A history of geographical literature during the ottoman period*

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Ekmeleddin Ihsanoǧlu

attitudes coexisted. Instead, they favoured the method followed by those Western sources that were available to them.[1]

Having compared geographical works written in both East and West, Kātib Çelebi believed that the studies on geography conducted in the Muslim world, were inadequate for the needs of the day. He concluded that the Europeans had been able to establish their dominion over the world's oceans because they were in possession of superior geographical information. He also drew the attention of Ottoman intellectuals on this point. Hence, he examined Western studies on cartography and geography with the help of European converts. With the assistance of a French convert, Mehmed Ikhlasi, Kātib Çelebi translated Mercator’s (d. 1594) Latin work Atlas Minor into Turkish. He called this work Lawāmiʿ al-Nūr.[2]

Kātib Çelebi compiled his work Cihannümā with this new perspective on the basis of Western sources but without neglecting the Islamic ones and gave a list of them in the introduction of his book.[3] He also explained the method he followed in translating the Atlas Minor.[4]

Map of India, (Amirutzes, Tarcamatu Coǧrafyu Batlamyus, Ayasofya, no. 2610, folios 224b-225a).
Map of India, (Amirutzes, Tarcamatu Coǧrafyu Batlamyus, Ayasofya, no. 2610, folios 224b-225a).
Baghdad, (Matrakçi, Menāzil-i Sefer-i Irakeyn, Istanbul University Library, no. TY 5964, folios 47b-48a).
Baghdad, (Matrakçi, Menāzil-i Sefer-i Irakeyn, Istanbul University Library, no. TY 5964, folios 47b-48a).

It appears that in compiling his above-mentioned works, Kātib Çelebi mostly benefited from the previous works in the field. Nonetheless, the compilation of Cihannümā is a great development in the history of Islamic geographical literature, a point that he draws attention on it in his introduction.[5]

Tabriz, (Matrakçı Nasuh, Menåzil‐i Sefer‐i Irakeyn, Istanbul University Library, no. TY 5964, folios 27b-28a).
Tabriz, (Matrakçı Nasuh, Menåzil‐i Sefer‐i Irakeyn, Istanbul University Library, no. TY 5964, folios 27b-28a).
Map of the World, Maḥmūd ibn Aḥmad al-Khaṭīb al-Rūmī, Nawādir al-Gharāʾib, Süleymaniye Library, no. Esad Efendi, 2501, folios 2b-3a).
Map of the World, Maḥmūd ibn Aḥmad al-Khaṭīb al-Rūmī, Nawādir al-Gharāʾib, Süleymaniye Library, no. Esad Efendi, 2501, folios 2b-3a).

In the seventeenth century, Ottoman interest in European geographical sources was much greater than it had been in the early period (the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries). Two reasons may be cited for this. First, Muslims in general, and Ottomans in particular, were intellectually curious about what lay beyond the Muslim world and turned to European geographical works to supplement their knowledge. Secondly, the Ottomans acknowledged the important role that geography and cartography had played in European expansion as well as in enhancing and increasing European military and political power. The Ottomans were consequently keen to learn about contemporary geography, in response to an ‘invasive’ Europe. Spurred on, by these two considerations, particularly from the beginning of the seventeenth century onwards, the Ottomans made sure they had access to new knowledge on the Far East, Europe and America through geographical books which were translated from European languages such as Latin and French and which contained accurate and systematic information. As can be seen in Kātib Çelebi’s Cihannümā, for example, by obtaining new information, Ottoman geographers were able to develop a significant new category of geographical literature. They supplemented information on the Islamic world that did not exist in the West with knowledge that they transferred from the West. Although Kātib Çelebi, mostly drew on existing studies in his writings, his book Cihannümā must be regarded as a landmark in Muslim geographical literature.

Cihannümā is considered to be the most important geographical book written in Turkish after the efforts of Pírí Reis. In later periods, Ottoman geographers began to draw upon European sources at a gradually increasing rate. Kātib Çelebi made use of another work known in brief as Atlas Major which was written by Willem J. Blaeu (d. 1638) and his sons Joan and Cornelis.[6] It appeared in 9‐12 volumes (Amsterdam, 1662‐1665). Çelebi drew the attention of statesmen on this work.

Atlas Major, one of the most remarkable works of its time, was translated into Turkish by Abū bakr ibn Bahrām al-Dimashqī (d. 1102/1691)[7] after he had been encouraged to do so by Mehmed IV (d. 1693), shortly after the book was first published. This translation, entitled Nuṣrat al-Islām wa al-Surūr fī Taḥrīr-i Atlas Major (T) was completed in 1685.[8] This work, which gives extensive information about the history and geography of Europe and America, also contains several maps. It is divided into sections about different countries, each section containing detailed information about physical and human geography: agriculture, forests, people, customs, historical monuments, cities, political administration, and educational and religious institutions. Al-Dimashqī produced a free translation of this work in nine volumes; volume I is devoted to general geography and cosmography, volumes II to V to Europe, volume VI to Africa, volume VII to Italy, volume VIII to China and volume IX to America and the Indies.

Al-Dimashqī wrote two works more on the basis of this translation. One is an abridged version of the translation of Atlas Major entitled Mukhtaṣar Nuṣrat al-Islām wa al-Surūr[9] (T) which includes a supplement on Ottoman geography. The second, entitled Risālah fī al-Joghrāfīyā,[10] is a short treatise in Arabic, dealing with subjects such as physical and human geography, climates, the shape of the earth, the stars, zodiacs and astrology. It also includes technical information on the compass.

The Pyramids, (Ibn Zunbul, Qānūn al-Dunyā, Topkapi Palace Museum Library, no. Revan Köşkü, 1638, folio 76b).
The Pyramids, (Ibn Zunbul, Qānūn al-Dunyā, Topkapi Palace Museum Library, no. Revan Köşkü, 1638, folio 76b).
A section of the ʿMap of the Worldʾ, produced in 1513 by Pīrī Reis and presented to Selim I, in 1517.
A section of the ʿMap of the Worldʾ, produced in 1513 by Pīrī Reis and presented to Selim I, in 1517.

After him, other geographers such as Petros Baronian (alive in 1151/1738),[11] Ibrāhīm Müteferrika (d.1160/1747),[12] Bartınlı Ibrahim Hamdi (alive in 1163/1750),[13] and ʿOsman ibn ʿAbd al-Mannān (d. around 1200/1786),[14] most of whom were converts, produced works based on translations from Latin and other European languages. Petros Baronian translated Jacques Robbs’s La Méthode pour apprendre facilement la géographie into Turkish, under the title of Cem-nümā fī Fan al-Coǧrafya. The interest that Kātib Çelebiʾs Cihannümā created in scholarly circles when it was printed by Müteferrika, inspired Baronian to translate Robbs’s work. This work contains information about European mathematics, physical geography and maritime astronomy that had not previously been available in Turkish[15] as well as a discussion of map‐making and the mathematics of projections. Baronian also included a map of the Mediterranean in the book, giving scales using Islamic, French and Italian fersahs.

Cairo in the Sixteenth Century, (Pīrī Reis, Kitāb-ı Bahriye, Istanbul University Library, no. TY 6605, folio 312).
Cairo in the Sixteenth Century, (Pīrī Reis, Kitāb-ı Bahriye, Istanbul University Library, no. TY 6605, folio 312).
Map of the World, (Ali Macar Reis, Atlas, Topkapı Palace Museum Library, no. Hazine, 664.
Map of the World, (Ali Macar Reis, Atlas, Topkapı Palace Museum Library, no. Hazine, 664.

Ibrāhīm Müteferrika, well‐known as the founder of the first Muslim printing house in the Ottoman world, was at the same time a diplomat and a polymath scholar. Müteferrika also considered himself as a geographer and, in 1730, printed an edition of Tārih-i Hind-i Garbī, attributed to Muḥammad al-Suʿūdī. He followed this with an edition of Cihannümā in 1732, adding maps and various supplements to the original text. Müteferrika included new information on Anatolia and Arabia taken from Abū Bakr ibn Bahrām al-Dimashqī’s translation of Atlas Major and in a further supplement entitled ‘Teḍyīl al-Tābiʿ, gave details on new astronomy’s theories. He also gave detailed expositions on subjects such as Ptolemy’s, Copernicus’s and Tycho Brahe’s models of the universe, Descartes’ whirlpool theory, and the contributions of Aristoteles and Galileo to astronomy.

The Arabian Peninsula, (Kātib Çelebi, Cihannümā, Istanbul 1732, p. 383).
The Arabian Peninsula, (Kātib Çelebi, Cihannümā, Istanbul 1732, p. 383).
Map of Terrestrial Globes, (Kātib Çelebi, Tuhfetüʾl‐Kibār, Istanbul 1729).
Map of Terrestrial Globes, (Kātib Çelebi, Tuhfetüʾl‐Kibār, Istanbul 1729).

Bartınlı Ibrāhīm Ḥamdi wrote a work entitled Atlas‐I Cihān. In writing this, he drew upon books entitled Atlas Coelestis, Coǧrafya‐yı Cedīd and Atlas‐ı Cedīd‐i Felemenk. He also included translations of some sections of Engineer Karyo’s book on military history, Gaspar Scott’s book on mathematics and military architecture and Raymond Graf von Montecucculi’s (d. 1680) work entitled Commenterii Bellici.[16]

Osman ibn ʿAbd al-Mannān (d. around 1200/1786) translated Geographia generalis in qua affectionnes generalles telluris explicantur by Bernhard Varenius (1600‐1676) from German into Turkish, in 1751. Varenius’s work, which was published by Newton himself, is one of the most important to have been written in the fields of mathematics, physics and physical geography. ʿAbd al-Mannān made a free translation of this work under the title Tercemetü Kitāb-i Coǧrafya (T), stressing the topics of astronomy and physical geography but excluding other sections related to mathematics and physics. He also expanded upon Varenius’ introduction and conclusion, and gave it a new structure. In the introduction he discussed the earth’s position in space. ʿAbd al-Mannān added new information on Ottoman geography and listed the historical information chronologically according to hijrī dates. As a result of this book and those mentioned above, modern geography and astronomy, including Copernicus’s theory, were firmly established in Ottoman scholarly circles.[17]

Ambassadors’ reports (sefāretnāmes) and travelogues (seyahatnāmes)

A further A further subdivision of Ottoman geographical literature is made up of several books of descriptive geography, both original works and translations into Turkish, works written in the form of travellers’ memoires and ambassadors’ reports (to the sultan). Such books date from both the classical period and the period of modernisation. The earliest of these is Hıtaynāme by ʿAli Akbar Hıtāī (alive in 922/1516).[18] The book, which was originally written in Persian and subsequently translated into Turkish by its author, describes Hıtāī’s impressions of China. The work entitled ʿAcāʾibnāme-i Hindistān by ʾAhmad ibn Ibrāhīm al-Toqādī (tenth/sixteenth century) is another fascinating example of this genre.[19]

From the twelfth/eighteenth century onwards, there was a great increase in the number of sefāretnāmes or ambassadors’ reports, most of which described European countries. In the History of Geographical Literature during the Ottoman Period (OCLT) we have included the ambassadors’ reports that pertain to geography as well as those that contain information about the political, physical and human geography of the countries that the ambassadors visited. Works of this kind did not restrict themselves to a mere account of political matters.

Notable among such works are those sefāretnāmes, which were written by statesmen who were also men of letters, such as Yirmisekiz Mehmed Çelebi,[20] Aḥmad Resmī Efendi[21] and Aḥmad Vāsıf Efendi.[22] They are of significant importance because they contain a great deal of information about the human geography, culture and civilisation of the countries that the ambassadors visited. Thanks to such works, Ottoman administrators and intellectuals could better understand European countries. It was only natural that the opinions of these ambassadors on the things they came across, what they focused their attention on, and what they described, had an important impact on the development of Ottoman intellectuals’ perception of the world at large.

In addition to the sefāretnāmes that describe the impressions of delegations sent to Europe, there are also ambassadors’ reports produced under the influence of the classical period. Foremost among them is Bozoklu Osman Şākir’s (d. 1232/1817) Musavver Iran sefāretnāmes.[23] This book does not contain the same kind of information as the works of Ahmed Resmī and Yirmisekiz Çelebi but rather, in a similar way to Matrakçı Nasuh’s work, it includes meticulously drawn miniatures of several areas of Anatolia. A comparative study of these works indicates the use of both classical and Western traditions by Ottomans.

In addition to the above works, the Seyahatnāme of Evliyā Çelebi (d. 1093/1682) is worthy of mention. It is the most extensive travel book about the Ottoman world and, at the same time, one of the most comprehensive examples of the genre in world literature; all in all, it is an invaluable literary and historical work.[24] In this famous opus of ten volumes Evliyā Çelebi gives a lively account of the history, culture and folklore of the areas which he visited. He also gives a lot of information about the geography of the provinces and cities, located in the European, Asian and African parts of the empire, such as Greece, Transylvania and other Balkan provinces, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. He also gave detailed reports on his observations of neighbouring lands such as Hungary, Austria, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Astrakhan and other Caucasian areas where he travelled, when taking part in military campaigns. We will look below at similar important travel books written in the modernisation period by Ottoman intellectuals.

The drive towards military modernisation, which had already begun by the beginning of the eighteenth century, gained further momentum after the Russian defeat of the Ottoman naval forces at Çeşme in 1770. The most conspicuous manifestation of this movement was the new Military Engineering School, established in 1775 in the maritime arsenal along the lines of European military institutions. The school, commonly known as the Hendesehāne, was renamed the Mühendishāne in 1781. We know that the first students who studied in the Hendesehāne undertook land surveys, but, unfortunately, the original curriculum of this institution has not survived to the present day and we cannot be sure that it contained courses on geography. Geography and cartography were later included in its curriculum and, as a result, stimulated a lively growth on Ottoman geographical literature. In 1797, departments of ship construction and navigation were established at Tersāne Mühendishānesi, where cartography was taught. Tersāne Mühendishānesi took the name of Mühendishāne‐i Bahrī‐i Hümāyūn (School of Naval Engineering) in 1806 when the Law of Engineering Schools was put into effect. According to this law, courses on geography were to be included in the curricula of the second and third classes of the Mühendishānei Cedīde (New Engineering School), which had been set up in 1793 by Selim III under the name of Mühendishāne‐i Berrī‐i Hümāyūn (School of Military Engineering).[25]

Hüseyin Rıfkı Tamāní (d. 1816), the first chief instructor of the Mühendishāne‐i Berrī‐i Hümāyūn, wrote a textbook in Turkish entitled al‐Madkhal fí al‐Coǧrafya (Introduction to Geography) for use in the school. It was published by his former student Ishak Efendi in 1830.[26] The geography courses taught in the Mühendishāne were also included in the curriculum of the Military Academy that was established in 1834. Geography and cosmography were taught in the second and the third preparatory classes of this school respectively.[27] During the Tanzimat period geography courses were included in the curricula of the middle‐ level secular schools known as the rüşdiyes and the idādīs. Thereafter, several geography textbooks were also written. Selim Sābit Efendi (d. 1910),[28] for example, published a guidebook for teachers, entitled Rehnümā‐yı Muallimīn (T), in 1874. In the introduction he stated that ‘in geography classes the students would learn about the five continents and they would be taught how to draw maps.’[29]

From the beginning of the nineteenth century onwards the Ottomans abandoned traditional geography completely and, instead, closely followed European developments in geography. The production of geographical manuscripts, therefore, ceased. Astronomical, mathematical and even medical manuscripts based on traditional science were still produced in the nineteenth century but this actually depended upon whether or not these sciences were still taught in classical institutions. Since geography was not included in the curricula of the medreses, the production of geographical manuscripts ended at an early date.

As medreses lost their position at the centre of the Ottoman educational system and institutes and schools providing military or civil higher vocational education flourished, some graduates of the engineering schools and the Military Academy, who were educated in Europe, produced original cartography and geographical works. Some medrese graduates were even involved in modern geography. During this period many books were prepared along with the school curricula. As a result, during the second half of the nineteenth century, the number and range of geography books increased drastically, mirroring developments that had occurred in other fields. The number of original works increased significantly, especially in topics related to the Ottoman Empire as a whole, or to its provinces. Ottoman geographers also became interested in Africa and Asia, especially Japan. Developments in Japan drew the attention of many Ottoman intellectuals, who then wrote about the country.

During his reign, ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd II, was actively involved in domestic policies and sent many missions to the outlying European, Asian and African provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Similarly active in foreign affairs, ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd also sent experts further afield. All such missions were asked to prepare reports, a significant number of which were kept in manuscript form and were later published as books.

Apart from these officially inspired journeys, Ottoman intellectuals also travelled abroad on their own initiative and wrote accounts of their travels. Others translated books, about travel in Africa, Australia and the Poles, into Turkish. In this study, I have focused on books related to geography which provide information on the political, physical or, human (beşerī) geography of the countries or regions in which their authors travelled. Translations of travellers’ accounts, in the form of novels or works that merely relate the emotional responses of their authors to the countries they visited, have not been included.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries many original Turkish works which were written in the modern tradition, as well as Western geography translations were published. The same can be observed in cartography: new maps were drawn and European maps were translated. Ottoman provinces were surveyed and accurate maps prepared. Ali Şeref Paşa (d.1907)[30] and Mehmed Şevki Paşa (d. 1927)[31] were especially active in developing the study of surveying and cartography.

In addition to official military maps, among the most significant cartographic works of this period are: maps of the Basra‐Baghdad and Baghdad‐Mosul regions by Muʿallim Ali Bey (d. 1266/1849);[32] maps of Istanbul and the Arabian Peninsula by Hüsnü Bey (alive in 1278/1861);[33] the map of Syria‐Aleppo‐Adana‐Zor by Ismāil Zühdi Bey (alive around 1303/1886);[34] the map of Arabia‐Acemistan‐Turkistan by Hacı Mahmud Bey (alive around 1308/1890);[35] the work titled Memālik‐i Mahrūse‐i Osmāniye Harita‐i Umūmiyesinin Usūl-i Tastīhi ve Tersimātı Hakkında Tedkikāt‐ı Fenniye (T) by Menemenlizāde Ömer Kāmil (alive around 1310/1892),[36] the book Atlaslı Coǧrafya‐yı Osmānī by Mehmed Nasrullah (alive in 1909);[37] the Central Anatolian map by Ismail Remzi (alive in 1907),[38] and the map of Eastern Anatolia‐Caucasia‐Syria Egypt‐the Black Sea‐Iran by Hattat Azmi of Diyarbekir (alive in 1912).[39]

There is also a tradition of Ottoman general or national (umumī) geography, where Memālik-i Mahrūse-i Şāhāne Coǧrafysı (T), the first comprehensive work on Ottoman general geography, by Mustafa Rāsim (alive in 1305/1888),[40] Coǧrafya‐yı Mufassal‐ı Memālik‐i Devlet‐i Osmāniye (T) by Ali Sāib (alive in 1308/1890),[41] and Memālik‐i Mahrúse‐i Şāhāne Coǧrafyası (T) and Mufassal Memālik‐i Osmāniye Coǧrafyası (T) by Ali Tevfik (alive in 1911) can be cited.[42] It is, however, important to note that some works of Ottoman general geography were scarcely more than compilations of information found in the official salnāmes (yearbooks) published by the state, although there were other works by Ottoman scholars on general Ottoman geography, or on a specific area of Ottoman geography, based on personal investigation (taḥlíl).

In the same period, many works were produced focusing on the economic, military and strategic geography of the Ottoman Empire as well as tahdīdi arāzi (land surveying) and topography. Mehmed Hüsrev (alive around 1302/1885)[43] wrote Memāliki Osmāniyeʾnin Coǧrafya Ticāsi (T), the first Turkish work on commercial geography. Coǧrafya Zirāī ve Sınāī ve Ticā (T) by Hüseyin Rahmi (alive in 1307/1890)[44] and Memālik‐i Osmāniyeʾnin Ziraat Coǧrafyası (T) by Hüseyin Paşa (alive around 1902)[45] are noteworthy books on agricultural, industrial and commercial geography. Hüseyin Paşa informed us that while writing his book, he relied on many sources, both foreign and Turkish. Memālik‐i Osmāniyeʾye Mahsus Coǧrafya‐yı Askerī (T) by Ahmed Cemal (alive in 1310/1892),[46] was the first book to appear on military geography. Hüseyin Hüsni (alive around 1310/1892)[47] wrote on similar subjects, producing six works on military geography and topography. Coǧrafya-yı Askerī ve Sevkülceyşī (T) by Mehmed Tevfik, (alive in 1909),[48] is another important work. While preparing this, he used many sources not previously used by the Ottomans. In addition, memorable are several works by Seyyid Ismail Hakkı (presumably alive in 1912),[49] Mustafa Şevki Paşa (d. 1912)[50] and Ahmed Şükrü Paşa (d. 1915)[51] on strategy, Taksim-i arāzi (land division) and topography.

From about the end of the eighteenth century onwards, several dictionaries appeared in Europe about general and regional geography and history under the title of Dictionnaire  universelle d’histoire et de gēographie. Works of this kind can be found in classical Islamic geographical literature, but geographical dictionaries, in the modern sense of the word, were only written by the Ottomans from the second half of the nineteenth century and onwards. The earliest example of such works is Lügat‐i Tarihiye ve Coǧrafiye (T), which was compiled by Yaǧlıkçı zāde Ahmed Rifat (d. 1312/1894).[52] This work was followed by Kāmus al‐Aʿlām (T), written by Şemseddin Sāmi (d. 1904),[53] and Memālik‐i Osmāniyeʾnin Tārih ve Coǧrafya Lügatı (T), written by Ali Cevad (d. 1914).[54] Şemseddin Sāmi’s book is a wide ranging and comprehensive work. Until the publication of Islam Ansiklopedisi, which is an expanded Turkish translation of The Encyclopaedia of Islam published in Leiden, it was the most widely known book in its field and is still used today by intellectuals in Turkey and scholars of Ottoman Studies

Several school textbooks were also published in this period, including works by Süleyman Şevket Paşa (alive in 1310/1892)[55] and Abdurrahman Şeref (d. 1925)[56] which were used for many years. Faik Sabri Duran (d. 1943)[57] and Osman Safvet Geylangil (d. 1945)[58] also published several textbooks which resemble each other in that they were based on sound pedagogical principles. Their books continued to be taught in schools during the Republican period from 1923 onwards.

Travel books (seyahatnāmes) of the modern period have a particular place in Ottoman geographical literature. These include reports about the Ottoman provinces written during the reign of ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd II and the period of the Second Constitution, as well as noteworthy records of journeys undertaken by individual Ottoman intellectuals. Most of these works are still in manuscript form. Throughout Ottoman history, the study of geography has continuously expanded, along with other scientific disciplines. The flourishing in geographical literature does, however, differ from that of astronomy and mathematics.[59]

The Geometric System of Ptolemy, as illustrated in Abū Bakr ibn Bahrām al‐Dimashqīʾs Nuṣrat al‐Islām wa al‐Surūr fī Taḥrīr‐i Atlas Mayor (Köprülü Library, no. 176, folio 1a).
The Geometric System of Ptolemy, as illustrated in Abū Bakr ibn Bahrām al‐Dimashqīʾs Nuṣrat al‐Islām wa al‐Surūr fī Taḥrīr‐i Atlas Mayor (Köprülü Library, no. 176, folio 1a).
Map of the Mediterranean, (Petros Baronian, Cem‐nümå fī Fann al-Coǧrafya, Topkapı Palace Museum Library, no. Hazine, 444, folios 28b‐29a).
Map of the Mediterranean, (Petros Baronian, Cem‐nümå fī Fann al-Coǧrafya, Topkapı Palace Museum Library, no. Hazine, 444, folios 28b‐29a).

Geographical texts increased greatly in number in three major leaps ‐ in the sixteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries respectively. A mere four works on geography were produced in the fifteenth century, but the output increased dramatically to 48, in the sixteenth century. This rise can be explained by the growth in Ottoman naval power and their campaigns fought in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. To a great extent, the second leap, which took place in the nineteenth century, resulted from the increasing demand for books on modern geography, to be used in the new schools and modern educational institutions, which had recently been established throughout the empire. During the first quarter of the twentieth century, the number of works on geography increased approximately four times over the number produced in the preceding century.

The Phases of the Sun, (ʿOsman ibn ʿAbdülmennān, Tercüme‐i Kitāb el-Coǧrafya, Süleymaniye Library, no. Esad Efendi, 2041, folio 181b).
The Phases of the Sun, (ʿOsman ibn ʿAbdülmennān, Tercüme‐i Kitāb el-Coǧrafya, Süleymaniye Library, no. Esad Efendi, 2041, folio 181b)
Map of ʿDārulsaltanaṭ=Istanbulʾ drawn by a student of the School of Military Engineering in 1848
Map of ʿDārulsaltanaṭ=Istanbulʾ drawn by a student of the School of Military Engineering in 1848

There have, over time, also been great changes in the proportions of geographical works produced in manuscript and printed forms. For example, 47 geographical books were produced during the period from the printing of Tārih‐i Hind‐I Garbī and Cihannümā, among the first books on geography to be printed at Müteferrika Printing House in 1729, to the nineteenth century. Of these 47, only 7 were printed while the remaining 40 were in the form of manuscripts. During the nineteenth century, however, only 68 of the 244 works were in manuscript form, while the number of printed works increased to 176. In the first quarter of the twentieth century, the ratio of printed books to manuscript works increased greatly. Only 4 of the 335 works dating from this period were manuscripts, while the rest were printed works.

As can be understood from this explanation of the different strands of Ottoman geographical literature, which has also sought to highlight major developments and introduce the reader to the seminal, influential texts, this literature constitutes a rich and vast field of research. A detailed and in‐depth examination of the several manuscript works contained in OCLT, reveals that before the transition of Ottoman science from the Islamic to the European tradition, geographical works were in the form of manuscripts. In the later period, however, printed books formed the majority.


[1] Ibid., p. XL.

[2] Ibid., pp. XL, 85, 90-92; Kātib Çelebi, Mīzān el-Ḥak, (Istanbul 1281), p. 126.

[3] OCLT, vol. I, Ibid., p. XL.

[4] In Cihannümā he wrote: "I have translated the abridged version of Kitāb‐i Atlas, which is one of the latest works written in Latin. I have also appended to this translation the information contained in other Islamic works..."

[5] OCLT, vol. I, p. XLI.

[6] Atlas Major seu Cosmographia Blaeuiana qua solum, coleum accuratissime describuntur.

[7] OCLT, vol. I, pp. 108-114.

[8] Ibid., pp. 110-113.

[9] Ibid., pp. 109-110.

[10] Ibid., pp. 113-114.

[11] Ibid., pp. 132-133.

[12] Ibid., pp. 134-138.

[13] Ibid., pp. 139-143.

[14] Ibid., pp. 157-160.

[15] Ibid., pp. 132-133.

[16] Ibid., p. 140.

[17] Ibid., pp. 157‐160. For the penetration of Copernicus’s heliocentric concept into Ottoman science see E. Ihsanoǧlu, ‘Introduction of Western Science to the Ottoman World: a case study of modern astronomy (1660‐1860)’ in E. Ihsanoǧlu (ed.), Transfer of Modern Science and Technology to the Muslim World (Istanbul, 1992), pp. 67‐120.

[18] OCLT, vol. I, pp. 14-17.

[19] Ibid., pp. 72-73.

[20] Ibid., pp. 128-132.

[21] Ibid., pp. 153-156.

[22] Ibid., pp. 167-168.

[23] Ibid., pp. 175-176.

[24] Ibid., pp. 101-107.

[25] Mirʾāt-i Mühendishāne, p. 15.

[26] OCLT, vol. I, pp. 176-177, 187, 199.

[27] Mirʾat-i Mektebi-i Harbiye, p.82.

[28] OCLT, vol. II, pp. 411-412.

[29] See Ramazan Özey, ʿOsmanlı Devleti Döneminde Coǧrafya ve Öġretimiʾ, in Güler Eren (ed.), Osmanlı, vol. VIII, pp. 326‐333.

[30] OCLT, vol. I, pp. 378‐382.

[31] OCLT, vol. II, pp. 508‐510.

[32] OCLT, vol. I, pp. 188‐189.

[33] Ibid., pp. 202‐203.

[34] Ibid., pp. 254‐255.

[35] Ibid., pp. 284‐285.

[36] Ibid., pp. 302‐303.

[37] OCLT, vol. II, pp. 401‐404.

[38] OCLT, vol. I, p. 382.

[39] OCLT, vol. II , p. 442.

[40] OCLT, vol. I, pp. 260‐262.

[41] Ibid., pp. 282‐283.

[42] OCLT, vol. II , pp. 430‐434.

[43] OCLT, vol. I, pp. 246‐247.

[44] Ibid., pp. 278‐279.

[45] Ibid., pp. 361‐363.

[46] Ibid., pp. 290‐293.

[47] Ibid., pp. 294‐300.

[48] OCLT, vol. II, pp. 404‐406.

[49] Ibid., pp. 447‐453.

[50] Ibid., pp. 453‐455.

[51] Ibid., pp. 475‐477.

[52] OCLT, vol. I, pp. 319‐320.

[53] Ibid., pp. 369‐370.

[54] OCLT, vol. II , pp. 460‐465.

[55] OCLT, vol. I, pp. 306‐310.

[56] Ibid., pp. 499‐503.

[57] OCLT, vol. II, pp. 534‐551.

[58] Ibid., pp. 556‐568.

[59] For Ottoman astronomy literature see E. Ihsanoǧlu et al. (eds), Osmanlı Astronomi Literatürü Tarihi (History of Astronomy Literature During the Ottoman Period), (2 vols, Istanbul, IRCICA, 1997), and for Ottoman mathematics literature see E. Ihsanoǧlu et al. (eds), Osmanlı Matematik Literatürü Tarihi (History of Ottoman Mathematics Literature During the Ottoman Period), (2 vols, Istanbul, IRCICA, 1999).

Source note:
This was published in:
The Earth and its Sciences in Islamic Manuscripts: proceedings of the fifth conference of Al-Furqān Islamic Heritage Foundation – English version, 2011, Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, London, UK., p 101-140.