A Jewel of Ottoman Naval History: The Book of Kâtib Çelebi on Naval Campaigns

This is a review of the book prepared by Prof. Dr. Idris Bostan for the Turkish Undersecretariat of Navigation in order to provide a useful and important scientific resource on the naval history of the Ottomans and the culture and technology of navigation. The book presents the grand work entitled Tuhfat al-kibâr fî asfâr al-bihâr (The Gift to the Great Ones on Naval Campaigns) written by Kâtib Çelebi in 1657 and emphasises the importance of the Turkish activities in the seas and the Ottoman contribution to the navigational history which has been a neglected subject until recently.

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By Ruveyda Ozturk 1 and Dr. Salim Ayduz 2

Review of The Gift to the Great Ones on Naval Campaigns by Kâtib Çelebi, edited by Idris Bostan. Ankara: Prime Ministry Undersecretariat of Maritime Affairs, 2008. Hardcover with case: 464 pages with a CD containing the whole book as PDF files. ISBN-978-975-94785-2-0.

1. Presentation of the book

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Figure 1: Cover page of Tuhfat al-kibâr fî asfâr al-bihâr by Kâtib Çelebi in the edition of Idris Bostan (Ankara, 2008).

The impressive book The Gift to the Great Ones on Naval Campaigns edited by Idris Bostan is a great accomplishment for the history of navigation as well as a great reminder of the Ottoman control and supremacy of the seas during from the 16th and 17th centuries. The text of the actual book is accompanied by the enlightening and valuable information provided by the editor which includes a short biography of Kâtib Çelebi, his academic life and works as well as an extensive background information on the book, from the period of its commencement to presentation and later developments. The book also includes the beautiful facsimile copy of the text written in Ottoman Turkish presented to Sultan Mehmed IV (1648-87) and the high quality images of the maps and compasses contained in the manuscript and printed copies. It is definitely a noteworthy resource that will be beneficial to increase the recent interest in the history and culture of the sea, enabling readers and researchers to gain a clear understanding of the Ottoman relationship with the seas and the countless naval campaigns that were undertaken and documented in this important text.

Çelebi is presented by the editor as a naturally gifted scholar and a true man of science who wrote twenty-three books on a range of subjects and valued the science of geography immensely. Bostan expresses in his preface that The Gift to the Great Ones on Naval Campaigns is "the first known book on the subject of naval history and the organisation of navigation in the Ottoman Empire until the mid 17th century." further showing the significance of this text and its reintroduction to the world of research on naval history. He also identifies the publication of this version of the book as an opportunity to commemorate Çelebi's three hundred fiftieth anniversary of his death (in 2007) and four hundredth anniversary of his birth (in 2009).

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Figure 2: The first page of Tuhfat al-Kibar. Topkapi Palace Museum Library, Revan 1192, fol. 1b-2a.

The brilliant work by Kâtib Çelebi, presumed to be prepared by order of a statesman and was highly regarded as it was accompanied by the eulogies of men of important position of the time, carried a lot of significance in relaying important geographical information and the naval military campaigns of the past for the benefit of relevant authorities. One of the major aims of Çelebi was to ensure that his detailed work would be of assistance to the Sultan and the State in the military campaigns and would be utilised in order to protect and further expand the lands of the Ottoman Empire. The book draws the reader's attention to the fact that Kâtib Çelebi highly valued the science of geography and regarded it as an essential area of knowledge that every state that wanted to maintain its borders and excel had to have and use extensively when preparing for military campaigns. Bostan highlights the actual intention of Kâtib Çelebi's book and its timing as

"…to ensure that Venice and Austria, which were in war with the Ottoman state at that time, would be known better and this information would be used in the military campaigns to be organised in the future." (p. 33)

The text also enables the reader to gain widespread knowledge on every aspect of Turkish navigation at the time; from biographies of grand admirals to naval wars and the required equipment and supplies of the field as well as ‘forty pieces of advice for the sailors'. This further shows Kâtib Çelebi's great and extensive knowledge of and dedication to the subject and curiosity in passing every bit of detail so it may be of use during his time and later on. One of his main aims as also mentioned by Bostan was to identify the mistakes of the past to ensure that they were not repeated but rather learnt from. He also makes certain recommendations for the success of naval campaigns such as suggesting that the Sultan should lead the important campaigns and points out the mistakes made throughout history and how they may be corrected to achieve more efficient methods. Kâtib Çelebi identifies and praises good military practices both by the Ottoman State and its enemies, suggesting that they should be employed in the future to achieve better outcomes.

As a whole, this version of The Gift to the Great Ones on Naval Campaigns prepared by Bostan is an invaluable resource that sheds light on the naval history of the Ottomans and the importance of its recognition, reflecting the high regard placed on the seas, science of geography and naval power at the time. The hard-cover book printed on high-quality paper and complemented with a CD comes in a nice book case and would be an ideal collection item for any library specialising on navigation and its history.

2. The life of Kâtib Çelebi (1609-1657)

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Figure 3: Top: A Venetian "Mavna" ship. Below: An Ottoman "Goke" ship belonging to the Bayezid II reign (1481-1512). Topkapi Palace Museum Library, Revan 1192, fol. 16ba.

Kâtib Çelebi, who is one of the outstanding names of the Ottoman world of scholarship in 17th century and one of the most prolific persons in terms of the number and type of his works during that period, was a man of knowledge, ideas and culture who was widely spoken about in the Ottoman period of the Islamic World. He was a distinguished person whose life, which lasted for forty-nine years rightfully, carries the attributes "erudite" in terms of the diversity and depth of the subjects he was interested in and "prolific" in terms of the great number of works he produced. His biography is in the book Sullam al-wusûl which he wrote himself, his last book Mizân al-Hak and in his other books such as Jihannuma where he mentioned his biography as necessary. Kâtib Çelebi was born in Istanbul in February 1609 (recently, the UNESCO annouced the 400th anniversary of his birth). He was known as "Hajji Halife" among the clerks of the divan and as "Kâtib Çelebi" in the circles of knowledge, but his real name was Mustafa and his father's name was Abdullah. His father, who had been educated at the Enderun School [the Palace School], worked both in the Divan Office and also attended the circles of scholars of his time because of his interest in knowledge.

Kâtib Çelebi entered the Anatolian Accounting Office that was linked to the Main Accounting Department as an apprentice next to his father when he was fourteen (1623). He learned the siyaqat style of calligraphy writing, divan numbers, the rules of calculation and writing from the clerks there in a short period of time. A year later, he joined the army that set off for Erzurum to suppress the rebellion of Abaza Pasha in the entourage of the Grand Vizier and Commander Çerkez (Circassian) Mehmed Pasha together with his father. After the defeat and fleeing of Abaza Pasha to Erzurum in the war that took place in Karasu, near Kayseri, they wanted to besiege the city, but Çerkez Mehmed Pasha withdrew to Tokat because of the arrival of winter and the intervention of some intermediaries. He was in the army that set off in 1625 to go to Baghdad together with Hafiz Ahmed Pasha who had been appointed to the post of the of the Grand Vizier upon the death of the Grand Vizier who had started the preparations for saving Baghdad which had been captured by Shah Abbas. He participated in the siege of Baghdad in 1626 and he was greatly influenced by the difficulties experienced in the military campaign which had ended in failure and those experienced on the way back. He talks about his assessments regarding this when necessary in Tuhfat al-kibâr.

Kâtib Çelebi lost his father in Mosul in August 1626 while he was on the way back. At that time his father was sixty years old and he was buried in the Jâmi'-i Kabîr cemetery there. This was not all of Kâtib Çelebi's sorrow. A month later, he lost his uncle in Nusaybin. He had to stay in Diyarbakir for a while where he had come with some of his relatives. It was decided that the army would spend the winter in Aleppo. At that time, he was hired as an apprentice to the Office for the Calculation of the Expenses Related to the Cavalrymen, which was a department in the Ministry of Finance, through the help of Mehmed Halife, who was one of the friends of his father. After that, he participated in the second siege of Erzurum which was carried out under the leadership of Grand Vizier Halil Pasha and then Hüsrev Pasha after the dismissal of Halil Pasha against Abaza Pasha who had revolted once again (1627-28). After the revolt was suppressed, Kâtib Çelebi returned to Istanbul with the army in December 1628.

At that time, Kâtib Çelebi attended the classes of Kadizade Mehmed Efendi. Soon he left Istanbul together with Commander Hüsrev Pasha to participate in the military campaign of the Ottoman army against Hamadan and Baghdad in order to recapture Baghdad (1039). During these military campaigns, he wrote about the information he gathered on the cities that the army conquered and his own observations. Especially he wrote about the siege of Baghdad and the scenes of war in his history book Fazlaka. When he returned to Istanbul (1631), he continued attending to Kadizade's circles.

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Figure 4: Inebahti port and the Ottoman Navy. Topkapi Palace Museum Library, Revan 1192, fol. 17a.

After a big Safavid army besieged the castle of Van, Kâtib Çelebi joined the Ottoman army that set out together with the Grand Vizier Tabaniyassi (Flatfeet) Mehmed Pasha (1633). It is understood that the army continued on its way even though it was heard in Izmit that the Iranian army had withdrawn upon the coming to help of the governors of Erzurum and Diyarbakir. While the Grand Vizier stayed with the army in Aleppo for the winter, Kâtib Çelebi went to Hejaz in order to perform the obligation of pilgrimage. On his return from the pilgrimage, he attended the circles and lectures of knowledge in Diyarbakir where the army had come to spend the winter. During this military campaign and especially when he was in Aleppo he formed the first components of the bibliography and biography books such as Kashf al-Zunun and Sullam al-wusûl. Finally, Kâtib Çelebi attended the military campaign to Revan together with Sultan Murad IV in 1635. When he returned to Istanbul the following year, he decided not to attend the military campaigns anymore, and to dedicate himself to scholarship. Kâtib Çelebi had attended seven big military campaigns in ten years up to that time. He dedicated the rest of his life to "the big struggle rather than the small struggle" [literally "to the big jihad rather than the small jihad"] and by "big struggle" he meant his work in scholarship. He spent the inheritance he received and all of his material means to purchase books. He used to collect and read mostly books of history, biographies and deaths (wafayat).

He lost his mother nearly ten years after the death of his father. He spent all of the inheritance he received from his mother on purchasing books. Two years after that he received another inheritance from a relative of his who was a merchant and again he spent a significant part of it in the amount of 300,000 aspers on books. With the rest of the money, he renovated his house in Fatih district and he tried to obtain the necessary furniture for marriage. So he continued with his scholarly works on the one hand, and was busy ordering his private life on the other. He was around thirty years old at that time. When Sultan Murad IV set off from Istanbul to capture Baghdad in the year 1638, he requested to be excused on the grounds of his scholarly works and he gave up the idea of attending the military campaign.

In this long and tiring life of learning which lasted about ten years, Kâtib Çelebi studied without getting tired of studying. He used to stay up until the morning reading with a candle light in order to examine a book he was interested. Meanwhile, he taught the students who wanted to take classes from him and he did not neglect them. The method he followed while teaching these classes was to go from the simple to the difficult, from the parts to the whole, and as a principle not to pass to another branch of knowledge without mastering the one that was being studied.

Kâtib Çelebi started writing books at this time. In 1641, he wrote his first book Fazlakat al-akvâl in which he talked about one hundred and fifty states and one thousand five hundred rulers. Although Sheik Al-Islam Yahya Efendi insisted that a clean, final copy of the book should be written and presented to the sultan, he did not do this.

Kâtib Çelebi followed the developments in his period closely as well as being engaged with studying and his job at the finance department, he also he took an interest in the events that took place at that time and tried to find solutions. When the war of Crete started in 1645, he began doing research on geography which was a subject that had had interested him before. He examined the books and treatises on map making. Probably at this time he prepared Muntahab al-Bahriya which he formed by the selections he made from Kitâb-i Bahriya of Piri Reis and the maps he utilized from Islamic geographers and some Ottoman historians and geographers. He must have wished to learn the geography of Venice and the European states with which the Ottomans fought and the geography of the Ottoman seas. However, it was also his right to be promoted in the job of clerkship which was his main job. When his application to become scribe in the department where he was an apprentice was rejected, he argued with the head scribe of the department and he left his job due to the anger he felt because his turn had not come yet. He started to live in solitude and kept himself busy with writing books and teaching students for three years.

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Figure 5: A page from the manuscript and an Ottoman Goke ship. Tuhfat al-Kibar, Istanbul University Library, TY. 6118, fol. 17b.

Around that time, Kâtib Çelebi became sick, and examined books such as those on science of letters, on mastics and senses as well as those on medicine for his treatment. When he finally recovered, he taught mathematics, astronomy and geometry to his own son and Mevlana Mehmed who was the son of his neighbour Ahmed Rûmi of Akhisar. However, both of them died shortly, and this caused him to leave unfinished the commentary on Muhammadiyya of Ali Qushji which he had started to write. At the end of 1648, Grand Vizier Koca Mehmed Pasha, whom he visited through the mediation of Sheik al-Islam Abdurrahim Efendi, appointed him as the second scribe to the Office for the Calculation of the Expenses Related to the Cavalrymen despite all the efforts of his opponents. He continued working at this job until the end of his life by going to that office once or twice a week.

Kâtib Çelebi died on the morning of Saturday 6 October 1657). Today his grave is in the enclosed graveyard in the Zeyrek-Sebsafa Mosque. Kâtib Çelebi, who was a hard-working person, was known as a taciturn, good-natured man who made many efforts in the fields in which he worked.

As a tribute to the editor of the original book, we reproduce in the following two sections of the first part of his impressive publication: chapter 1 on "The Life of Kâtib Çelebi (1609-1657/1017-1067)" (pp. 19-22) and chapter 2 on "Kâtib Çelebi's Life of Scholarship: His Education and Circle of Scholarship" (pp. 23-29).

3. Kâtib Çelebi's Life, Education and Scholarship (by Idris Bostan)

3.1. Education of Kâtib Çelebi

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Figure 6: A compass. Source: Müteferrika edition of Tuhfat al-Kibar, Süleymaniye Library, Hekimoglu, No. 710.

Kâtib Çelebi started his education around five years of age and he continued studying until the end of his life except for the seven military campaigns that he attended. When he was still a child, he took classes on Qur'an recitation and Islamic Law pertaining to personal matters from Isa Halife of Crimea because of the wishes of his father, he took language and calligraphy classes from Ilyas Hoca and Ahmed Çelebi. At that time, he had memorized half of the Qur'an.

In 1628 he returned from the military campaigns which had taken place one after the other, and he continued with his job as a clerk. On the one hand and he attended the circles of knowledge and especially the sermons at the Fatih Mosque and the classes of Kadizade Mehmed Efendi, whose fame had increased at that time, at the building where he taught in compliance with the advice of his father who had recommended this previously. Kâtib Çelebi was influenced by the correct articulation and effective speech skills of Kadizade and therefore his curiosity for reading and learning increased.

Kâtib Çelebi, who restarted taking the classes of Kadizade upon his return form the military campaign of Baghdad (1631), took many courses from him again even though he stated that the classes of his teacher, who was not interested in philosophical subjects and who avoided interpretation, were simple and superficial. According to the information he gave in Mizan al-hak fi ihtiyâr al-ahak, Kadizade Mehmed Efendi mostly taught the Qur'an commentary Anvâr al-tanzil of Kadi Baydavî, Ihyau Ulum al-Din of Imam Ghazalî, which was a work on Islamic Law and theology, the commentary written by Jurjanî on Mawakif of Adudiddin Ijî, which was a work on theology, Durar of Mullah Hüsrev, which was a book of Islamic Law, and Tarikat al-Muhammadiya of Imam Birgivî, which was a work on Islamic Law and ethics.

Kâtib Çelebi, who did not attend the military campaign that Sultan Murad IV organized to Baghdad in 1638, stayed in Istanbul, returned to scientific pursuits, and studied with the famous scholars of his period for ten years. He started taking the classes of A'raj Mustafa Efendi (d. 1653), who was among the scholars whom Kâtib Çelebi thought very highly of, after the teacher left his job as a judge. He attracted the attention of A'raj Mustafa Efendi in a short period of time. Kâtib Çelebi gave great importance to his classes because of his comprehensive knowledge in the rational and narrative types of knowledge. He became one of the students who were close to him and he attained his friendship. Among the books he studied while taking classes with this teacher were Tafsîr [commentary on the Qur'an] of Kadi Baydavî (d.1286), Sharh Muhtasar al-Muntaha of Adududdin Ijî (d. 1355) which was known as Sharh Adud and which was on the methodology of Islamic Law, Sharh Ashlkal al-Ta'sîs of Kadizade Rumi (d. 1440?) on mathematics, and Sharh-i Chagmini of Kadizade Rumi on astronomy, Aruz-i Andalusî of Abu Muhammad Abdullah al-Ansarî of Andalusia (d. 1154) on the mistakes of prosody and Zij of Ulugh Beg (d.1449) in order to learn how to make a calendar.

Later on he attended the classes of Kurdish Abdullah Efendi, who was a public lecturer at the Hagia Sophia and who was knowledgeable in rational and narrative knowledge and Keçi Mehmed Efendi, who was from among the public lecturers of the Süleymaniye Mosque and a specialist on the Arabic language. Finally he studied Al-Risalat al-Shamsiyya of Kâtibi (d. 1377), which was a book of logic with Veli Efendi of Ermenek and he studied Talhis al-Miftâh of Hatîb Al-Kazvînî (d. 1338) which taught the rules of literature under semantics, comparison and metaphor for the knowledge of rhetoric. He also took classes on Nuhbat al-fikar of Ibn Hajar al-Askalanî (d. 1449), which was a book on the hadith methodology, and on Alfiyya of Zeyn al-din al-Irakî (d. 1404) from Preacher Veli Efendi.

According to the information give