Tarikh al-Hindi al-Gharbi [A History of the Western Indies], in Turkish in Arabic alphabet. Edited by Mehmed Su'ud (d.1591). Constantinople: Ibrahim Mteferrika, mid-Ramazan 1142 H .
4 (209 x 156mm). 4 double-page engraved maps and 13 woodcut illustrations, 3 with touches of contemporary hand-colouring. (One map detached and repaired along one edge, another with tear at central fold, occasional light browning and staining.) Near-contemporary tree sheep, flat spine gilt, red edges (slight wear to spine and extremities). Provenance: small stamp on front flyleaf obscured; marginal annotations in red ink in Arabic.
FIRST EDITION AND THE FIRST TURKISH BOOK ILLUSTRATED WITH WOODCUTS. It opens with a discussion synthesizing Islamic geographical and cosmographical writings and continues to relate the discovery of the New World, particularly the voyage of Columbus and Spanish interests there. The history of these discoveries is enlivened with fantastic elaboration, some of which is depicted in the woodcuts, such as a battle between mermen and humans and trees with fruit in human form. The authorship may be ascribed to the poet Mehmed Su'ud, although Goodrich believed him to be its editor, rendering the anonymous text into courtly language. The two world maps derive from those in Mercator-Hondius Atlas minor and reappear in Katib Celebi's Jihannma atlas, printed by Mteferrika in 1732 (see following lot), with California represented as an island.
COMPLETE COPIES ARE RARE. It was printed in an edition of only 500 copies and many have been subsequently defaced or destroyed for contravening (in its woodcut illustrations) the Islamic dictum against representing living things. Toderini called for an astronomical chart in addition to the 4 plates; Watson described an astronomical chart and 3 plates; Sabin calls for 3 plates only, as does the John Carter Brown library catalogue. The Bibliothque nationale copy, sent from Constantinople by the press's patron, Sad Aga, contains 4 plates, as does the present copy, one of which may be considered astronomical. The Tarikh al-Hindi al-Gharbi is only the fourth book printed in the Arabic alphabet in the Ottoman empire, the product of Ibraham Mteferrika, a Hungarian convert to Islam, who believed he could help to arrest the decline of the Ottoman empire through his printing press. He established his press in 1729 in the palace of the Grand Vizier Ibrahim Pasha beneath the Sublime Porte and was granted a license to print all but religious works (which remained the province of scribes). JCB 463; Sabin 94396; Toderini, Letteratura turchesca III (Venice: 1787) 41; W.J. Watson 'Ibrahim Mteferrika and Turkish incunabula', Journal of the American Oriental Society, 1968, no. 88, pp. 435-441; cf. T.D. Goodrich, The Ottoman Turks and the New World, Wiesbaden: 1990.