A Divan Interpreter’s Inşâ-Book and its Place in the Ottoman and Hungarian Historiography

Papp Sándor

A Divan Interpreter’s Inşâ-Book and its Place in the Ottoman and Hungarian Historiography

(66th Annual Meeting of the PIAC Göttingen, 2024)

The central figure of the presentation is Zülfikar Efendi, a Hungarian-born renegade who, at the height of his career, was the leading interpreter of the Ottoman decision-making body, the hümayun of Divan, for decades in the 17th century.

In addition to his personality and ability to give evidence, he was the only interpreter within the Sublime Porte who made a personal effort to collect and preserve the documents in his possession. He also took great care to quote extracts from historical works in his inşa-book preserved in two manuscripts in order to place the translated documents in their historical context. I think that his collection in his copy-book is, to the best of my knowledge, unique among the sources of the Ottoman Empire. Zülfikar, translator of letters from Eastern and Southern Europe, made good use of the material collected during his professional work throughout his life. His colleague in the Sultan’s Divan, the famous Kâtib Çelebi, also used these translations in his historical works. Zülfikar was certainly active in the Habsburg (and also Hungarian) peace negotiations and the preparation of the ratified documents. After a while, as he was the only one who still remembered the earlier documents, he assisted the Ottoman diplomacy with the copies of documents in his collection. The aim of this presentation, in addition to his professional work, is to present his letters collection and his place in Hungarian and Ottoman historiography.