January 22, 2019

Al-Tikriti Presents Paper on Ottoman Scholar Kâtip Çelebi

Nabil Al-Tikriti, associate professor of history and American studies,  delivered a paper, “An Ottoman View of World History: Kâtip Çelebi’s Takvîmü’t-Tevârîh,” to the 1st International Kâtip Çelebi Research Symposium on  Friday, March 28. This symposium was organized by Izmir Kâtip Çelebi University (established 2010) in Izmir, Turkey. This was an invited presentation.

Nabil Al-Tikriti Explains Takvîmü't-Tevârîh TextIn this paper,  Al-Tikriti provided historical context and analysis of Kâtip Çelebi’s Takvîmü’t-Tevârîh, a chronology, summary, and attempted reconciliation of ancient and Islamic history completed in 1649 C.E. Kâtip Çelebi (d. 1657), the namesake for this recently established Turkish state university off the Aegean coast, was a prominent 17th century Ottoman scholar who is widely considered the foremost representative of “secular” scholarship in his era. In addition to this work, Kâtip Çelebi is renowned for completing the most detailed encyclopedic catalogue of Islamicate manuscripts prior to the 20th century, the most advanced Ottoman world geography text of its time, and roughly 20 other historical, geographical, and political texts.

The work Al-Tikriti presented, Takvîmü’t-Tevârîh, was a very popular text, with at least five translations (Latin, Italian, French, Arabic, Persian), 45 known manuscript copies, and three continuations. In 1733 the first Ottoman publisher, the Müteferrika press, published over 250 copies of this text for sale throughout the empire. 

With this text, Kâtip Çelebi appears to have set out to reconcile all known calendars of the ancient world, offering a chart of five prominent calendar systems and comparing their respective dating systems. He also chronicled what he considered the most important events of the pre-Islamic world, and provided an annual calendar of events in the post-Islamic world up to his own day. After providing charts of Ottoman sultans, grand viziers, judges, prominent elites, and other figures, Kâtip Çelebi closed with his own theory of history and dynastic continuity, which bears some resemblance to the theories of the prominent pre-modern historian and sociologist, Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406).