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had not failed upon the death of Ibrahim, an officer of the Porte, and, what was more singular, a very learned and able printer, whose place has not yet been supplied. This enterprising Turk, who had learned Latin by his own industry, and was no contemptible writer in his native language, founded a set of Arabic types, and printed, under the protection of the court, several pieces of Oriental history, some treatises of geography with maps, and an essay of his own upon the military discipline of the Europeans*; but none of his countrymen have continued his project; because it is impossible to understand the classical writings of the Turks without more than a moderate knowledge of Persian and Arabic, to which none can pretend, who have not made those languages their particular study for many years; and this is no doubt the reason, why there are fewer men of letters among the Turks than among us; for though an intimate acquaintance with the Greek and Roman authors is necessary to support the character of a scholar, yet a very slight tincture of the ancient languages is sufficient for a popular writer, and scarcely any is requisite for a superficial reader.
The Mohammedans in general are passionately fond of history, and not less so of that miscellaneous kind of learning which the Greeks called -moXviuiBiia., or a general knowledge of a vast variety of subjects f. The Turks have more historical pieces in their language, than most European nations; and we may judge of their erudition by the
* See a catalogue of the books printed by Ibrahim, at the end of this discourse.
t This kind of learning was called varia eruditio by the Romans, among whom Varro was the most eminent for it. The most curious and entertaining works of this nature are, the Banquet of Athenecus, the Nights of Aulas Gellius, and the Chiliads of Tzetzes; but the Arabians were fonder of this various erudition than any people whatever. This species of writing begins to grow contemptible among us, since nothing can be more trifling than to transcribe our common-place book, and nothing more easy than to quote a multitude of authors in the margin.
large large work composed in the seventeenth century by Cdtibzddeh, which contains an accurate account of all the books that had been written till his time in Turkish, Arabic, and Persian*. • entertaming preface. I may justly assert, that it comprises all the beauties of the Turkish language; but it is so mixed with Persian and Arabic phrases, that a Turk of no education would not be able to read a page of it. A beautiful copy of this book is preserved in the British Museum, among tire manuscripts of Sir Hans Sloane*: and it wouhi be highly useful to any person, who had access to that collection, and wished to learn Turkish; especially as part of it has been translated into French, and part very elegantly into Spanish, by the help of which translations he might pursue his study with incredible ease, provided that he had a moderate knowledge of Arabic, which may truly be called the basis and groundwork of Eastern learning.
These works are very imperfectly known in Europe; for though Donado, a senator of Venice, and ambassador from that state to the Porte, published a short essay in Italian on the literature of the Turks, yet he knew little or nothing of their language, and took all his accounts of their books from an interpreter, who led him into several mistakes.
The golden age of the Turkish learning, was the reign of Soliman the Second, or The Legislator, in the sixteenth century: and indeed the most shining period in the history of any nation must certainly be that, in which the example of the sovereign gives the nobles a turn for letters, and in which a reputation for knowledge opens a way to riches and honour.
Ali Chelebi, who wrote a very celebrated book of morality, was appointed Molla, or ecclesiastical judge of Adrianople, and had he lived, would have been raised to the dignity of Mufti, or supreme interpreter of the law. He had spent several years in composing an elaborate paraphrase of Pilpai's Fables, in which, however, he was a close imitator of an excellent Persian author, named Cashefi. His work, which he intitled Hotnaiun Ndmeh, contains fourteen sections in prose and verse, and a very elegant introduction, and an
* The title of this book is ♦ j I,. Cashfoxoimn, or the Discovery of Opinions; but it
or, A comprehensite Viae of the Learning of the Arabs, Persians, and Turks.—M. iTHcrbtlot has inserted the best part of this work in his BtbliotheqLC Orient ale.
might justly be intitled.
This is the principal system of Ethics among the Turks, if we except, perhaps, a moral work on the duties of man, intitled, Icsiri etevtet, which seems also to be written in a very polished style. The Tales of the Forty Visirs, composed by a preceptor of Morad the Second, are amusing and Ingenious; but as they are not remarkable for any beauty of language, they do not deserve to be mentioned as a classical work; since an elegance of diction, as well as a loftiness of sentiment, are necessary to constitute a fine piece of writing*
The noblest historical work in the Turkish language was composed by Saadeddin, who was Mufti of Constantinople in the reign of Morad the Third. It contains the history of the Othmans, from the founder of that family to Selim I. This elegant work has been translated into Italian by a very able interpreter of the Eastern languages; and the excellent prince Cantemir- has inserted the substance of k ia his history of the Turks.
* No. 3586. In the same collection, No. 5456, is a very agreeable romance, intitled, the Life of Abu Sina, by Hassan, preceptor to Morad the Third. Both these books, a* Well as the rest, which follow, are often cited by Meninski.
There arc a great number of other histories in Turkish, some of the whole Othman family, and some only of distinct reigns; as Solimam Nameh, the Life of Soliman; Selim Nameh, the Life_of Selim; and many more, which are highly esteemed by the Turks themselves: yet it must be confessed, that the style of these writers, and principally of Saadeddm, by no means answers to our ideas of the simple and graceful diction, the kind of writing which Cicero commends, diffused, expanded, arid flowing with a natural smoothness; on the contrary, most of their figures are so extravagant, and many of their expressions so ridiculously bombast, that an European must have a very singular taste, who can read them either with pleasure or patience *: but such is the genius of the nation; and we can no more wonder, that their rules of composition are different from ours, than that they build their palaces of wood, and sit on sofas instead of chairs.
The Byzantine historians cannot be so easily excused; they had the finest models of composition before them, which they neglected: but the Turks cannot be condemned for departing from a standard of taste, of which they were wholly ignorant.
It is by no means true, however, that the Asiatic histories are no more than chronicles, and contain no sensible remarks on the conduct of princes, whom they consider, we are told, as something more than mortal; there are, indeed, many dull compilations in the languages of Asia, as well as in those of Europe; but the most approved historians of the East intersperse their narratives with
* Thus a Turkish historian, instead of saying that a prince was just and pious, tells us that the footstool of his sovereignty was decked with the ornament of piety, and the throne of his dignity embellished with the rich mantle of justice;—Kutbeti khilafetleri zineti tekwa ilch arasteh, we seriri seltanetleri hilyei maadilct ileh pirasteh ; the two members of which sentence end like a poetical couplet, with similar sounds.
excellent excellent maxims, and boldly interpose 4heir judgment on the counsels of ministers, and the actions of monarchs, unless when they speak of very recent events, and living characters, on which occasions they are more circumspect: and probably Saadeddm continued his history no lower than the reign of Selim, that he might not be restrained in his reflections by any fear of giving offence.
I have not yet been fortunate enough to meet with the valuable work of Ali Efendi, containing the history of the lives of Mohammed II. Bayazidll. Selim, and Solim&n, of which Prince Cantemir gives so high an encomium ;—"Tftis book, (says he,) which is extremely scarce, "contains every quality of an excellent history; a noble simplicity of "style, a warm love of truth, and an abhorrence of flattery. — I am "indebted to this author, (continues the Prince,) for many striking "passages in my own piece."
The Turkshave also many treatises on their government, laws, and military institutions, which, if they were translated into some European language, would throw a wonderful light on the manners of this extraordinary nation, and present us with a full view of their real character.
One of the most curious manuscripts that I have seen in the Turkish language, is a very long roll of silky paper*, containing, as it were, a map of the Asiatic history from the earliest times to Selim the Second: the names of all the patriarchs, prophets, kings, sultans, and califs, who at any time flourished in Asia, are set down in a genealogical order, in which the chronology also is carefully observed; and a summary account of their lives and actions is added to most of them. The writer of it is more explicit with regard to the Othman family. I took care to compare his remarks
• Bodl. Marsh. 19a