Our Notes & References
Very rare Polish edition of Rycaut’s celebrated work, his “History of the Present State of the Ottoman Empire” (1665). This is the second edition, in a new translation from the French, after the first published almost 50 years earlier in 1678 (also extremely rare). An anonymous “Polish nobleman”, identified by his initials, W.G.M., dedicated his translation to Jakub Henryk Flemming (Jakob Heinrich von Flemming, 1667 – 1728), who served as ambassador to Warsaw for Frederick Augustus of Saxony, and played an important role as negotiator of the Vienna Treaty of 1719. After the congresses in Lublin and Warsaw, he was appointed chief governor of all Polish regions. The translator refers to Flemming’s involvement in the Ottoman Empire’s rule over Hungarian territories (until 1699) and the need for ‘a deeper view of the Turkish government and politics’.
Rycaut (1628-1700) served as private secretary to Heneage Finch, 3rd Earl of Winchilsea, ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and between 1667 and 1678 he was British Consul and factor at Smyrna (now Izmir).
In his Note to the Reader, the translator points out that Rycaut received some of his information about the Turkish monarchy from Wojciech Bobowski (aka Ali Ufki, Albertus Bobovius, Ali Bey; 1610/1–1675), a Polish musician who was captured during his voyage to Egypt, and after his release 20 years later became a dragoman (interpreter) in the Ottoman Empire. Bobowski converted into Islam and translated the Bible into Ottoman Turkish. The translator also points out the need for Polish readers to part with certain myths about the Turkish regime, ‘for the slavery under the Turk is not so heavy, as in our false freedom’.
Like the French edition on which the translation is based, this edition is richly illustrated with plates captioned in Polish, mostly showing important people (‘Wielki Wezyr’) and costumes (derviches, women, military etc). Its full title reads “Rykota Sekretarza Posła Angielskiego u Porty Ottomańskiey Rezyduiącego Monarchya Turecka z Francuskiego Języka na Polski Przetłumaczona, przez Szlachcica Polskiego. A teraz dla niedostatku pierwszych eksemplarzów drukiem powtorzona za doglądaniem Jakuba Szmyta Toruńczanina” [The Turkish Monarchy of Rycaut, Secretary of the English Envoy in the Ottoman Empire, translated from the French by a Polish nobleman. Now, for the scarcity of the first copies, reprinted under the supervision of Jakub Szmyt Toruńczyk].
Very rare: only two copies traced in WorldCat, in Warsaw and Dresden; apparently no copy at Western auctions. Strangely, the results are exactly the same for the 1678 edition.
This edition is described by the Polish Estreicher Bibliography at the Jagiellonian University Research Centre (online)