the Islamic calendar). These are known as 'Turkish incunabula'. The printer/publisher, who was of Hungarian origin, has passed into history under his assumed Arabic name of Ibrahim Müteferrika. He was born between 1672 and 1675 in Kolozsvár in Transylvania (the present-day city of Cluj in Romania). His Hungarian name has remained unknown. As a young man he settled in Constantinople, where he became a convert to Islam. He must have been a man of many talents because he worked as a courtier and a diplomat, writer/translator, geographer/cartographer, publisher/printer, letter designer and type founder. Probably between 1705 and 1711, he was appointed to the post of müteferrika, the head of the household, at the court of Sultan Ahmed III. In 1726 he wrote a treatise on the use and efficacy of the printing press, which he submitted to the Grand Vizier, the Grand Mufti and the clergy. He subsequently submitted an official request to the Sultan for permission to print classical and scientific works, including dictionaries and treatises on logic, philosophy, geography and astronomy. Despite initial opposition by the influential clergy and professional calligraphers, he received permission in 1727 to print non-religious works. Between 1729 and 1743 the printing workshop established in Constantinople by Müteferrika produced seventeen printed works in 23 volumes, with impressions ranging from 500 to 1,000 copies. The majority of these Turkish incunabula are works on history, but they also contain three linguistic and three scientific works concerning modernisation, magnetism and the workings of the compass, and the Cihan-nüma or Mirror of the World. The latter is the work displayed here. Until far into the nineteenth century this world atlas was regarded in the Ottoman empire as the standard work of geography on account of its combination, unique for that time, of geographic knowledge already available to the Arabic world and European ideas about this branch of learning that were current at the time.

The author of this work is the historian and geographer Kâtip Çelebi (1609-1657), who was born and died in Constantinople and whose real name was Mustafa ibn Abd Allah. As an army administrator during campaigns in the East he collected a great deal of material for his treatises on the history of the Ottoman empire. An inheritance made it possible for him to settle in Constantinople as a retired citizen, devoting himself entirely to his work as a historian. He also began a collection of books, which, judged by the standards of that time, grew to a considerable size. His most important work was the Kashf al-zunûn'an asâmî al-kutub wa-al-funûn, a bibliographical encyclopaedia with information about 15,000 Arabic, Persian and Turkish books published up to circa 1650. It was Çelebi's intention to dedicate the Cihan-nüma, on which he had started in 1648, to Sultan Mehmed IV, who had just acceded to the throne. Although he was not able to complete the work himself, it has always been attributed to him. The completed work is an atlas with a Turkish text, which for the first time makes use of recently published European atlases and other source material, including Abraham Ortelius's Theatrum orbis terrarum (1570), Gerard Mercator's Atlas minor (1607) and works by the geographer and archaeologist Philippus Cluverius (1580-1622).

A first version and an extended second version by Çelebi have been handed down in a number of manuscripts. The most important of these are kept in Vienna (Mxt. 389) and Istanbul (Erivan Kiosk 1624). After Çelebi's death, Abû Bakr ibn Bahrâm ad-Dimashqî (?-1691) completed the work. The latter's contribution to the third version is apparent from a manuscript kept in London (British Museum, Or. 1030). The definitive (fourth) version, produced by Ibrahim Müteferrika, was published in 1732. Of the two volumes intended for publication by the latter (Part I: Asia; Part II: Europe), only the first was published. Çelebi's text covers approximately two-thirds of the book, followed seamlessly by Abû Bakr's addition. Of the forty plates and maps in the printed version the maps of Azerbaijan (opposite p. 390) and Anatolia (opposite p. 629) go back to the original maps by Abû Bakr. The map of the Bosporus (opposite p. 681) was probably made by Ibrahim Müteferrika himself. The other maps are based on the work of Jodocus Hondius (1563-1612), the well-known Flemish cartographer. He produced the maps for the Mercator and Ortelius atlases (also see no. 36), whose unprecedented popularity was established practically as soon as they were published.

The printed version begins with an illustrated introduction on cosmography and astronomy by Müteferrika. The introduction is based on the ideas of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) and Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), but the author makes it clear that these ideas had not yet been accepted by the clergy, by which he means both the Christian and the Islamic clergy (also see no. 41). The main text of the atlas contains descriptions of the various regions and accompanying maps, with the emphasis on the Ottoman empire. Apart from geographic and climatological details, the atlas contains socio-historical notes as well as descriptions of cities, buildings, ruins and famous persons.

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