D. R. Reinsch, The Greek manuscripts collected in the Library of the Sultan

Thursday, October the 15th

17:45-18:30 Dieter Reinsch (Freie Universität Berlin), The Greek Manuscripts collected in the Library of the Sultan

Founding on the studies of Adolf Deissman (published in 1933) and Julian Raby (published in 1983) and on my own research in the Library of Topkapı Saray, carried out together with Dieter Harlfinger in the seventies and eighties of the past century, I will characterize different groups of Greek manuscripts kept in the library of the sultans, which today number all together 46 pieces (12 pieces came much later into the library of Topkapı Saray, 1 of the 46 is missing since the beginning of the 20th century, a part of another since the visit of Constantin Tischendorf in 1859). My main concern is the group of manuscripts which can be connected immediately with the person of Mehmed II the Conquerer through remarks in the autograph of Kritobulos of Imbros, our main source for the cultural activities of the sultan, and a laudatory poem to the sultan in another Saray manuscript. Paleographical and codicological criteria (i.e. identification of scribal hands, identification of watermarks, islamic bindings) allow us, in a second step, to ascribe a greater number of manuscripts to this category, which for a great part obviously have been ordered by Mehmed himself. Here I rely mostly on the studies of Julian Raby. Departing from this greater group we can define some main areas of interest of the sultan (history, geography, philosophy, magic, grammars and lexica) which are represented by some further manuscripts of his library. The rest of our manuscript group can be considered as disiecta membra having found by chance their way out of the turmoil connected with the capture of the City together with many other Greek manuscripts which survived in private or ecclesiastical libraries. We don’t even know at what time they entered the Saray library and partly they are in a very bad condition so much that it was not possible to study them at all; in connection with our research we tried, but we couldn’t solve the restauration problem. It seems, however, that the manuscripts bearing today the numbers 1 to 40, 48, 50, 51, 57, 64 and 65 belonged all to Mehmed’s library, because he was interested in them in one or another way. How many manuscripts left the library in the course of the centuries we don’t know. For sure a group of 15 went to Paris in the seventeenth, another group of 20 to Bologna in the eighteenth century.


Matthieu Cassin

Chargé de recherche à la section grecque et de l'Orient chrétien de l'Institut de recherche et d'histoire des textes (CNRS, UPR 841).

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