Celebrating an Ottoman Intellectual: 2009 Year of Kâtip Çelebi

by The Editorial Team Published on: 1st July 2009

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Kâtip Çelebi was arguably the most important Ottoman intellectual figure of the 17th century. Being the author of many works in the fields of bio-bibliography, geography, history and economics, he held reformist opinions and cultivated knowledge of both the classical Islamic tradition in science and culture as well as a relative familiarity with the European literature of his time. 2009 being the 400th anniversary of his birth, several meetings and conferences have been organised to celebrate him as intellectual and scholar. In the following article, we present an account of some of those events that were organised recently in Turkey, with a survey of Kâtip Çelebi's bio-bibliography.


Table of contents

1. Celebrating the 400th anniversary of Kâtip Çelebi

2. The world through the eyes of Pîrî Reis and Kâtip Çelebi

3. Biography of Kâtip Çelebi

4. His intellectual production

4.1. The major books
4.2. Translations and rewritings
4.3. Minor writings

5. References and further reading

5.1. Articles on Kâtip Çelebi on www.MuslimHeritage.com
5.2. General bibliography


1. Celebrating the 400th anniversary of Kâtip Çelebi

On the 400th anniversary of the birth of Kâtip Çelebi (1609-1657), the Turkish commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has declared 2009 year of celebration of this Ottoman intellectual. Kâtip Çelebi was a Turkish Ottoman scholar. Known as Kâtip Çelebi and Haji Khalifa, his real name is Mustafa bin Abdallah (1609, Istanbul – 1657 Istanbul). The son of a soldier, he himself was a soldier for ten years until an inheritance made him turn to a more contemplative life. He performed his Hajj in 1635. He became a government official (ikindji khalif) while continuing to write his encyclopedic contributions.

Figure 1: Dinner in Ankara to welcome FSTC’s participation at the Kâtip Çelebi conference. From left: Prof. Salim Al-Hassani, Prof. Ahmed Rumeli (Middle East University), the “1001” inscribed on a large slice of Turkish bread, Prof. Ralph Salmi (California State University), Tuba Urcu (office manager to Prof. Karliga and interpreter), and Prof. Bekir Karliga (Bahcesehir University).

Among his chief works is the famous bio-bibliography book that he wrote in Arabic Kashf al-zunun ‘an asami ‘l-kutub wa’l-funn (“The Removal of Doubt from the Names of Books and the Sciences”) which documents some 15,000 entries in alphabetical order. This work served as a basis for the “Bibliothèque Orientale” by Barthélemy d’Herbelot de Molainville. He was also the author of many works in the fields of geography, history and economics.

On the occasion of the celebrations of the Çelebi year, an international conference, with 30 scholars from around the world was organised in June 19-20 2009 at the Ankara State Painting and Sculpture Museum. Two FSTC members participated in the conference: Professor Salim T S Al-Hassani, Hon. Chairman of FSTC, and Dr Salim Ayduz, senior researcher at FSTC (click here to see photos of the conference taken by Dr Ayduz).

In his lecture on “The General conditions of the Islamic civilisation in the 17th century”, Salim Al-Hassani states that honouring and commemorating educational scholars like Kâtip Çelebi brings us to a very important zone of knowledge: that is the lack of knowledge in the minds of people around the world in the major and strategic contributions such scholars have made to our present civilisation. There is in fact amnesia or a gap in public knowledge of the period of 1000 years that lasted until Kâtip Çelebi’s time. A cursory survey of the traditional media, new media and school curricula revealed startling results. It begins from the time of the fall of the Roman Empire to the times of Kâtip Çelebi.

Figure 2: Dr Mehmet Aydin, the Turkish minister of state for Culture, and Professor Salim Al-Hassani, chairman of FSTC, during The Ankara conference on Katib Çelebi. In the middle is Prof. Bekir Karliga, conference chairman and on the right is Prof. John Dunktoff, Philadelphia University.

In the public perception, after the fall of the Roman Empire there was an extraordinary dark period that lasted for about 1000 years, from about 600 CE to the European Renaissance in the 16th century. This temporal segment in human history is portrayed as empty of any civilised activity and is generally called the “Dark Ages”. In fact, such a conception of history is a misnomer, for during this precise millennium there was an exceptionally rich burst of civilisation that manifested itself in a dynamic scientific tradition and intellectual activity that radiated from Baghdad (after it was founded in 762 CE and became the capital of the unified Islamic World) and along a glittering crescent through Turkey, North Africa and into Spain and Southern Italy. For many years, people in the West associated Baghdad and Istanbul with stories such as the 1001 nights (or Arabian nights). In contrast, today there is negligible information in schools’ curricula or in the media about the enormous number of inventions and innovations from that period that still affect our lives.

Such amnesia has a negative impact on people’s attitudes and tends to reinforce stereo-typing of Muslims and at the same time nourishes a superiority complex in the attitudes of non-Muslim Americans and Europeans. This gap reinforces the divide in that people in the Muslim world associate the “West” with negative traits and those in the West, especially Americans, say little or nothing or about the Muslim world. There is a worldwide hunger for dialogue, but the language used has, in the main, been confined to religious or political dialogue. This has unfortunately been met with limited success.

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Figure 3: Poster of the conference held in Ankara.

A new language based on cultural inter-dependence, especially the cultural origins of inventions, seem to bring a breath of fresh air into the atmosphere, creating new possibilities for mutual respect and at the same time inspiring a paradigm shift amongst the new Muslim generation.

To fill this gap, the Chairman of FSTC details some results of recent work carried out on “Curriculum Enrichment” in partnership with the Qualification and Curriculum Authority (QCA) and the Association of Science Education (ASE). An example of amnesia is the frequent jump in text books from Greek names of scientists to Da Vinci, Galileo and Newton.

He also highlights the dangerous gap of knowledge in the media and the social media, such as Google, Yahoo, U-tube, and discussion forums and blogs like Wikipedia or popular games like Second Life. An example of the huge imbalance in cyberspace may be witnessed by googling the name of Kâtip Çelebi (110,000 times) compared with the name “Da Vinci” (33.5 million and Isaac Newton 2.5 Million).

History tells us that Kâtip Çelebi was a moderate, a great scholar and educationalist at a time of moderation in Ottoman Islamic jurisprudence. It is said he died in 1657 with a cup of coffee in his hand, perhaps to the disapproval of some Imams in his time who disallowed both coffee and tobacco. That was the very time when coffee houses radiated from Istanbul to become the hubs for enlightenment in Vienna, Paris, Oxford, London and Boston.

Continuing with this line of analysis, Dr. Salim Ayduz spoke at the conference on “Comments and Observations of Kâtip Çelebi on the Ottoman Madrasas Curriculum”, aiming to examine Kâtip Çelebi’s ideas about the teaching system of his time. Arguments on the curriculum of the Ottoman madrasas have been continuing for a few decades. In certain contemporary studies undertaken up until quite recently it has been argued that the Sahn Saman Madrasas constructed under Mehmed II’s orders resembled European universities and that Ali Kuscu, Grand Vizier Mahmud Pasha and Molla Khusraw developed a curriculum for the Madrasa. However, the most recent research on the subject has attempted to correct this mistaken impression about the Fatih Madrasas and their resemblance to a modern university and the claims put forth about their supposed curricula.

By the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century, an argument fired up between the Ottoman intellectuals on the Ottoman Madrasas curriculum and the gradual decline of the madrasas. A number of Ottoman writers discussed this subject, viewing this decline as similar to that taking place in other state institutions. They agreed that toward the end of the 16th century, the performance of madrasas began gradually to fall below earlier levels mainly due to falling teaching standards. Gelibolulu Mustafa Ali attributed the decline of the madrasas to a decline in interest in scholarly studies, to the appearance of sons of senior members of the ulema and their rapid rise in position to enter into scholarly careers via special connections, to the enrolment of teachers and judges under the influence of bribes and to a poor differentiation then being made between real scholars and ignorant men as well as to a decline in the writing of scholarly works. Other Ottoman thinkers believed the decline of the madrasa system was due to such things as the overly large numbers of students trained and the irregularities in the way in which the teachers were ranked.

Figure 4: Professor Salim Al-Hassani presenting his lecture before the conference. (Source).

Kâtip Çelebi attributed the decline to the elimination from the madrasa curriculum of the rational and mathematical sciences. Although his intellectual training and personal readings covered the major part of the madrasa curriculum, Kâtip Çelebi never obtained an ijaza (diploma), nevertheless he continued to earn a living in the chancery, spending most of his relatives’ inheritance on books, putting together what was probably the largest private library in Istanbul in his time. From this unique position, of being an eminent Ottoman intellectual from outside the teaching system, Kâtip Çelebi criticized the madrasa curriculum and contemporary scholars in terms of scholarly life in the Ottoman State.

2. The world through the eyes of Pîrî Reis and Kâtip Çelebi

Within the framework of the Çelebi year, Bahçesehir University Civilization Studies Center organised an exhibit The Ottoman Worldview from Piri Reis to Kâtip Çelebi. The exhibit aims to reach a wide international audience during the years of 2009 and 2010 through a travelling exhibition of maps depicting the Ottoman worldview from Piri Reis to Kâtip Çelebi who made some of the most significant contributions to Ottoman geography and cartography (click here to see some of these maps)

The collection of Ottoman-era maps of the two great Ottoman Turkish cartographers of the 16th and 17th centuries Admiral Pîrî Reis and scholar Kâtip Çelebi was on display at Istanbul’s Dolmabahçe Palace Art Gallery.

Figure 5: Dr Salim Ayduz during his lecture. (Source).

“The Ottomans’ Worldview: from Pîrî Reis to Kâtip Çelebi” includes detailed maps from the two prominent men who made some of the most important contributions to Ottoman geography and cartography together with works from other geographers from the same era. The exhibition, organized by the Istanbul-based Bahçesehir University Civilization Studies Center (MEDAM), aims to show the perspective of the Ottoman Empire from 1650 to 1660. The exhibition also features maps from other geographers of the 16th and 17th centuries as well as maps of Ottoman territories from various European geographers of the time.

The exhibition was located at the Dolmabahçe Palace Art Gallery in Istanbul, and it is scheduled to travel to other locations in Turkey and abroad later this year. Conferences on the work of Kâtip Çelebi will be held to accompany the show.

3. Biography of Kâtip Çelebi

The primary source of information on the life of Kâtip Çelebi is the autobiographical sections in many of his works, such as Sullam al-Wusul, Cihannüma and Mizanü’l-Haqq. Kâtip Çelebi was born in Istanbul. Sullam al-Wusul records the date of his birth as Dhulqada 1017/February 1609. His father was a member of the cavalry and a scribe in the fiscal administration. The sizable sum of money he inherited from his mother and from a wealthy merchant suggests that his mother came from a wealthy family in Istanbul.

After his initial instruction in Istanbul, Kâtip Çelebi joined his father in the chancery as his apprentice in 1032/1622. In 1034/1624 father and son went on campaign with the army against Abaza Pasa of Erzurum (d. 1044/1634), continuing with the campaign to recapture Baghdad (1035/1625-26) and a second campaign against Abaza Pasa (1037/1627-28). Both his father and his uncle died during the retreat from Bagdad in 1036/1626. Whereas his account of these campaigns occasionally reflects his personal involvement, there is hardly any personal reminiscence regarding events in the capital, such as the downfall and murder of Osman II (r. 1027-31/1618-22).

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Figure 6: An 18th-century copy of the Cihan-numa, a manual on geography of the earth by Kâtip Çelebi, preserved in the Leiden University Library (MS Or. 12.363). (Source).

Following his return to Istanbul, Kâtip Çelebi’s career as a scribe was stalled due to the death of his father. The decisive turn in his intellectual career came when he made the acquaintance of Qadizade Mehmed Efendi (d. 1044/1635) and began to take lessons with him. After two more campaigns, first to Iran then again to Baghdad (1038-40/ 1629-31), Kâtip Çelebi began his serious studies on central works of kalam and fiqh with Qadizade, as well as on al-Gazali’s Ihya’ ‘ulum al-din and Birgivi’s al-Tariqa al-Muhammadiyya. These lessons ended when Kâtip Çelebi was called to military service in 1042/1633. Although it is clear that Qadizade’s strictly rational and legalist understanding of the scripture impressed Kâtip Çelebi, there is no indication that he sympathized with the Qadizade movement’s actions against dervish lodges. At a later time, he in fact distanced himself from Qadizade’s activism. He shows respect, albeit no veneration for Ibn al-Arabi, whereas his self-denomination as israqiyyü’l-mesreb, i.e. as follower of Suhrawardi’s philosophy of illumination, deserves further study.

Kâtip Çelebi used the campaign of 1042/1633 to rummage through Aleppo’s bookstores, which provided the basis for his later bibliographic efforts, and to go on the pilgrimage during the winter season. The campaign took him to Yerevan (Revan) and Tabriz; he returned to Istanbul in late 1044/1635. He excused himself from the following campaign in 1047/1638 and there is no evidence that he left his hometown again. Despite his travel experience and his eye-witnessing of political and military events, his historical and geographical works are almost exclusively based on written sources or testimonies.

Despite the death of his former teacher Qadizade, Kâtip Çelebi continued with wide ranging but eclectic studies, including reading chronicles and – at a later time – geography and maps, but also all kinds of topics, from law and theology to astronomy and mathematics. Among his teachers were Kürd Abdullah Efendi (d. 1064/ 1654), Keçi Mehmed Efendi (d. 1054/1644), Veli Efendi (d. ?), a student of the Egyptian scholar Ibrahim Laqani (d. 1041/1631), Arec Mustafa Efendi (d. 1063/ 1653), the future seyhülislam Abdürrahim Efendi (d. 1066/1656). Although his readings covered the major part of the madrese curriculum, Kâtip Çelebi never obtained a diploma, but continued to earn a living in the chancery, spending most of his mother’s inheritance on books, putting together what was probably the largest private library in Istanbul in his time.

Figure 7a-b: Illustrations from one of Kâtip Çelebi’s books.

From 1052/1642 onward, Kâtip Çelebi was giving lessons himself, on law, tefsir, and kelam, but also mathematics and astronomy, focusing on fundamentals rather than the intricacies of the higher levels. His earliest works have to be seen in this context. Despite his low rank in the Ottoman bureaucracy and the lack of formal education, he appears to have been well accepted in the upper ranks of Istanbul’s intellectual elite. His companions and patrons included seyhülislams Zekeriyazade Yahya Efendi (d. 1054/1644), Abdürrahim Efendi, Ebu Said Efendi (d. 1073/1662), and Beha’i Efendi (d. 1064/ 1654?). Abdürrahim Efendi also secured a promotion in the chancery for Kâtip Çelebi in recognition of his historical work Taqvimü ‘t-tevarih.

Kâtip Çelebi certainly knew prominent intellectuals of his time, including historian Hüseyin Hezarfenn (d. 1103/1691). Western scholars like Antoine Galland (d. 1715), Ferdinando Marsili (d. 1730), and Levinus Warner (d. 1665) are known to have been in personal contact with these circles. There is no evidence that Kâtip Çelebi ever met Evliya Çelebi (d. 1683), although it is not unlikely, given common acquaintances. In addition, Kâtip Çelebi shows great sympathy for political figures associated with attempts at political reform. Since his work is one of the major sources for the period, it is not clear if their political program aroused his sympathy, or if his ties to them caused him to depict them as reformers. Several of his works are directly related to political developments. He knew Kemankes Qara Mustafa Pasa (executed in 1054/ 1644), and expressed sympathy for Tarhuncu Ahmed Pasa (d. 1063/1653). His last work, Mizanü ‘l-Haqq, includes a cryptic homage to Köprülü Mehmed Pasa (d. 1072/1661).

According to a later note in the flyleaf of one of the Cihannüma autographs, Kâtip Çelebi died of a heart attack on 27 Dhulhijja 1067/6 October 1657. Many of his major works remained unfinished. The only attested son had died young. Parts of his library were sold in 1069/1659, presumably after the death of his wife. Several volumes were purchased by Levinus Warner and today constitute a part of the Legatum Warnerianum at Leiden University. Others were acquired by a former friend, Visnezade Mehmed Izzeti (d. 1092/1681), and passed on to geographer Ebu Bekr Behram el-Dimisqi (d. 1102/1691), and further to printer Ibrahim Müteferriqa (d. 1158/1745).

Throughout his work, Kâtip Çelebi appears as an eager reader and compiler in the service of a broad contemporary audience, although comparison with impulses of early Enlightenment should be used only with caution. He certainly was not a scientist or philosopher seeking radical departures from current ideas. Rather, he seems to be largely representative of the intellectual currents of his age, including his openness to knowledge from Europe. He continues to perceive knowledge as an exogenous category, albeit strictly subject to rational criticism. His worldview is thoroughly theocentric, as he sees the cosmos as ordered by divine creation. Causation of historical events follows inner-worldly regularities, which however are suspended by divine will. Despite his familiarity with Western scholarship, there is no trace of the heliocentric world view in his work. Kâtip Çelebi can be considered a turning point in Ottoman intellectual history, as in his historical and geographical works a unified perspective emerges, which is interested in the world not as an indication of divine omnipotence (as was the case in classical cosmography), but seeks useful knowledge to cope with economic, military, and political challenges.

Celebrated in the Turkish Republic, especially upon the 300th anniversary of his death in 1957, as a forerunner of Westernization, Kâtip Çelebi has not attracted much attention since. Certainly the interest in his work upon the 400th anniversary of his birth will draw more interest in his oeuvre.

4. His intellectual production

Kâtip Çelebi was a prolific author. His works are spread out over a wide variety of topics, but can easily be divided into four major groups. On the other hand, Kâtip Çelebi’s continuous work on many of his books, together with the open concept of what constitutes an original work, make a chronological presentation difficult. In the following, we present a list of his extant works with some remarks. Our source is the excellent general bio-bibliography of Kâtip Çelebi published in March 2007 by Gottfried Hagen Katib Çelebi, Mustafa b. Abdullah, Haci Halife (b. 1609; d. 1657), which was published as part of the project on Ottoman historians.

4.1. The major books

Kâtip Çelebi’s lasting legacy for Ottoman scholars consists of a series of encyclopaedic works which are closely interrelated, albeit lacking explicit references to one another. Their common aim is to collect existing knowledge which is dispersed in numerous, partly inaccessible books, and put it at the hands of the public in simple alphabetical or chronological order, with the underlying assumption that knowledge is useful and necessary, and that its dissemination can help to dispel the crisis that befell the Ottoman state in the 11th/17th century. What is referred to here as the ‘Encyclopaedic Project’ basically taps into what Kâtip Çelebi perceived as the accumulated knowledge of mankind, from the biographical, bibliographical, historical/chronological, and spatial/geographical points of view, respectively. Arabic is the preferred, but not exclusive, language used for these works.

– Kashf az-zunun an asami l-kutub wa l-funun

Kâtip Çelebi’s bibliographical dictionary, written in Arabic, represents a unique achievement in that it consists of one continuous alphabetic sequence of ca. 14.500 book titles and 300 names of sciences. In writing this book, Kâtip Çelebi took Tasköprüzade’s (d. 968/1561) Miftah al-sa’ada as his model. In every entry for a book Kâtip Çelebi noted, wherever possible, the title, the language, the name of the author and the date of composition, the incipit, the division into chapters (the presence of which can be taken as an indication that he had actually seen the book), as well as translations and commentaries (as cross references). In certain instances entries also include criticism of the book or the author. The scope of the work covers Arabic, Persian, and Turkish literature, with a few references to Greek texts. While the book is still appreciated as a reference, its potential as a source for 11th/17th century intellectual history, in particular in the definition of a literary and scholarly canon, has not yet been explored.

The way in which Kâtip Çelebi managed to arrange this mass of material is still not entirely clear. Birnbaum has argued that he must have used a system of index cards as the basis of the work. Preserved is an autograph of a partial fine copy, ending with article “–durus”. According to a note in Mizanü ‘l-haqq, the fine copy had reached the letter ha in 1063/1652. For the rest, the author’s draft with numerous marginal additions and annotations has been preserved. Whereas early editions and an edition-cum-translation are based on individual manuscripts, the autograph has been used as the basis of the edition by Bilge and Yaltkaya. In addition to a short continuation by Hanifzade Ahmed Tahir (d. 1217/1802), entitled Hadis-i nev, a larger one was authored by Bagdadli Ismail Pasa (d. 1339/1920), together with an index of authors.

– Fadlakat aqwal al-ahyar

A world history, written in Arabic, this work appears to be largely a compilation. The book continues a tradition of world histories started in the late 10th/16th century, arranged by dynasties. The last representative of this tradition seems to be Müneccimbasi (d. 1113/1702). Kâtip Çelebi mentions Cenabi’s chronicle (d. 999/1590) explicitly as the model, while Mehmed b. Mehmed’s (d. 1050/ 1640) Nuhbetü’t-tevarih is another important source. The reason for the emergence of this distinct historiographical form among the Ottomans more or less throughout the 12th/18th century is unknown. Just as Müneccimbasi’s work in its Arabic version never found a wider audience, neither did Kâtip Çelebi’s work, which covers history from creation to the year 1000/ 1592 make an impact.

– Taqvimü’t-tevarih

Chronological tables of world history, from the beginnings until Kâtip Çelebi’s own time. Written in a mixture of Persian and Turkish, the work originated as an excerpt from Fazlakat aqwal al-ahyar. It was completed in 1058/1648. Becoming highly popular as an easy reference work, it was continued after Kâtip Çelebi’s death by several authors. Equally popular in Europe, it was translated into Latin, Italian, and French.

– Fezleke-i tevarih

A chronicle of the Ottoman Empire written in Turkish. The book is a continuation of Fadlakat aqwal al-ahyar beginning with the year 1000/1592. While the earlier parts are quite comprehensive, the latest parts have many lacunae, suggesting that the book was not completed by Kâtip Çelebi’s death. Under every year, a narration of the main events in strictly chronological order is followed by obituaries of prominent persons who died in that year, along the tradition of earlier Islamic great encyclopaedic works of history, such as Al-Kamil fi ‘l-tarikh by Ibn al-Athir. Otherwise, Fezleke-i tevarih remains within the conventions of Ottoman chronicle writing. A few passages discuss European events, like the Thirty Years’ War. The book turned out to be very influential, serving as a source for Isazade (d. 1163/ 1750) and Naima and being continued by Silahdar (d. 1202/1788?).

– Cihannüma

Kâtip Çelebi’s longest-lasting and, in terms of its textual history, most complex work is a world geography in Turkish under the title Cihannüma. Kâtip Çelebi’s interest in geography was sparked off by the beginning of the Cretan War in 1055/1645. In keeping with the goals of the ‘Encyclopaedic Project,’ Kâtip Çelebi began the work as an expansion of Sipahizade’s alphabetical excerpt, written in Arabic, from Abu’l-Fida’s Taqwim al-buldan. The first original version, now in Turkish, largely followed the structure of a classical Islamic cosmography (i.e. the division into spheres, elements, and climes). The broader geographical scope, intended to include recent information on Europe and the New World, as well as the illustration with maps in the margins, are innovative features of the work and indicate Kâtip Çelebi’s attempt to detach geography from the theological roots of cosmography and provide a comprehensive and up-to-date survey of the world based on all kinds of sources regardless of genre. Abu’l-Fida’ (d. 732/1331), Mehmed Asiq (d. >1596), Piri Re’is’ (d. 961/1553) Bahriye, as well as Hoca Sadeddin’s (d. 1008/1599) Tacü’t-tevarih are Kâtip Çelebi’s main sources.

Kâtip Çelebi states that this work was abandoned when he was unable to locate sufficient information on Europe. Numerous manuscripts of this incomplete version were circulating, comprising the description of the seas, lakes, rivers, and of the climate of al-Andalus, Maghrib, and Rumeli. Two different stages of this version can be distinguished. A detailed study of manuscripts in Istanbul may reveal even more variations. Despite his frustration Kâtip Çelebi continued to add notes and excerpts to a fine copy in his possession.

Kâtip Çelebi’s work on the Cihannüma was revived when he was able to obtain copies of several European geographical works, which a French convert to Islam translated for him (contrary to assertions in some later studies, Kâtip Çelebi certainly did not know Latin or Italian). The most important of these works is Iodocus Hondius’ redaction of Gerhard Mercator’s Atlas, entitled Atlas Minor, translated as Levamiu’n-nur. In 1065/1654, with the translation still in progress, Kâtip Çelebi restarted his work on Cihannüma. The second version of the work began with a systematic introduction to cartography and mathematical geography, including a refutation of mythical Islamic cosmography. Moreover, Kâtip Çelebi started by making for the first time an explicit argument for the strategic and political usefulness of the science of geography.

– Sullam al-wusul ila tabaqat al-fusul

A biographical dictionary in Arabic, primarily focusing on scholars, it has the form of an index of authors for Kashf az-zunun. The first part, in which entries are arranged according to personal names (ism), is largely based on Tasköprüzade’s As-Saqaiq an-numaniya and Ibn Khallikan’s Wafayat al-a’yan. The second part, covering persons primarily known under their nicknames (laqab), is based on Suyuti’s Tahrir al-lubab. Though a note in the autograph indicates that these two parts were completed in 1053/1643, there remain many blanks or entries consisting of references only. Another part was added in 1058/1649. The work includes an autobiographical entry.

4.2. Translations and rewritings

Kâtip Çelebi prepared several translations of European, primarily Latin, works as basis for his encyclopaedic works, especially Cihannüma. These translations are mostly preserved in unique manuscripts, an indication that they were not considered independent works and were not disseminated in the same way. His excerpts and rewritings of older works fall into the same category.

– Levamiu’n-nur fi zulmat Atlas Minur

A translation of Iodocus Hondius’ redaction of Gerhard Mercator’s Atlas, entitled Atlas Minor, intended as a basis for the rewriting of Cihannüma, completed in 1065/ 1655.

– Revnaqu’s-saltanat

A translation of Historia rerum in Oriente gestarum ab exordio mundi et orbe condito ad nostra haec usque tempora (Frankfurt, 1587), a Latin translation of four Byzantine chronicles with an appendix on Ottoman history.

– Ta’rih-i firengi

Translation of Johann Carion’s Chronicon (Paris, 1548) into Turkish, completed in 1065/1655. Carion’s Chronicon was printed many times all over Europe. The edition of Philipp Melanchthon became a staple of Protestant propaganda. Kâtip Çelebi’s preface describes the translation as a working draft and source for future books.

– Bahriye

An excerpt from Piri Reis’ Bahriye from Kâtip Çelebi’s hand, expanded to form a new work, has recently been discovered by Fikret Saricaoglu.

4.3. Minor writings

A number of Kâtip Çelebi’s works are momentary interventions in current political and scholarly discourse, and have to be carefully placed in their chronological context.

– Düsturü’l-amel li-islahi l-halel

In order to discover the causes of the financial crisis in 1063/1653, grand vizier Tarhuncu Ahmed Pasa ordered a collation of the account books, which might have involved the clerk Kâtip Çelebi. In addition, Kâtip Çelebi produced a small treatise in the tradition of reform (or “decline”) treatises, which analyses the crisis with the means of an analogy between the political body and the human body, drawing on Ibn Khaldun’s concept of the ages of the state, and Dawwani’s analogy with Galenic medicine, in which the four humors of the body are likened to the estates of human society. Kâtip Çelebi pleads for a return to qanun-i qadim, and for a reduction in the number of the Porte troops, whereas other treatises of the same kind have focused on the decline of the timar system. Kâtip Çelebi ultimately leaves the question open whether a “man of the sword” would be able to revert the seemingly unavoidable decline. Düsturü’l-amel has influenced Hezarfenn, and especially Naima’s theoretical discussions.

– Irsadu’l-hayara ila Ta’rihi’l-Yunan ve’r-Rum ve’n-Nasara

A short treatise on the Christian confessions and dynasties in Turkish, begun in 1065/1655. Based on older apologetic literature, Kâtip Çelebi discusses the distinctions of the Eastern Church (Jacobites, Melkites, Nestorians), but not the one between Catholics and Protestants. The histories of European countries are hardly more than lists of rulers. It breaks off after 9 chapters. Descriptions of kings suggest that Kâtip Çelebi’s source was illustrated. Despite Kâtip Çelebi’s claim to provide important information on the struggle against Christendom, the information in this book is profoundly trivial.

– Tuhfetü’l-kibar fi esfari’l-bihar

A history of Ottoman maritime warfare in Turkish, written in Safer 1067/November 1656. This date places the book in a moment of utmost danger for the Ottoman capital following the defeat of the Ottoman navy at the hands of the Venetians at the Dardanelles (4 Ramadan 1066/26 June 1656) and the subsequent loss of the islands of Lemnos and Tenedos. It is also written shortly after the appointment of Köprülü Mehmed Pasa as grand vizier (25 Dhulqada 1066/14 September 1656). Thus it is suggested it should be read as a program of reform of the navy intended for a person in whom Kâtip Çelebi might have seen the “man of the sword” who might reverse the fate of the Empire. Of the four ulema who wrote endorsements for the book two are closely related to the Köprülü family.

The first part is a history of Ottoman maritime campaigns from the beginning to 1067/1656, while the second is a systematic description of naval affairs, from administration and offices to shipbuilding, culminating in a list of 40 suggestions for organization and strategy of the Ottoman navy, including the use of recent scientific and technological innovations. Thus the juxtaposition with history provides an argument for reform. Suggestions are largely centered around the traditional qanun-i qadim; there is no reference to high-board ships. The final pages include an important discussion of historical causality, explaining how divine omnipotence creates the consequence of historical causes, in reward for righteous rule, or punishment of injustice.

– Mizanü’l-haqq fi ihtiyari’l-ahaqq

A belated intervention in the conflict between the Qadizade movement and the dervish orders of the Ottoman Empire, written in the immediate aftermath of Köprülü Mehmed Pasa’s crack down on the former in 1066/1656. The contentious points are discussed in a series of short chapters: The life of the Prophet Hidr, singing, dancing and whirling, the invokation of blessings on prophets and companions, tobacco, coffee, opium and other drugs, the parents of the Prophet, the faith of Pharaoh, Ibn al-Arabi, the cursing of Yazid, innovation, pilgrimages to tombs, supererogatory prayers, shaking hands and bowing, enjoining right and forbidding wrong, the religion of Abraham, bribery. Kâtip Çelebi mostly reaches conclusions on a middle ground, although his line of reasoning is closer to the rationalism of the Qadizadeli than to mysticism. In several cases he justifies a particular custom on historical grounds, despite legal arguments against it. Since he finds that the parents of the Prophet were unbelievers, the relevant chapter was omitted from the printed edition. Carefully supported by a lengthy autobiography which emphasized the author’s scholarly qualification and his piety, Mizanü’l-haqq became Kâtip Çelebi’s most popular work. Most major manuscript collections have a copy.

– Ilhamü’l-muqaddes mine’l-feyzi’l-aqdes

A short legal treatise on astronomical questions, written in criticism of seyhülislam Beha’i Efendi in 1064/1654.

– Jami al-mutun min jall al-funun

An anthology of scholarly texts of different disciplines.

– Tuhfetü l-ahyar fi’l-hikem ve l-emsal ve’l-asar

An anthology of entertaining and edifying texts in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, arranged according to keywords in alphabetical order, written between 1061-63/1651-53, edited from drafts and supplemented by a certain Yazicizade Mehmed.

– Dürer-i müntesire ve gurer-i müntesire

A compilation of anecdotes largely from biographical sources. The title is not original, but is based on a phrase in the introduction. Presumably identical with a work mentioned in Mizanü’l-haqq and described as a collection in the manner of Ghaffari’s Nigaristan.

5. References and further reading

5.1. Articles on Kâtip Çelebi on www.MuslimHeritage.com

5.2. General bibliography

  • Bacqué-Grammont, J.-L., “Les routes d’Asie centrale d’après le Cihân-Nümâ de Kâtib Çelebî.” Cahier d’Asie centrale, 1-2 (1996), 311-322.
  • Behrnauer, W.F.A., “Haggi Chalfa’s Dustûru’lamel. Ein Beitrag zur osmanischen Finanzgeschichte.” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 11 (1847), 111-132;
  • Birnbaum, E., “The Questing Mind: Katib Chelebi, 1609-1657. A Chapter in Ottoman Intellectual History.” Corolla Torontonensis. Festschrift for Ronald Morton Smith, ed. E. Robbins and Stella Sandahl (Toronto, 1994), 133-158.
  • Birnbaum, E., “Katib Chelebi and Alphabetization: A Methodological Investigation of the Autographs of his Kashf az-zunun and Sullam al-Wusul.” Scribes et manuscrits du Moyen-Orient, ed. François Déroche and Francis Richard (Paris, 1997), 236-263.
  • Brentjes, S., “Mapmaking in Ottoman Istanbul between 1650 and 1750: A Domain of Painters, Calligrapher, or Cartographers?” Frontiers of Ottoman Studies: State, Province, and the West. Eds. C. Imber, K. Kiyotaki and R. Murphy (London – New York, 2005), vol. 2, 125-156.
  • Fodor, P., “State and Society, Crisis and Reform, in 15th-17th-Century Ottoman Mirror for Princes.” Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungariae, 40/2-3 (1986), 217-240.
  • Goodrich, Th.D., “Old Maps in the Library of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.” Imago Mundi, 45 (1993), 120-133.
  • Hagen, G., “Überzeitlichkeit und Geschichte in Katib Çelebis Gihannüma.” Archivum Ottomanicum, 14 (1995-96), 133-159.
  • Hagen, G., “Katib Çelebis Darstellung der eyalets und sancaqs des Osmanischen Reiches.” Archivum Ottomanicum, 16 (1998), 101-123.
  • Hagen, G., and Seidensticker, T., “Reinhard Schulzes Hypothese einer islamischen Aufklärung. Kritik einer historiographischen Kritik.” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, 148/1 (1998), 83-110.
  • Hagen, G., Ein osmanischer Geograph bei der Arbeit. Entstehung und Gedankenwelt von Katib Çelebis Gihannnüma. (Berlin, 2003).
  • Hagen, G., “Ottoman Understandings of the World in the Seventeenth Century.” Afterword in Robert Dankoff, Evliya Çelebi – An Ottoman Mentality (Leiden, 2004), 207-248.
  • Hagen, G., “Kâtib Çelebi and Sipahizade.” Essays in honour of Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu (Istanbul, 2006), 525-542.
  • Hagen, G., Katib Çelebi, Mustafa b. Abdullah, Haci Halife (b. 1609; d. 1657) (PDF version), March 2007 (general bio-bibliography).
  • Howard, D.A.. “Ottoman Historiography and the Literature of “Decline” of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.” Journal of Asian History, 22/1 (1988), 52-77.
  • Ihsanoglu, E., (ed.), Osmanli Cografya Literatürü Tarihi – History of Ottoman Geographical Literature (Istanbul, 2000).
  • Ménage, V. L., “Three Ottoman Treatises on Europe.” Iran and Islam. In Memory of the late Victor Minorsky, ed. C.E. Bosworth (Edinburgh, 1971), 421-433.
  • Quiring-Zoche, R., “Minhiyat – Marginalien des Verfassers in arabischen Manuskripten.” Asiatische Studien 60/4 (2006), 987-1019.
  • Rhoads, M., “Ottoman Historical Writing in the Seventeenth Century: A Survey of the General Development of the Genre after the Reign of Sultan Ahmed I (1603-1617).” Archivum Ottomanicum, 13 (1993-94), 277-311.
  • Saricaoglu, F., “Kâtib Çelebi’nin Otobiyografileri.” Istanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Tarih Dergisi, 37 (2002), 297-319.
  • Saricaoglu, F., “Pîrî Reîs’in Kitâb-i Bahriyye’sinin Izinde Kâtib Çelebi’nin Yeni Bulunan Eseri: Müntehab-i Bahriyye.” Türklük Arastirmalari Dergisi, 15 (2004), 7-57.

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