February 18, 2015

Map of the Turkish Empire

This map shows the Ottoman Empire as it appeared in the early 17th century. It details Ottoman territories in Asia, Africa, and Europe, and includes Persia, Transcaucasia, Ethiopia, and other surrounding lands. Topographic features, place-names, and populations are definitively marked, although the nomenclature of the time differs markedly from that used today. The Red Sea is termed the Sea of Mecca, for example, and the Persian Gulf is called the Sea of Alcatif. The map sometimes has been identified as a part of Atlas sive Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati figura (Atlas of the world: finely engraved and drawn), produced by Jodocus Hondius following the work of Gerard Mercator. There is no evidence on the map itself to sustain that identification, nor is a date of publication supplied. Ottoman lands are hand-colored in red, except for the European territories. The vivid coloring is not contemporary with the production of the map and was probably added in the 19th century after Greece and the Balkan lands, which are not colored, were freed from Ottoman rule. Different lettering denotes different geographic and ethnographic features. Italics are generously used, and geometric shapes and shading are used to indicate mountain ranges and maritime littorals. The title cartouche indicates that Hondius, the supposed creator, based his map on Mercator’s projection. The cartouche itself is of interest for its cameo portrait entitled “Sultan Mahumet Turcorum Imperat” (Sultan Muhammad Emperor of the Turks), probably meant to represent Sultan Mehmed II (1432−81), known as Mehmed the Conqueror.

Lands of the Emperor of the Turks or the Ottoman Sultan in Asia, Africa, and Europe

This map shows the Ottoman Empire as it was conceived in Europe in the last quarter of the 17th century. It is a reprint, dated 1679, of an earlier edition possibly included in a series of world atlases published by Nicolas Sanson (1600−1667) in the middle of the century. The map shows geological features, such as rivers, deserts, and mountain ranges. Cities and towns are indicated, and colored lines are used to mark the borders of kingdoms. An inset map at the lower left shows the extension of the southern coast of the Mediterranean, westward to Algeria. Place-names are in French. Sanson is considered by many to be the founder of the French school of cartography. Originally from Abbeville, he was also known as Sanson d’Abbeville. He was trained as a military engineer but became a prolific cartographer who produced more than 300 maps. Around 1643, he began publishing maps, working with publisher Pierre Mariette. In the period from the 16th to the 18th centuries, French, British, and Dutch mapmakers competed to supply the growing demand for maps of the East as European commerce expanded in regions beyond the Mediterranean. Sanson was among the early cartographer-publishers to profit from this demand. He established a dynasty of geographers and mapmakers that endured for a century.

The Brilliant Lantern, or Commentary on the Lesser Compilation of the Hadiths of the Consecrated Messenger

This work in four volumes is a commentary on a collection of hadiths, al-Jami’ al-saghir (The lesser compilation), by the famous Egyptian scholar Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (1445−1505). The commentary, by Ali ibn Ahmad al-‘Azizi (died 1659 or 1660), is formatted as an alphabetical concordance to al-Suyuti’s collection. Hadiths are examined in their morphological, grammatical, and lexical aspects as well as in the context of their transmission. The essence of medieval hadith scholarship was concern for the authenticity of the Prophet Muhammad’s words and deeds through many transmitters. Thus al-‘Azizi is at pains to categorize hadiths as strong or weak. The author depends most heavily for his judgments on the commentary by his near contemporary ‘Abd al-Ru’uf al-Munawi (died 1621) entitled Al-Faydh al-qadir (The powerful flood). Not much is known about al-‘Azizi. He is said to have written many works, but if that is the case, most have not survived. His name, al-‘Azizi, refers to the town of al-‘Aziziyah in the Nile Delta where presumably he was born. He was educated in Cairo and is buried in the Bulaq quarter of the city. Each hadith is signaled by an asterisk and overlining. There are frequent lines of poetry, marginal notes, and parenthetical remarks. The book was published in Cairo in 1862. At that time print production was a complex affair, and printing was a cooperative endeavor. Listed in the colophon are an editor, corrector, proofreader, and a specialized editor to collate the text against original manuscripts. The volumes generally display the care taken in the early publications of the Bulaq Press, but there is no mention of the press in the colophon.

Marginal Notes on the Commentary on the Précis of Astronomy

This astronomical manuscript is comprised of notes by al-Birjandi on a treatise by Qadi’zadah, which is itself a commentary on a work by al-Jighmini entitled al-Mulkhkhas fi al-hay’ah (Précis of astronomy). The manuscript is thus the work of three scientists specializing in mathematics and astronomy. Included are extensive hashiyah (marginal notes) on Qadi’zadah’s sharh (commentary) on the principles of astronomy by al-Jighmini. The manuscript first covers the principles of geometry necessary for the study of the heavens. There follows extensive coverage of the position of celestial bodies in relation to the earth and the seasons. The three authors demonstrate the vitality from the 13th to the 17th centuries of what is called “Arab” astronomy. Research was passed from generation to generation and from academy to academy. But the work also reminds us that what is often termed “Arab science” is in fact a body of knowledge created by scholars from many lands who wrote in Arabic, the lingua franca of the learned. For example, astronomer-mathematician Qadi’zadah was born in Turkish-speaking Bursa, a city west of Istanbul. He moved to the Timurid city of Samarkand in Central Asia, where Persian and Turkish were commonly spoken but where scientific writing was largely in Arabic. Qadi’zadah wrote little, but his commentary was frequently copied and used as a textbook in many parts of the Islamic world. The central text is copiously annotated and there are a few geometric illustrations in the margins. The colophon mentions that the work was copied by Mustafa ibn ‘Ali al-Buluni (sic). On the front leaves are ownership statements and poetic couplets in Persian; on the back flyleaves is a long comment on the characteristics of fixed stars. None of the three works has been edited and published in a critical edition.

Map of Arabia, the Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea; Including Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia

This map of the Arabian Peninsula and surrounding areas was most likely created by the French cartographer and hydrologist Rigobert Bonne (1727−94). It is probably a proof copy of the map of the same title published in his Atlas des toutes les parties connues du globe terrestre (Atlas of all known land surfaces of the globe). The Arabian Peninsula is the main focus of the map, but it also covers much of the Nile Valley on the western shore of the Red Sea. The atlas was created to serve the global commercial and political interests of European traders and officials. Rigobert Bonne was one of many outstanding French cartographers of the 18th century. Self-taught in mathematics, he rose in the French administration to become chief hydrologist of the state Maritime Department. As a theoretician, he published a revision of global cartographic projection entitled Principes sur les mesures en longueur et en capacité (Principles of measurement of length and volume), a copy of which he sent to Thomas Jefferson in 1790 for discussion at the American Philosophical Society.

Thirty-two Years with Islam (1832-1864)

Trente-deux ans a travers l'Islam (1832-1864) (Thirty-two years with Islam [1832-1864]) is a memoir by French soldier and diplomat Léon Roches (1809−1901), covering his career in North Africa and other parts of the Middle East, including a brief sojourn in Mecca. It is based on his diary and on correspondence that he reviewed following his retirement from government service. Beginning with his first arrival in French Algeria in 1832, the author recounts his diplomatic and military assignments in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Arabia. His mastery of Arabic was such that he was appointed interpreter to army headquarters. In this capacity, and later as advisor to generals, he participated in most of the dramatic events surrounding the revolt by ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza’iri (1808−83) against the expanding French occupation. Also included is an account of the vexed negotiations between Morocco and France. In 1841 Roches traveled to Medina and Mecca with acquaintances he made in Cairo, paying his share of expenses for transport and food. Despite his laisser-passer from religious authorities, he was arrested as a non-Muslim trespassing on holy ground reserved for the faithful. He was ultimately released and deported on orders of the sharif of Mecca. The memoir is an important document in the history of French colonialism in North Africa and sheds much light on Algerian leaders, especially ‘Abd al-Qadir. There are photographs and engravings throughout. The two volumes were published in Paris by the famous printer-publisher Firmin-Didot.

Discerning and Specifying the Circumstances of Revelation of the Noble Hadiīth

Al-Bayān wa-al-taʻrīf fī asbāb wurūd al-ḥadīth al-sharīf (Discerning and specifying the circumstances of revelation of the noble hadith) is a textual and contextual interpretation of the hadith (the statements and actions of the Prophet Muhammad), written by Ibrahim ibn Muhammad Kamal al-Din al-Husayni al-Dimashqi (1644 or 1645−1708). Hadith plays an important part in Islam, and the Prophet’s utterances and activities are integral to its scriptural tradition. In the introduction to the work, the author states that in some cases the circumstances of a hadith are clear from the hadith itself, but in others they must be inferred. Hadith of the latter type are the subject of al-Bayan wa-al-ta’rif. The book quotes the hadith, adding commentary about the situational context of each. Selections are drawn from the kutub al-sittah (six canonical collections) recognized by Sunni Muslims. The book takes its place on the small shelf of similar studies by al-‘Ukbari (1143 or 1144−1219), al-Bulqini (1324−1403), and al-Suyuti (circa 1445−1505).  Also known as Ibn Hamzah al-Husayni, Ibrahim ibn Muhammad Kamal al-Din al-Husayni al-Dimashqi was born in Damascus. He traveled to Egypt and the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, where he studied under some 80 teachers. In Cairo he was appointed head of the Ashraf guild (an association of those claiming descent from the Prophet), before he returned to Damascus where he held administrative and judicial positions. This edition of Bayan wa-al-ta’rif was published by Muhammad Tahir al-Rifa’i and printed at al-Baha’ Press in Aleppo in 1911. The two volumes bound as one are organized alphabetically by the first word of the canonical hadith.

The Perfection of Eloquence: The Letters of Shams al-Maʻali Qabus ibn Washmakir

Kamāl al-balāghah wa huwa rasāʼil Shams al-Maʻālī Qābūs ibn Washmakīr (The perfection of eloquence: The letters of Shams al-Maʻali Qabus ibn Washmakir) is a critical edition of a little-known collection of letters by Ibn Washmakir. The letters demonstrate the writer’s badi’ (virtuosity), especially in rhymed prose. They were transcribed by one ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Yazdadi, who gave the compilation the title Kamal al-balaghah. The current edition is based on two manuscripts discovered in Baghdad in the early 20th century by bookseller Nu’man al-A’zimi. The work was extensively annotated and provided with an introduction by the printer Muhibb al-Din al-Khatib. Ibn Washmakir (died 1012 or 1013) is well known in medieval history as the governor of Tabaristan, the area of Persia bordering the Caspian Sea, under the Abbasid caliphs. He was known by various names, including amir (prince) and Qabus al-Ziyari. The caliph in Baghdad conferred on him the nickname Shams al-Ma’ali (Noon-bright Sun). He ruled Tabaristan until he was deposed and assassinated. Although he is remembered by historians for his cruelty, he is nevertheless credited with mastery of Arabic and Persian prose and poetry as well as of philosophy and astronomy. Nothing has survived of his work, however, beyond Kamal al-balaghah and some scattered quotations in medieval anthologies. His court was home to outstanding literary and scientific personalities. Perhaps his most famous guest was Ibn Sina, or Avicenna (died 1037), who took refuge with him from persecution at the court of Mahmud of Ghazni (died 1030). Nothing is known about the compiler, other than that he was born into a learned family. He supplied admiring commentary on the style of the letters. The text is carefully printed, vowelled and footnoted, with occasional parenthetical explanations by the editor. The book was published (i.e., financed) by Nuʻman al-Aʻzami, proprietor of the Arabic Bookshop in Baghdad and was printed in Cairo by Muhibb al-Din al-Khatib at his Salafiyah Press. The volume includes short, unedited philosophical essays by Ibn Washmakir.

Creation and History

Al-Badʼ wa-al-tārīkh (Creation and history) is a universal history from the Creation until the end of the reign of Abbasid caliph al-Muti in 974. It is not a particularly good example of historical scholarship. It is in large part a list of prophets and kings, leavened with stories derived from written sources, myths, scripture, and the personal thoughts of the author, as, for example, his reflection on the many religious traditions and practices of mankind. With the exception of a strongly worded introductory warning to the reader about those who undermine the faith of the weak-minded with controversy, the text is a straightforward, often bland narrative. The author simply catalogs controversial topics, such as the beliefs of the numerous Shia Imamiyah sects, with only a sentence or two describing their beliefs. Some scholars have suggested a strong Iranian bias in the work, but careful examination does not support this interpretation. Authorship is uncertain, with the possibilities including Ahmad ibn Sahl al-Balkhi (died 934) or the tenth-century scholar Mutahhar ibn Tahir al-Maqdisi. The work was edited and translated from a single manuscript by the prolific French orientalist Clement Huart (1854−1926). He was unable to identify the author with certainty, and even changed his mind about who the author was with the publication of volume three of the Arabic text in 1903. The puzzle remains a matter for further research. Both Arabic and French editions were produced in Paris by the well-known publisher Ernest Leroux.

Pilgrimage to the Caaba and Charing Cross

Hafiz Ahmed Hassan was an Indian Muslim, treasurer and advisor to the nawab of Tonk, Muhammad ‘Ali Khan (died 1895). Tonk was a principality in northwest India and is today part of the state of Rajasthan. When the nawab was deposed in 1867, the author accompanied him into exile, going first to Benares and then, in 1870, to the Muslim holy cities on pilgrimage. After completing the hajj, Hafiz proceeded to England where he spent a short time before returning to India. The focus of the book is his travel to Arabia on the hajj, with description of its rituals. It is a valuable record, in English, of the conditions and practices of his time. He describes the port of Jeddah, the buildings and surroundings of Mecca and Medina, and his fellow pilgrims, and he provides vivid descriptions of rapacious tax authorities and rough treatment by Bedouins on his journey. The book is an important companion to classic accounts in English of the holy cities by C. Snouck Hurgronje and Richard Burton. In addition to its Arabian chapters, the book details the unjust accusations against the nawab that led to his removal from the throne. The author concludes with a chapter about England and the English in which he, among other topics, contrasts the rigor of the British judicial system at home with the summary justice provided for Indian subjects, often at the whim of untrained British administrators. The book was published in London by W. H. Allen, a foremost publisher of works on India.