. 6
( 8)


making a valuable contribution to the Republic of Letters. He took pains to
gather all the available material, commissioned some new translations and
arranged the innumerable tracts according to thematic order. His prefatory
letter to the reader about the scientific value of the edition was more than
commercial propaganda.

Bonnant (1978), esp. 98, 147“8.
Johns (1998), 508“10. Johns views De Tournes as a pirate pure and simple, whereas Hunter™s
judgement is more balanced (Hunter and Davis, 1999, lxxx“lxxxi).
The long process of the publication, Latin translation and collection of
the works of Paracelsus gives a somewhat different impression. The border
between the vernacular and the Latin versions is not so clearly marked in
this case. The editors of the German texts had more or less the same
background as the Latin translators, and on some occasions they exchanged
their domains. Gerard Dorn remained constantly ˜Latin™, but Georg
Forberger both edited German texts and translated others into Latin.17
Adam von Bodenstein and Michael Toxites, who were clearly situated on
the ˜German side™, sometimes edited and annotated treatises that were
available only in early Latin versions.18 Moreover, their productions seem
often to have been bought and read by the same people. Even if the Latin
editions were mainly aimed at the non-German market and played an
essential role in spreading Paracelsianism through France, Belgium,
England and, perhaps, Italy, they also had a wide circulation in
Switzerland, Germany and Scandinavia, as is suggested by the number of
copies now in libraries in those countries.
On the other hand, the German editions were not exclusively destined
for German customers. The catalogue which John Dee prepared in 1583
attests that he then possessed forty-one German books by Paracelsus (plus
nineteen in Latin and two in Flemish).19 Paracelsus™s work was perfectly ˜in
keeping with the new spirit of cultural assertiveness of the nations of
northern Europe™ (in Webster™s words), and it was acknowledged as the
first scientific masterpiece in the German language (just as Luther™s was
the first theological one).20 Thus a Latin translation could add no prestige;
the fact that some works were known only through early Latin translations
was generally deplored as an irretrievable loss. Huser™s German collection
(published in Basel, by Waldkirch, in 1589“91) was considered to be the
definitive one. No true adept could completely forget that Paracelsus had
strongly expressed his dislike of Latin.
From the beginning, the Paracelsians were inspired by a kind of philo-
logical zeal (of course, they were more or less successful depending on
training, talent and luck). They searched for manuscripts in their quest for
authentic original texts, and, as they had to deal with dispersed and often
fragmentary texts, they tried to gather different tracts together in order to
publish sufficiently substantial books. However, the ˜collecting spirit™ was
more present on the Latin side. Pietro Perna, who dealt with three trans-
lators, Gerard Dorn, Josquin Dalheim and Georg Forberger, had

Sudhoff (1894); Zaunick (1977), 37“9. 18 Sudhoff (1894), nos. 98, 126, 144, 160, 162.
Webster (1979), 331“2. 20 Webster (1979), 316.
The role of translations in European scientific exchanges 173
conceived the project of a complete Latin collection.21 The two volumes
Operum latine redditorum, prepared by Georg Forberger in 1575, was only a
partial achievement.22 It could not be compared with Huser™s ten massive
volumes (eleven with the Chirurgischer Bucher).23 As soon as the monu-
mental German edition had appeared, however, Zacharias Palthen, an
important bookseller in Frankfurt, gave it to a team of translators who
produced eleven volumes (1603“5).
In 1658, Jean Antoine and Samuel de Tournes published a new edition in
folio, Opera omnia medico-chemico-chirurgica, tribus voluminibus compre-
hensa. It had been prepared by Fridericus Bitiskius who boasted that his
translation was more complete and truer to the originals, although he was
heavily indebted to the Palthen team. However, the important thing is that
a new complete Latin collection could still be planned, after so many
editions, and at a time when the essential elements of the Paracelsian
doctrine had been integrated into the works of prestigious disciples and
followers, from Petrus Severinus to Jan Van Helmont.


These different examples show that two main factors were involved (and
often mingled) in the process of translation: to put it crudely, ideological
motives and commercial interests. If the latter were relatively constant, the
former were more varied: prestige, desire to spread knowledge, to affirm an
identity (requiring the marks of linguistic distinction), to defend the ideas
of a group of individuals, or even to assert and protect intellectual property,
as in the case of Boyle, who wished to guard against plagiarism. In a letter of
6 August 1665 he confessed his ˜discouragement to the publication™ of
Forms and Qualities,
that in case it come abroad in English any considerable time before it is ready to
bee published in Latine, Divers of the Experiments which possibly will appear new
& somewhat Curious, may be with or without little variation, adopted & divulged
by others.24
˜Ideological factors™ were often prevalent when the translations were
made by the authors themselves, or by people close to them, on their
own initiative or on the initiative of those around them. Translations
sometimes provoked international polemics. Philip Lansbergen, for

Hieronymus (1995). 22 Sudhoff (1894), nos. 165“6; Zaunick (1977), 39“43.
Sudhoff (1894), nos. 216“25. 24 Quoted in Hunter and Davis (1999), lxi.
instance, a Calvinist pastor relieved of his ministry in 1613 because of his
impossible strictness, devoted himself to his second passion, astronomy.25
He considered that his special vocation was to recover the perfect knowl-
edge of celestial motions once possessed by the Hebrews, and after labori-
ous observations, calculations and comparisons between systems, decided
in favour of heliocentrism. Martinus Hortensius, a former student of Isaac
Beeckman and Willebrord Snellius, was for him what Rheticus had been
for Copernicus. Encouraged by this young enthusiast, he published in 1629
a singular treatise: the first defence of the Copernican cosmology, written
in Dutch and aimed at a large unlearned audience, Bedenckingen op den
dagelyckschen, ende iaerlijckschen loop van den aerdt-kloot (Reflections upon
the daily and annual course of the earth. The same on the true image of the
visible heaven; wherein the wonderful works of God are discovered).
Within a year of its publication, Hortensius produced a Latin translation
which was read all over Europe and incurred attacks by Alexander Ross,
Jean Baptiste Morin and Libert Froidmont, who were in their turn
answered by Hortensius and Lansbergen™s son, Jacob (Philip had died in
1632). This quarrel played a role in Galileo™s troubles: Froidmont, a
theologian of Louvain, published in his second response (Vesta, 1634) the
letter addressed to Jansenius by the nuncio in Brussels that announced the
condemnation and abjuration of the philosopher.
This condemnation (and the shameful publicity given to it) was pre-
cisely the stain that Galileo and his disciples wished to wash out by
permitting his work to survive and be read by unprejudiced readers.26 At
this point it was felt more than before that the circulation of his books
in foreign countries was of the utmost importance and various editing
projects were fostered. In 1633, Galileo™s Parisian friend Elie Diodati sent a
copy of the Dialogo to Matthias Bernegger (in Strasbourg) so that he could
translate it into Latin and, some years later, he set himself the same task for
the Letter to the Grand-Duchess Christina. As we have seen, some trans-
lations into French were also undertaken. Galileo himself, who had been
reluctant at first, decided to have his work completely translated into Latin
under his own supervision.
Several projects for the complete publication of Galileo™s works in Latin
were conceived simultaneously in France, in the German Empire and in
Holland, under the supervision of Carcavy, Giovanni Pieroni and the
Elseviers respectively. At this time the Elseviers had branches in Leiden,
The Hague and Copenhagen, and offices or contacts in Venice, Frankfurt,
25 26
Vermij (2002), 73“90. Garcia (2004); Pantin (1999); Pantin (2000b).
The role of translations in European scientific exchanges 175
London, Paris and Florence. Their plans resulted in only three Elsevier
editions, the Systema cosmicum (the Latin translation of the Dialogo) in
1635, a bilingual edition of the Letter to Christina in 1636 and the Discorsi (in
the original version) at the beginning of 1638.27
The ˜Latinization™ of Paracelsus by Gerard Dorn and others did not
possess such dramatic urgency and it depended more on motives of
interest. From the mid-sixteenth century, Paracelsus™s fame had extended
over a wide area, so his books had sales potential. However, Pietro Perna,
who published a series of new Latin translations in Basel, was also influ-
enced by philosophical and religious motives. He supported alchemy and
chemical medicine, and he was a Protestant with some unorthodox ten-
dencies, a feature often associated with Paracelsianism.28 Besides, his trans-
lators, Josquin Dalhem excepted, were adepts of the new doctrine.
There were two principal reasons for editing and translating Paracelsus:
to answer the professional needs of practitioners eager to learn new rem-
edies and treatments, and to promote a new philosophy radically opposed
to the Aristotelian conceptions of science, of man and of nature. The
limited Latin collection published by Perna from 1568 to 1575 suggests
that he cared for both. Moreover, his translations prepared or accompanied
the progressive appearance of a new kind of Paracelsianism, less idiosyn-
cratic and better adapted to a learned audience.29
Another sort of ˜ideology™ was involved in the translations designed to
accommodate the needs and requirements of a professional group or,
possibly, institution. For example, physicians put much effort into trans-
lation, defending Latin on the one hand, a sign of professional competence,
and vernacular languages, on the other hand, to enable the distribution of
useful and wholesome knowledge. Medicine was one of the fields in which
the simultaneous circulation of the same text in two languages (Latin and
the vernacular) was not exceptional, notably in the case of treatises on the
Turning to institutions, the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge
supported Latin. Hence, for example, the translation of John Wallis™s A
Treatise of Algebra Both Historical and Practical, which became De algebra
tractatus historicus et practicus (1693). The Royal Society, on the other hand,
used its influence to favour English. In this context, some English book-
sellers, often associated with the Society,30 worked to build up for

Willems (1880); Westman (1984). 28 Perini (2002), 61“111, 149“60.
Schott and Zinguer (1998); Grell (1998); Kahn (1998); Webster (1975); Shackelford (2004).
Barnard and McKenzie (2002), 302.
themselves a rich stock of scientific works in English, the complete list of
which was often printed in each book, by way of advertising.
In fact, this sort of linguistic competition took place in harmony and
mutual understanding: the same author could be a professor at Oxford or
Cambridge and a fellow of the Royal Society (this was the case for Wallis
and for many others). It did not preclude joint interests: the university
printers at Cambridge and Oxford were often associated “ or at least
linked “ with booksellers in London who could offer the Latin and
vernacular versions of the same texts for inland and foreign trade.31
Newton™s Opticks and its translation by Samuel Clarke, rector of
St James™s (1675“1729), were both published by Samuel Smith and
Benjamin Walford (and afterwards by William and John Innys). Walford
had formed a partnership with Samuel Smith who was the publisher to the
Royal Society; he succeeded to this office on Smith™s death, and William
Innys succeeded him (from 1711 onwards).32
In the translation business, the desire to facilitate communication
between scientists was not the only “ and not even the main “ factor.
Booksellers would rather include both the Latin and vernacular version of
the same work in their catalogues. English booksellers largely imported
learned books in Latin: so the export of the Royal Society scientific
publications in translation was some compensation. Quite a modest begin-
ning, and without real prospects: the great obstacle to the penetration of
foreign markets by English books was their prohibitive cost of
The most ˜ideological™ translation undertakings had to satisfy commer-
cial requirements, as is obvious even in the case of the Galilean translations.
When he wished to publish his works abroad, Galileo was informed that
the use of Italian would put off many readers. His disciple Pieroni in
Vienna argued in 1635 that he had numerous supporters throughout
Europe who were eager to read his books, without being able to do so: ˜If
the Dialogues were in Latin, I think that they would be already reprinted in
France, in Belgium and Germany, and in more places, because the curious
are very numerous.™ Other correspondents wrote that the booksellers
strongly objected to publishing books in foreign languages, fearing that
they could not find customers.

McKitterick (2002). 32 Plomer (1922), 167“8, 298“9.
See the letter of Jan Van Waesberghe, a Dutch bookseller, to Samuel Smith (January 1685), quoted in
Johns (1998), 507.
The role of translations in European scientific exchanges 177
However, the project of a complete translation failed, as we have seen,
for obvious reasons: it was hardly possible to print condemned books in
Catholic countries, even in France, which prided itself on not following
every injunction and edict issued in Rome, and the booksellers obviously
thought that the books would not be sold easily. Elsevier only published
works that had a certain “ if not large “ potential readership: the still
unpublished book on the ˜new sciences™ of movement, which constituted
the Galilean legacy to physics, and the highly controversial texts where the
philosopher had tackled two crucial problems head-on: the cosmological
reform (in the Dialogo) and the exegetical reform which was necessary to
harmonize Scripture with heliocentrism (in the Letter to Christina).
The remarks of Galileo™s disciples are interesting: they took commercial
factors into consideration, but not to derive profit from them. Contrary to
such authors as Boyle, they did not fear plagiarism and piracy: Pieroni
dreamed of reprints ˜in France, in the Spanish Netherlands and Germany,
and in more places™, although, if they had happened, he would scarcely
have had control over them (either economic or scientific). This idealist
confidence in the ability of good philosophy to spread itself ad majorem
veri gloriam is typical of a certain milieu.34 Nevertheless, this attitude was
not representative.
Another sign of the importance of commercial factors was that in the
case of translations, a greater proportion of privileges was granted to the
booksellers. It would be more exact to say that the booksellers involved in
the ˜translation trade™ were of the kind that obtained general privileges. For
example, Ambroise Pare, from 1549 onwards, always took pains to obtain
personal privileges; but the two privileges for his Opera (that of Rudolph II,
for six years, and that of Henri III, for ten years) were granted to the
bookseller, and the Imperial privilege also concerned a translation, the
Latin version of Bodin™s Republic.35 Maximilian II bestowed a general
privilege on Pietro Perna in 1567, one year before the publication of
Pyrophilia, the first of Dorn™s translations. It was valid for ˜all medical,
philosophical, historical, mathematical and poetical books, and those that
helped the study of Hebrew, Greek or Latin™.36
The translations of Boyle™s books do appear to be a case of real com-
mercial dynamics: Boyle™s treatises were almost always written and pub-
lished in English, but ˜the English Philosopher™ commissioned Latin
translations which were often printed in Oxford or London “ although
mainly for the foreign market. These first Latin versions, as well as some
34 35 36
Garcia (2004). Charon (1991), 231. Perini (2002), 380.
new ones, were afterwards printed in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, in spite
of Boyle™s opposition; and finally, as we have seen, Samuel de Tournes, in
Geneva, gathered together all the existing translations, had the works still
available only in English translated and published a complete Latin col-
lection. However, in his notice ˜Lectori benevolo™, the bookseller stressed
his ideological motivation.
In any event, the publishing career of the Latin Boyle remains an
exception. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the translation of
modern scientific books was only a marginal phenomenon without
significant economical importance, even in the case of England “ I should
rather say of London “ where there was a truly dynamic confrontation
between Latin and the vernacular. It is significant that the chapter entitled
˜Science and the book™ in the Cambridge History of the Book in Britain does
not discuss the problem of translations, and that, on the other hand, the
part concerning ˜vernacular traditions™ does not deal with scientific liter-
ature, except via the ˜periodical press™.37


Thus there was no large flow of scientific translations; and the corollary was
that works were rarely translated only to supply the market. The great
majority of translations were from the vernacular into Latin, and had
special motives. Above all, they were a sign of value. In the prefaces, they
were often presented as proof of the international importance of the work,
with the topos of the eagerly awaiting foreign audience. Jacques
Guillemeau in the dedication to Marc Miron of Pare™s Opera (1582)
affirmed that all the surgeons he had met on his travels, Italian, German
or Spanish, crave for the translation and so the book will have a great
international career. We find the same topos in the Latin editions of
Franz van Schooten expresses a similar idea with more sobriety when he
presents Descartes™s Geometria: the work, published in French twelve years
before, has won the admiration of the literati et ingeniosi; therefore a
translation, with explanatory notes, seems necessary to enlarge its reader-
ship, and Jean Maire, the bookseller, has managed to have it made. Again,
the editor of the authorized Latin version of Boyle™s Spring of the Air alludes
to pressing requests from prestigious people.
Johns (2002); Nelson and Seccombe (2002).
The role of translations in European scientific exchanges 179
Latin translations were, for the writers, a means to establish themselves
in the dignified Republic of Letters, and they were all the more significant
when they concerned books which had first been written in the vernacular
for important special reasons, like Galileo™s Dialogo, or Lansbergen™s
treatise on the motion of the earth. On the other hand, they often reduced
the authors™ control over their own work. Several factors contributed to this
effect, from the initiatives taken by disciples or distant followers (and the
liberties taken by the translators), to the strategies of the booksellers.
Robert Boyle had only too keen a perception of the unpleasant aspects of
the process, whereas Galileo eventually submitted to enduring them, seeing
that he thus secured the survival of his work. However, the most important
thing was probably that the audience of the books changed: it became
larger, more foreign, often ignorant of the circumstances of the first
publication, and freer in its interpretations. Henceforth the work was a
kind of common property (bonum publicum), it belonged to the whole
community of philosophers and lettered persons.

Scientific exchanges between Hellenism and Europe:
translations into Greek, 1400“1700
Efthymios Nicola¨dis


The fifteenth century is the century of the shift of power in the Balkans and
Asia Minor, from the declining Byzantine to the rising Ottoman Empire.
As Byzantium lost lands and power, its emperors looked forward more and
more to help from Western Europe against Ottoman military conquest. In
order to motivate Catholic Europe to assist the Orthodox ˜heretics™, a plan
for the union of the two main European Christian Churches was put
forward, and discussions organized between them. A side effect of these
contacts was an intensive cultural exchange between the two sides, and as
far as concerns science, the exchange of manuscripts and in some cases their
translation as well.
During the last Byzantine dynasty of the Palaiologues, state officials and
scholars belonged to the same milieu. To rise in the state hierarchy, studies
were virtually obligatory. Officials usually followed high-level courses,
studying the trivium (grammar, logic and rhetoric) and the quadrivium
(music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy). The training of these offi-
cials and the important position that what we call ˜science™ gained during
this last Byzantine dynasty, led them to discuss natural philosophy rather
than politics.
Indeed, political and religious debates between rivals trying to obtain the
same high state office sometimes turned into scientific discussions.
Moreover, appointments to some important political offices were made
following scientific debates, as in the case of Metochites and Choumnos
who disputed the office of first minister (logothetis tou genikou) debating on
astronomy and not on politics or religion.1 Metochites obtained this office
after having demonstrated that he was a more able astronomer and natural
philosopher than Choumnos.

Sevcenco (1962).

Scientific exchanges between Hellenism and Europe 181
This environment, together with a real enthusiasm for astronomy and
especially for the computing of solar eclipses, is the reason why so many
Byzantine officials of the state and the Church who came into contact with
Western Europe were involved in science. It should be noted that the
special interest in astronomy was closely related to computing horoscopes,
since astrology was more and more in vogue in a civilization which was
being defeated in the military field.
During the Byzantine period, three kinds of scientific text were trans-
lated into Greek, one from the East and two from the West: the texts of
the astronomical school of Tabriz and Maragha in Persia, the texts from the
astronomical school of the Karaite Jews in Provence and the texts of the
Iberian astronomical school. The translations of the Persian texts into
Greek would be of interest in Europe a century later, as astronomers
from Western and Central Europe (Copernicus, for example), would
study these texts from the Byzantine manuscripts.
The first group of translations, those from Persian into Greek, were in
fact made during the fourteenth century, but became very popular during
the fifteenth century, when they were copied again and again. During the
fifteenth century these texts reached Italy, brought by Greek scholars who
fled the Ottoman conquest. In the context of the revival of the Greek
language among European scholars, these texts became important as they
brought new knowledge to Italy. They include the astronomical corpus of
Gregory Chioniades, who travelled to Tabriz at the beginning of the
fourteenth century.
The most important text from this corpus “ and the most copied “ was
edited in 1347 by George Chrysokokkes, and is entitled The Persian Syntaxis
in Astronomy. This Syntaxis is based on the Zˆj-i lkhanˆ of Nasˆr al-Dˆn al-
± ± ±
Tusˆ (1201“71), the founder and the most important astronomer of the
observatory of Maragha. The book of Chrysokokkes is mentioned by the
French scholar Ismale Boulliau (Astronomia philolaica, 1645); more than
fifty manuscripts are preserved.
The history of the Greek translations of the Persian astronomical corpus
goes back to the very beginning of the fourteenth century, when George
Chioniades (whose monastic name was Gregory), following medical stud-
ies in Constantinople, went to Trebizond to obtain aid from the emperor
Alexis II Comnenus (reigned 1297“1330) for travel to Tabriz. At that
period, Tabriz was a renowned scientific centre where astronomy was
taught by Shams al-Din al-Bukhari among others. Following this first
visit, Chioniades returned to Tabriz as bishop of the Orthodox people of
the town, sent by the Byzantine emperor Andronicus II (reigned 1282“1328).
From Tabriz, Chioniades brought back to Byzantium an astronomical
corpus comprising the following Arab or Persian texts:
The Zˆj al˜Ala™ ˆ by al-Fahhad (c. 1176) as it was taught by Shams Bukhari.2
ˆj al-Sanjarˆ by al-Khazinˆ (c. 1135).3
The Z± ±
c) Not yet identified tables beginning at the year 1093.
The tables of the Zˆj-i lkhanˆ of al-Tusˆ which inspired the Persian Syntaxis of
e) Various short texts and figures, such as the famous Figures of Heavenly Bodies
appearing in the Vatican manuscript Vat. gr. 211, fols. 115“21, inspired by the
Tadhkira of Nasˆr al-Dˆn al-Tusˆ.4
± ±
f) A treatise on the astrolabe, probably by Shams al-Bukhari.
As mentioned above, these texts circulated in Italy after 1400. Among
them, the most discussed by historians is the text written by Chioniades,
titled Figures of Heavenly Bodies. Based on the book Tadhkira of Nasˆr al-
Dˆn al-Tusˆ, it may have played an important role in the development of
Copernican astronomy, as it presents the ˜al-Tusˆ mathematical couple™, a
geometrical tool which transforms circular movements into linear ones.
This theorem can be considered as complementary to a theorem of Proclus
that transforms linear movements into circular ones.
In De revolutionibus, Copernicus uses al-Tusˆ™s theorem in the theory of
Mercury™s motion. The Polish astronomer, who could read Greek, prob-
ably found this information during his stay in Italy, in the manuscript
Vaticanus graecus 211.6 More generally, Persian astronomy of the school of
Maragha became known in Europe after the fifteenth century through the
above-mentioned Greek translations, as the Greek language became acces-
sible to scholars during the Renaissance, and many Byzantine manuscripts
were exported to Italy at the time of the fall of Byzantium.7

Pingree (1985“6). See also Mercier (1988).
Unpublished, Vatican Library, Vat. gr. 1058 and Vat. gr. 211, Laur. gr. 28/17.
Paschos and Sotiroudis (1998). The authors argue that Chioniades has not only transmitted Tadkhira
knowledge but has also modified and improved that knowledge (Mercury theory without the equant
but with an elliptical trajectory for the epicycle centre).
Remarked by Hartner (1971), 616.
The first to note this was Neugebauer (1975), 1035. Cf. Swerdlow and Neugebauer (1984), vol. I, 47“8
and vol. II, 567“8. Nevertheless, Copernicus never mentions al-Tusˆ, while he does mention Proclus.
Some historians have concluded that he was inspired by Proclus™ complementary theorem and
rediscovered the same theorem as al-Tusˆ.ˆ±
Note that as far as that period is concerned, a bibliography exists studying the sources of the Greek
translations. Some of the Greek texts have been edited with extensive commentaries, mainly in the
series of the ˜Corpus des astronomes byzantins™ (Universite de Louvain-la-Neuve), directed by Anne
Tihon. But there is still a lot to do in that field, as the main text, that of Chrysokokkes, remains
Scientific exchanges between Hellenism and Europe 183
The second group of scientific translations into Greek during the last
Byzantine period is the work of Karaites “ Jewish fundamentalists who rejected
the rabbinical tradition “ in the south of France. During the thirteenth and
fourteenth centuries, in Provence and Languedoc, the Karaites, these
˜Protestant Jews™, were known as the scientists of the diaspora. The Karaite
astronomers and mathematicians were influenced by the Arabs and they made
an important contribution to the spread of science in Europe. The Karaite
community of Provence was in permanent contact with the Karaite com-
munities all around the Mediterranean, among them those of Salonika and
Constantinople. The Karaites were translators from and to various languages,
such as Hebrew, Latin, Arabic and Greek. At the end of the fifteenth century,
one of the most important Karaite scholars, Kaleb Afentopoulo (Elijah), who
wrote mathematical and astronomical books, was living in Constantinople.
The mathematician Immanuel ben Jacob Bonfils de Tarascon wrote
many books and one of them was the Kanfe nesharim (Eagle Wings),
known as Sepher shesh kenafayim (Book of Six Wings) because of the
division of the astronomical tables in six groups, in reference to Isaiah.
These tables were a European success, due to which Bonfils was nicknamed
˜master of the wings™ (Ba™al kenafayim). His book comprises an introduc-
tion commenting on the tables and was written in Hebrew about 1365
(some manuscripts extended the tables until 1490). The book was trans-
lated into Latin in 1406 by Johannes Lucae e Camerino and was used by
Pico della Mirandola. It was later translated into Greek and also, under the
title Shestokryl (Six Wings) into Russian. The Greek translation was made
by Michael Chrysokokkes in 1435. This translated text spread widely in
the Greek world, and more than a century later, in 1574, Damaskinos
Stoudites, Bishop of Lepanto and Arta, updated the translated tables.8
The translation of this text into Greek was probably due to the network
of the Karaite communities, and the contacts between the Balkans and the
south of France via these communities. We know many commentaries on
Bonfils™s Kanfe nesharim, written by Karaites and explaining how to adapt
the tables (originally calculated for the latitude of Tarascon, 33.308) to the
latitude of Constantinople and the Crimea.
How did Michael Chrysokokkes find and translate that text? It has been
suggested that he collaborated with Ioannes Kavoutzes at Phocea.9 In any
case, information on Michael Chrysokokkes is scarce. We know that he

…aqe! jsari| sxm ih™ esgqi! dxm Livak sot Vqtrojojjot, Library of the Annex of the Patriarchate
of Jerusalem in Constantinople, MS 317.
Diller (1972).
was notarios of ˜the Great Church™, in other words the Patriarchate of
Constantinople, during the second quarter of the fifteenth century. It has
been suggested that he is the same person as Manuel Chrysokokkes, deacon
and Megas sakelarios of the Patriarchate who was present at the Council of
Ferrara and signed the Union of the Churches.10 In that case, he became
deacon after 1435 and then changed his name to Manuel.
The Wings had an important diffusion during the Byzantine and post-
Byzantine period. At least fifteen manuscripts have survived, together with
commentaries and additions such as those of Damaskinos Stoudites. It has
been demonstrated that the main object of the Wings was the computing of
the solar and lunar eclipses; this computing had been a real fashion among
Byzantine scholars of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, which could
explain the success of Bonfils™s tables.11
Jacob ben David Yom-tob, or Bong™oron or Bonjorn or Yom Tov Poel
(there are still other versions of his name), was astronomer to King Pedro
IV of Aragon, ˜the Ceremonious™ (reigned 1336“87). His father was a maker
of instruments in Perpignan; his son, an astronomer too, converted to
Christianity at the end of the fourteenth century. Jacob ben David™s
astronomical tables for use at the latitude of Perpignan and beginning at
the year 1361, aim in particular, like those of Bonfils, at the computing of
solar and lunar eclipses. Written in Hebrew, they were translated into Latin
and Catalan, became popular and were used or commented on by later
astronomers such as Abraham Zacuto of Salamanca.
The Greek translation of Yom-tob™s tables was due to the contacts made at
the time of the Union of the Churches. Marcos Eugenikos (c. 1394“1445),
Bishop of Ephesus, was sent to Italy to participate in the discussions. He was
the Orthodox representative who refused to sign the decree of the Union in
1439. In Italy, he found the Latin version of the Jewish text of Yom-tob and
translated and adapted it into Greek.
The third group of translations comes from the regions ruled by the
descendants of the Crusaders and they date from the fourteenth century.
These translations came from the Iberian astronomical tradition, where
Arabs and Europeans met. They did not have any significant influence and
do not appear in many manuscripts afterwards.
To mention them in brief: there were the Toledan Tables, of Arabian
provenance, adapted from Latin; some Latin treatises on the astrolabe based
on Arab sources (the treatises of Messahalla and Maslama); and finally the
famous Alphonsine Tables, ordered by Alfonso X, ˜the Wise™, the future King
10 11
Lampsides (1937), 313. Solon (1968). See also Solon (1970), with bibliography.
Scientific exchanges between Hellenism and Europe 185
of Castile and Leon (calculated for 30 May 1252), which were a great European
success for more than two centuries. All these texts were translated and
adapted into Greek c. 1340 by the Cypriot nobleman George Lapithe and
his circle. The Alphonsine Tables circulated in Constantinople at the begin-
ning of the fifteenth century, adapted for this city by Demetrius Chrysoloras
(c. 1360“1416), a high official who was a partisan of the anti-Unionists.


The influence on European science of the Byzantine scientific manuscripts
brought to Western Europe a few years before, during and after the fall of
Byzantium, has already been pointed out by historians. Many European
editions of ancient Greek scientific texts published in the fifteenth, six-
teenth and seventeenth centuries were based on the corpus of scientific
manuscripts belonging to Cardinal Bessarion and other Greek scholars
who fled to the West. It is the complementary opposite trend that will be
discussed here: the translations into Greek of contemporary scientific texts,
mainly written in Latin languages.
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, an important Greek
community flourished in Venice and at the end of the sixteenth century it
established a Greek College in order to prepare Greek students to enter the
University of Padua. In 1623 a similar college was established in Padua
itself. As for Rome, a College for Greek Catholics had been founded in the
sixteenth century.
The fact that the Ottoman Empire did not have a higher education
system “ apart from the medreses or mosque schools (discussed below, p. 193) “
encouraged Greeks in the Ottoman Empire to study abroad during the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Padua was the favourite university for
these visiting students, some of whom would go on to teach science in the
colleges of the Greek communities of the Ottoman Empire. The manuals
they wrote for use in their teaching were mainly compilations based on
books they read during their studies in Padua.
The sources of translations and compilations in Greek in the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries have not yet been determined. The situation is
very different from both the Byzantine period and the eighteenth century,
when many Greek books on science, including translations, were printed:
for that period too, the majority of the sources are well known.12

A bibliography of history of science of the post-Byzantine period (about 2,000 titles) of Greek
authors is available on-line at the web address: http://www.eie.gr/institutes/kne/ife/index.htm
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, there are few trans-
lations of entire books, and these translations date mainly from the end of
the seventeenth century. Anastasios Papavasilopoulos, a priest-teacher
from Janenna, wrote two manuscript treatises at the end of the seventeenth
century: an ˜Introduction to Mathematics™13 and a ˜Physical Philosophy™,14
both of them translated from Latin. The sources of these two translations
have not yet been discovered.
The books are school manuals of arithmetic, geometry and physics
(from ˜modern and ancient sources™) to be taught to his pupils at the
town of Tyrnavo, in Thessaly. The ˜Introduction to Mathematics™ was
translated in 1695; it is a second level (for that period) educational book
presenting definitions of geometrical figures, basic arithmetic and calcu-
lation of surfaces and volumes. The ˜Physical Philosophy™ was translated in
1701 and presents a knowledge of natural philosophy at the same level as it
would have been taught at the colleges preparing for entrance to the
University of Padua.
The first printed book which can be considered as a translation is a book
on practical mathematics, in other words arithmetic for merchants and also
pupils at what might be called a primary level of education. This book was
printed in Venice in 1568, and republished nineteen times until as late as
1818! The author, Emanuel Glyzounis (1530“96), came from the island of
Chios, went to Italy to study and settled in Venice, where he became a
printer. His Practical Arithmetic is a translation from one or many Italian
books called Abacci, very common at those times. These were books
presenting basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication and
division) and also methods for solving problems with one unknown
number. Glyzounis added a method to calculate the date of Easter, as the
book was addressed to Orthodox Greeks. This book was the most popular
book for practical arithmetic in the Balkans until the nineteenth century; it
was even translated into Romanian in 1793.15

Eiracxcg lahglasijg| ej sg| sxm Kasimxm uxmg| lesaveserhei! ra . . . (Introduction to
Mathematics Translated from Latin . . .), National Library of Greece, MS 2139, eighteenth century,
fols. 38a“66a. Karas (1992) has found six manuscripts of this text, all from the eighteenth century.
Ecveiqi! diom sg| amafgrarg| utrijg| uikorouia| . . . (Manual of Physical Philosophy Revived . . .),
National Library of Greece, MS 1331, fols. 1a“98a. Karas (1992) has found two manuscripts of this
text, both dated 1701 (the year of composition).
Bibkiom pqoveiqom soi| pari peqievom sgm se pqajsijgm aqihlgsijgm . . . (Book Easy for
Everyone, Comprising Practical Arithmetic . . .), Venice, 1569. All editions until 1818 were published
in Venice. On the history and the contents of this book, Kastanis (1998), 31“58; Kastanis (2004),
chapter 2.
Scientific exchanges between Hellenism and Europe 187
We know at least two other Italian Abacci which were anonymously
translated by the eighteenth century. These translations have never been
printed and were overshadowed by the success of Glyzounis™s book.16
Between Glyzounis, who translated a practical arithmetical book for
everyday life from Italian in the middle of the sixteenth century, and
Papavasilopoulos, who translated secondary-level books for teaching
from Latin at the end of the seventeenth century, education was reorgan-
ized in the Greek communities of the Ottoman Empire. Indeed, after the
fall of Byzantium, where there was a three-level system of education, some
Greek communities in the Ottoman Empire gradually organized a local
two-level system: hiera grammata (mainly reading, using ecclesiastical
texts) and in some communities a ˜college™ where secondary education
was provided, often by Greeks who had studied in Padua. Until the
beginning of the seventeenth century, it was rare for science to be taught
in these schools.
In 1620, however, Cyril Lukaris became Patriarch of Constantinople. He
was the first patriarch to have studied in Italy. Lukaris asked his friend
Theophylos Corydaleus, who had also been a student in Italy, to head the
Patriarchal School of Constantinople. Corydaleus, who had studied theol-
ogy, philosophy and medicine in Padua, introduced science teaching in the
Patriarchal School and continued that teaching after he settled in Athens in
1640. His teaching of Aristotelian physics (following the course at the
University of Padua) had a great influence all over the Balkans until the
introduction of the new natural philosophy in the middle of the eighteenth
century. Corydaleus had studied physics with Cesare Cremonini, the well-
known Aristotelian scholar (he copied some of Cremonini™s books while he
was a student in Padua). The two main manuscripts written by Corydaleus,
˜Geography™ (1626) and ˜Aristotle™s Physics™ (1634), are not literal trans-
lations from Italian books, but they are strongly influenced by the books
Corydaleus had seen, possessed or copied in Padua. ˜Aristotle™s Physics™
became one of the most widely used books of physics in the Balkans: more
than 143 manuscripts still exist and a printed version was published in
Venice in 1779.
Along with Corydaleus, a number of scholars constituted a seventeenth-
century Greek ˜School of Padua™, teaching philosophy and Aristotelian
science to Greek communities: Georgios Korressios (1570“1660), Nikolaos
(Nicephorus) Klarontzanos (d. 1645), Meletios Syrigos (1586“1664),

See Karas (1992), vol. I, 157 and infra: 1) National Library of Greece MS 1107, sixteenth century,
fols. 42a“76b; 2) Vaticanus graecus, MS 1699, seventeenth century.
Nikolaos Koursoulas (1602“52), Nikolaos Kerameus (d. 1663), Gerasimos
Vlahos (1605/7“85), Mathaios (Meletios) Typaldos (1648“1713) and
Georgios Sougdouris (1645/7“1725).17 Gerasimos Vlahos wrote a book in
1661 for his teaching at the Greek College in Venice, entitled ˜Harmonia
definitive entium™18 and based on various Italian and Greek sources. This
consists of a sort of lexicon written in two languages, Latin and ancient
Greek, with definitions for material and non-material beings by ancient
and sometimes by Byzantine authors.
In 1680, Ioannis Skylitzes wrote an ˜Introduction to the Cosmographical
Sciences™.19 In this manuscript the Copernican system was for the first time
presented at length in the Greek language. As yet we know neither the
sources Skylitzes used nor those of the ˜Epitome of Astronomy™ of Meletios
Mitros, Bishop of Athens, written in 1700 (or a few years before that
date).20 In the first part of his book, Skylitzes discusses the constellations
of both hemispheres, and presents elements of geometrical cosmology
(divisions of the cosmological sphere), of the diurnal motion of the earth
and of the equinoxes and the methods for determining latitude at sea. In
the second part he presents the planets and the three theories of the system
of the universe: the geocentric (˜that of Pythagoreans™), the Copernican and
the Tychonian. He gives some information about the size and motion of
the sun, about the size of the solar sphere (the ˜solar heaven™) and about the
calendar based on the sun™s movements. Most probably this book was
based on a number of sources; many such ˜cosmography™ books existed in
Europe in those days.
The book of Meletios Mitros is much more important (320 manuscript
pages). It may be considered as a simplified manual of astronomy in which
the reader finds an extensive introduction to geometrical cosmology, a
method for computing tables for the movements of the planets, the size,

Petsios (2004).
The Greek title is Aqlomia oqirsijg sxm omsxm, MS, collection of the Institute of Byzantine and
post-Byzantine Studies in Venice. A small description is given in Tatakis (1973).
Eiracxcg ei| sa| jorlocqauija| epirsgla| jai sevma| (Introduction to the Cosmological
Sciences and Arts . . .), Patriarchal Library of Jerusalem, MS 267, fols. 9b“47a. Karas (1992) has
found ten manuscripts of that text: two of the seventeenth century (one dated 1680) and the others of
the eighteenth.
Bibkiom arsqomolijom, jai peqiejsijom, ala se jai apodeijsijom, sxm se pakaixm jai mexm
(xm euetqxm) apo Adal levqi psokelaiot jai jopeqmijot . . . (Astronomical Book Comprising
and Sometimes Demonstrating from Ancients and Moderns (Those Having Made Discoveries)
from Adam to Ptolemy and Copernicus; making clear from when and from whom we have been
taught science and wisdom of that astronomical art). Library of the Annex of the Patriarchate of
Jerusalem in Constantinople, MS 420 (20 folios þ 320 pages). Karas (1992) has found nine manu-
scripts of that text, all of the eighteenth century.
Scientific exchanges between Hellenism and Europe 189
distance and movements of the sun, the moon and the five ˜minor planets™,
and an extensive presentation of the constellations including those
˜unknown to the Ancients™. Meletios Mitros presents in nine pages the
three main theories of the cosmological system (Ptolemaic, Copernican
and Tychonic). The remark about the sources of Skylitzes is valid for
Mitros as well.
One of the rare translations is that of some Ottoman astronomical texts
by Chrysanthos Notaras (d. 1731), who had his secondary education in
Constantinople before leaving to study in Padua in 1697 and in Paris in
1700. In 1680, before his travels, he translated three astronomical texts from
Arabic. In fact they were texts of Ottoman astronomy, descriptions of
problems solved by the astrolabe quadrant, a popular astrolabe among the
Turks.21 The first text, titled ˜Explanation and Description of the Quarter
of the Sphere, Called in Arabic rup-dagire™, consists of the description of
the astrolabe quadrant (or ˜Profatius quadrant™ after the Jewish astronomer
otherwise known as Jacob ben Madir ibn Tibbon, who first described it in
The second text, entitled ˜Explanation of the Instrument Called tjeip™,
describes an analogue astrolabe drawn for all latitudes (the rup-dagire is
conceived for a particular latitude). This second instrument is more
versatile but less precise. The third text, titled ˜Astrolabe Problems™,
presents the solution of classic problems such as determining the hour of
sunset, the direction of the sunset, the time during the night, latitude,
longitude, cardinal points, the hours of the rising and setting of the moon,
the horoscope, the direction of Mecca and so on. To solve these problems
some tables are needed, not indicated in the text. Chrysanthos adds a
method for the multiplication of degrees, another for drawing up a horo-
scope and an Arabic“Greek glossary of terms relating to the astrolabe. This
kind of scientific translation, from Arabic or Ottoman Turkish into Greek,
is unique.
Although they were subjects of the Ottoman Empire, the Greeks had a
separate educational system. The patriarch was responsible for the educa-
tion of the Orthodox Christians, and schools were organized by the Greek
communities themselves. Contacts with Ottoman science were therefore
much less important than contacts with Italian science, as a consequence of
the network of Greek communities and the belief that science had been
transmitted to Europe by the ancient Greeks.

Tsakoumis (1990).
Chrysanthos Notaras played an active role in a high school founded to
provide translators for the Russian Empire. This school, called the ˜Slavo-
Hellenic-Latin Academy™, was founded in Moscow in 1686 and financed by
Prince Galitzin and the Greek Meletios Domestikos (below, p. 215). This
Academy was the first Russian high-level educational institution. The first
professors, the brothers Ioannikios and Sofronios Leichoudis, were sent from
Padua by Dositheos Notaras, Patriarch of Jerusalem and the uncle of
Chrysanthos. Chrysanthos was sent by his uncle to Moscow in 1692 in order
to contact the tsar and also to supervise the teaching of the Leichoudis brothers
at the Academy, as Dositheos considered this teaching too pro-Latin.
At this time, Chrysanthos copied “ but did not translate “ a very rare
manuscript on astronomy and mechanics sent by the head of the Jesuit
mission in China, Ferdinand Verbiest, to Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich.22
This was the first important contact of Chrysanthos with the new
European science, as Verbiest presented the achievements of science and
technology to the tsar in order to introduce the Jesuit missions as useful in
the modernization of the country. Following that contact, Chrysanthos
would visit Paris, stay a few days at the Observatory with Jean Dominique
Cassini, and write a book based on French sources, the Introduction to
Geography and Spheres. This book was printed in Paris in 1716, after the
author had succeeded his uncle as Patriarch of Jerusalem.23
To end the presentation of the translations of that period, we have also
to mention two medical books. The first, written by Gerasimos Vlahos
(one of the most important teachers in the Greek College in Venice), is
strangely enough a translation of Hippocrates from Latin into Modern
Greek. It should be noted that after the fall of the Byzantine Empire and
the flight to Western Europe of Byzantine scholars with a large number of
scientific manuscripts, the rediscovery of ancient Greek science by modern
Greek scholars was often the result of their stay in Padua. Hence it was not
unusual for a Greek text to be read in Latin by some of these scholars.24 The
second treatise, written at the end of the seventeenth century by the doctor
Nicolaos Agrafiotis, is a book of medicaments translated from an unknown
Italian source.25

Nicola¨dis (1995). 23 Nicola¨dis (2003).
± ±
Not one manuscript of this translation is known. The information on Vlahos™s translation is given in
a manuscript medical dictionary written by Alexander Konstantinou Oikonomou in 1812: Karas
(1992), vol. III, 41 and 78.
Amsidosaqiom engcglemom apo sgm isakijgm ckxrram . . . (Book of Antidotes Translated from
Italian . . .), Library of the Monastery of Sina, MS 1848. Karas (1992) has found five manuscripts of
that text, four from the eighteenth century.
Scientific exchanges between Hellenism and Europe 191
To conclude: so far as this second period, 1500“1700, is concerned, some
translations from Italian scientific works appeared in Greek communities
in the Ottoman and Venetian Empires, mainly in manuscript form. These
translations were the product of Greeks who had studied at the University
of Padua. The books were mainly textbooks; in the Greek communities of
this time, the history of science is difficult to separate from the history of
education. The number of these translations was limited, like the number
of books on science and the number of scholars in this period. Scientific
treatises as well as translations would become an important phenomenon
in the Balkans after the middle of the eighteenth century, when the ˜new
science™ would be introduced into the Greek Colleges, after the reform of
the University of Padua in 1739 by Giovanni Poleni.26
During the first half of the fifteenth century, when Byzantium still
existed as a weak but organized state with a group of noble scholars,
translations into Greek aimed at introducing unknown knowledge to
that milieu. Scholars debated whether Persian or Western European
astronomy could describe the motion of the heavens with greater accuracy.
Greek was the language in which Eastern and Western science met,
Byzantium was still a cultural crossroads and science spread from Persia
to Europe via Byzantine translations.
During the Ottoman period a scholarly milieu participating in the
development of science did not exist any longer in the Greek communities.
There were scholars who taught science in these communities and this
teaching became a symbol of a long-desired revival of Hellenism. Looking
back to the glorious past of Greece, these scholars sought ancient Greek
science and discovered the new science in Italy. Translations of that period
aimed at spreading the knowledge of ancient Greek science as it was taught
in Italy and at the same time to make known new scientific developments.
Greek scholars did not participate any longer in the making of science but
only in the spread of European science towards the ˜scientific periphery™.
More than anything else, science teaching would integrate the Greek
communities into European culture in the eighteenth century.

A concise article on the reform: Talas (2004).

Ottoman encounters with European
science: sixteenth- and seventeenth-century
translations into Turkish
Feza Gunergun

A scholarly community seems to have gradually emerged in Anatolia as
Turkomans settled in the region from the eleventh century onwards. The
medreses, the schools (mainly teaching Islamic theology and Muslim juris-
prudence) established between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries by the
Seljuks, introduced Islamic religious and scientific culture to the Anatolian
towns. These educational institutions created on the model of the
Nizamiye medreses, named after their founder the Seljuk vizier
Nizamulmulk (reigned 1063“92), were widespread in the eastern part of
the Islamic world.
The rulers of the Turkish principalities that surfaced after the Seljuk
state weakened and collapsed carried on the tradition of founding medreses
where Islamic scientific culture flourished. The Ottoman state that
emerged at the turn of the fourteenth century was one of these principal-
ities and it welcomed and championed Islamic scientific culture until the
nineteenth century, when science and technical knowledge transferred
from Western Europe were finally taught in Ottoman educational institu-
tions. Translations played a significant role not only in the introduction of
the Islamic scientific knowledge that had developed between the ninth and
fourteenth centuries, but also in transmitting science from Western
Ottoman scholarly life would thus evolve under the influence of two
distinct cultures. While Islamic scientific culture dominated up to the end of
the eighteenth century, Western European scientific and technical knowl-
edge penetrated Ottoman space through translations and other means from
the sixteenth century onwards. The new knowledge from the West gradually
became established in the nineteenth century when Ottoman administrators
undertook the modernization of the army and governmental institutions on
the European model and founded modern educational institutions teaching
European scientific and technical knowledge.
Ottoman encounters with European science 193
The principal Ottoman institutions where Islamic scientific culture
flourished were the medreses. Created by wealthy individuals as pious
foundations, Ottoman medreses taught Muslim jurisprudence together
with Arabic, logic, the interpretation of the Quran, hadith (the sayings of
the Prophet Muhammad), theology, Sufism and the mathematical scien-
ces, including arithmetic, astronomy and occasionally physics. Although
the curriculum of all medreses did not include mathematical sciences,
scholars from these institutions contributed to commenting on and prop-
agating Islamic scientific texts within the Ottoman Empire.
Scholars who came from Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, Herat, Samarkand
and Tabriz to teach in Ottoman medreses brought along not only their
knowledge but also Islamic scientific texts. These scholars came to the
Ottoman lands to seek patronage and earn their living or they were invited
by Ottoman rulers. The mathematician and astronomer Ali Qushji
(d. 1474) came from Samarkand to teach in Istanbul on the invitation
of Sultan Mehmed II (reigned 1451“81).
During the socio-economic unrest following the death of Ulugh Beg in
1449, a large number of Iranian scholars as well as scholars from Khorasan
and Transoxiana emigrated to Anatolia, seeking refuge in Ottoman lands.
They obtained positions as advisers or physicians to the Ottoman sultans or
as judges or teachers in medreses. Young medrese graduates wishing to
improve their knowledge often left Anatolia to join the entourage of
famous scholars living in the above-mentioned centres.


The teaching language in the Anatolian medreses was Arabic, the language
of science in the Islamic world. For this reason, the works of many Islamic
mathematicians and astronomers such as al-Cagmˆnˆ (d. 1221), Nasˆr al-
±± ±
Dˆn al-Tusˆ (d. 1274), al-Samarkandˆ (fl. c. 1284), Ali Qushji (d. 1474) and
± ±
Kadizade-i Rumˆ (d. 1412) were mostly studied directly in Arabic. Their
ˆ ±
commentaries and the new works compiled after them were also written in
Arabic. Turkish and Persian were also used in the compilation of scientific
texts but to a lesser extent. Although Arabic was omnipresent in medrese
teaching until the nineteenth century, Arabic and Persian scientific texts
were rendered into Turkish, the spoken language of Anatolia and the
administrative language of the Ottoman state, from the fourteenth century
ˆ ˆ± ¨ ˆ
In pharmacology, Ibn Beithar™s (d. 1248) Kitabu™l-camˆ™ mufredati™l-
edviye (Materia medica) was among the earliest works translated into
¨¨ ¨
Turkish. The translation, Tercumetu™l-mufredat, soon became popular.
About thirty-five copies of various translations made in the following
centuries are kept in several libraries in Turkey together with the thirty
copies of Ibn Beithar™s original work in Arabic.1
The fifteenth-century Turkish physician Celaluddin Hizir (known as
Haci Pasha, d. 1413), who wrote most of his medical books in Arabic,
¨ ¨
compiled Muntahab us-sifa (Selection of Medical Knowledge) in Turkish
aiming to introduce his medical knowledge to a wider readership.2
Muhammed b. Mahmud-i Sirvanˆ, a physican from Shirvan, who practised
ˆ ˆ±
in Anatolia in the first half of the fifteenth century, wrote in Arabic two
books on health care and pharmaceutical products (ointments, oils, pills,
ˆ ¨
powders, perfumes): the Yakubiyye (Formulary of Yakub) and Ravzatu™l-itr
(The Garden of Fragrances). Moreover, he made translations from Arabic
into Turkish as well. He first translated his own medical book Ilyasiyye
from Arabic into Turkish, upon the order of Seljukid beg Ilyas to whom
the original copy in Arabic had been dedicated.
According to his own account, Mahmud-i Sirvanˆ learned about the
ˆ ˆ±
properties of stones while practising medicine in Anatolia, and planned to
write a book with the aim of protecting Muslims from counterfeiters. Thus
ˆ ˆ
in 1427 he translated the Cevahirname (Book of Precious Stones) by the
Islamic physician and mineralogist Ahmad ibn Yusuf al-Tifashi (d. 1253)
upon the order of Umur Beg (d. 1461), a Turkish military chief. Mahmud-i
Sirvanˆ™s other two books seem to have been originally written in Turkish:
the Sultaniyye (The Sultan™s Codex) on health care (presented to Ottoman
Sultan Celebi Mehmed, reigned 1421“31) and the Mursid (The Guide), a
comprehensive work on eye diseases. These few examples illustrate both
the concurrent use of Arabic and Turkish among scholars and the patron-
age of scientific works by fifteenth-century Anatolian princes.
In surgical practice, a translation made by Sabuncuoglu Sherefeddin
(b. 1385), from the darussifa (hospital) in Amasya, a town in Asia Minor,
is worthy of mention because it exemplifies the transmission of surgical
techniques from the seventh to the fifteenth century through successive
ˆ ¨ˆ
translations made in various languages. Given the title Cerrahiyet™ul-Haniyye

A copy of this earliest anonymous translation is to be found in Istanbul University Library.
Suleymaniye Library (Istanbul) contains a good number of copies of both the Arabic original work
as well as copies of its translations: Sesen (1984).
A copy is recorded in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris (Man. Turcs A. F. 170).
Mahmud-i Sirvanˆ (2004).
ˆ ˆ±
Ottoman encounters with European science 195
(Surgery for the Khans), it must be a Turkish translation of al-Tasrˆf ±
(The Collection), the renowned surgery book in Arabic by Abul Qasim
al-Zahravi (936“1013). Parts of the latter were borrowed from the Epitome
(Synopsis of Medicine in Seven Books) by the seventh-century Byzantine
Greek physician Paulos Aeginata.
In astronomy, only a few translations were made into Turkish between
the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. This suggests that translating
astronomy books from Arabic were not deemed necessary since these
could be directly consulted by Ottoman scholars. A few books on time-
keeping were translated from Arabic into Turkish for the use of medrese
students less knowledgeable in Arabic than their masters.
The Persian treatise dealing with astrology and calendar-making by
Nasˆr al-Dˆn al-Tusˆ, the leading astronomer of the Maragha
± ±
Observatory, was turned into Turkish twice, at the end of the fourteenth
and the beginning of the fifteenth century. Known as Sˆ fasl der marifet-i
takvim (The Thirty Chapters of Calendar Making), it must have been
frequently used by Ottoman astronomers since more than twenty-five
copies ranging from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century remain in
libraries in Turkey. In the mid-sixteenth century, the Ottoman admiral
Seydˆ Ali Reis (d. 1563) translated Ali Qushji™s (d. 1474) astronomy
book er-Risaletu™l-fethiyye fi™l-hey™e (Astronomical Treatise Glorifying the
Triumph) from Arabic into Turkish. The abridged translation contain-
ing additional information from other astronomy books was entitled
Hulasatu™l-hey™e (A Brief Account of Astronomy). Although the number
of Turkish translations grew in number regularly in the following centu-
ries, most of the books on astronomy and mathematics were still written in
Arabic until the eighteenth century.
In the field of veterinary medicine, treatises on the ailments of horses
(baytarnames) were translated from Arabic into Turkish from the sixteenth
century, if not earlier. A standard sixteenth-century baytarname enumer-
ated the properties of horses (characters, coat colours, how to detect the
horse™s age) and described their organs, breeding, training, diseases and
therapy. Thus early Ottoman baytarnames usually combined information
on hippology and hippiatry, while those of the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries merely dealt with equestrian diseases and their cure. Information
on animals other than horses, such as camels, cattle and sheep, was occa-
sionally given.

Ali Qushji presented the treatise to Sultan Mehmed II (the Conqueror) following his victory against
the Akkoyunlu state in 1473 in Otlukbeli, eastern Anatolia.
Books compiled by the baitars (farriers or veterinarians) of the Abbasid and
Mamluk courts were held in esteem by the Ottomans in the sixteenth century.
The Kitab al-hail wal-baitara (Book on Horses and Hippiatry) of Muhammed
bin Ya™kub b. Ahi Huzzam al-Huttalˆ (d. 865), veterinarian at the Abbasid
ˆ ˆ ±
court, was translated into Turkish in the early sixteenth century. A copy of
the anonymous and untitled Turkish translation is dated 1536. Nearly thirty
ˆ ˆ
years later, in 1562, the Kamil al-sina™atayn al baytara (The Perfect Book on
the Two Veterinary Arts) of Abu Bakr bin al-Badr bin al-Mundir Badr
ad-Din al-Baitar, veterinarian at the court of the Mamluk Sultan al-Nasir
Muhammad Ibn Qalawun (reigned 1293“1340), was turned into Turkish by
Huseyin bin Abdullah. Another Turkish translation made over a century
later, in 1679, by Muhammed b. Cerkes indicates its ongoing influence.
ˆ ˆ
ˆ ˆ
The Kitab-i makbul der hal-i huyul (The Esteemed Book on the Various
Conditions of Horses), compiled in Turkish by Sheikh Mehmed bin
Mustafa (d. 1635), seems to be a popular seventeenth-century baytarname,
since nearly twenty copies are currently extant. Known as Kadizade, the
author related that he was involved with the science of horsemanship since
his childhood and had perused a number of baytarnames. Having heard
that Sultan Osman II (reigned 1617“21) was a matchless horseman, he
ˆ ˆ ˆ
composed the Kitab-i makbul as an offering to the sultan. Kadizade
probably drew on Arabic, Turkish or Persian baytarnames since no
European work on horses is known to have been translated until the second
half of the nineteenth century, after the opening of veterinary classes in
1849 in the Military School in Istanbul. The fact that Tayyarzade Mehmed
Ataullah (d. 1879), an accountant in the Ottoman army and the author of a
five-volume work on the Ottoman Empire (Tarih-i ata, 1876), translated a
baytarname from Arabic shows how devotion to classical Islamic literature
on hippiatrics survived.


Ottoman works based on West European sources began to appear from the
sixteenth century onwards, although the introduction of knowledge from
Western Europe did not mean the abandonment of Islamic scientific culture,
which continued to dominate, especially in the medreses, until the nine-
teenth century. The expansionist policy of the sixteenth century led to the
widespread use of western Mediterranean marine cartography by Ottoman
seafarers, while the coming of Jewish physicians enabled the Ottomans to
encounter the European medical practices of the Renaissance. However,
Ottoman encounters with European science 197
the spread of knowledge took place not only through translations but also
via direct contact between Ottoman and Western seamen and physicians.
The campaigns launched in the Mediterranean by Pˆrˆ Reis (1470“1554),
the commander of the Ottoman fleet, and his contacts with Italian and
Catalan sailors led him to compile a world map of which we only have a
fragment depicting the shores of north-west Africa, the Iberian Peninsula
and the eastern shores of Central and South America. This fragment is now
called Pˆrˆ Reis™s Atlantic Ocean Chart (1513). A note in the south-west
corner of the map explains that he used nearly twenty large maps, among
them one Alexandrian, eight Arab, four Portuguese, one Indo-Chinese and
one Chinese together with a map drawn by Columbus.
Pˆrˆ Reis™s second chart, the North Atlantic Chart (1528), which is also
believed to be a fragment of a larger world map, depicts the southern tip of
Greenland and the eastern shores of Newfoundland, the shores of Florida,
some of the Caribbean Islands including the Antilles, Cuba and Haiti and
the northern shores of South America.
Pˆrˆ Reis™s Kitab-i bahriye (Book on Navigation) together with his two
fragmentary portolan charts partially depicting the Atlantic Ocean, are good
examples of the circulation of cartographical and nautical information in the
Mediterranean region in the early sixteenth century.5 However, the exchange
of information must have started earlier. Kitab-i bahriye, a portolan atlas, also
bears the characteristics of the isolario genre in which the subject matter was
divided into chapters including maps, and the historical aspects of places are
emphasized. Both the draft (1521) and the revised version (1526) of Kitab-i
bahriye are in Turkish. While giving full account of the Mediterranean shores,
seaports and anchorages, it offers technical information that seamen would
need when sailing in the Mediterranean. In short, it is a guide for mariners.
The 1526 version is written in both prose and verse, and includes ninety-
two portolan charts. In the introductory part (972 couplets) Pˆrˆ Reis ±±
describes the tides, the magnetic compass, the winds and the seven seas,
discusses how portolan charts should be used and gives additional instruc-
tions and advice to seamen. In the following couplets he narrates the
discovery of the Antilles by Christopher Columbus:
ˆ ¨
Nam ile Antilye dinur bil ana They call that country Antilye
Dinler isen dahˆsinin diyem sana
± If you will listen, I will tell you of it
Hem nice bulundu isit ol diyar Hear also how that land was discovered
ˆ ˆˆ
Serh edeyim ta kim ola asikar Let me explain so that it will be clear

Forty-two copies of Kitab-i bahriye are extant in world libraries. Some copies are without charts,
others include up to 200; Ozen, Piri Reis and his Charts (1998), 20“2.
Ceneviz™de bir muneccim var imis In Genoa there was an astrologer
ˆ m ile Kolon ana dirler imis
Na whose name was Columbus
Anun eline girer bir hos kitab A curious book came into his possession
Kalmis Iskender™den ol da irtiyab that without doubt was from the time of Alexander
ˆ ˆ
Cumle derya ilmini bir bir tamam In that book they had collected and
Cem™ idub yazmislar imis iy humam written down all that was known about navigation
Ol kitab gelmis bu Efrenc iline The book ultimately reached the land of the Franks
Bilmemisler lˆkin anun haline
± but they knew not what was in it
Bulur okur bu Kolon ani iy yar Columbus found this book and read it
Varur Ispanya begine ani sunar whereupon he took it to the King of Spain
Takrˆr ider cumle ahvali ana
± And when he told the king all that was written therein
Ol dahi gemi virur sonra buna the king gave him ships
ˆ ˆ
Ol kitab ile amel ider iy yar Good friend, employing that book
Varub Antilye™yi ider asika Columbus sailed and reached the Antilles
Dahˆ sonra durmaz acar ol ili
± ¸ After that he ceased not but explored those lands
ˆ ¨
Simdi meshur eylemisdur ol yolu Thus the route has become known to all
Hartisi takim anun geldi bize His map too reached us. That is the situation
Isbudur hal kim didim cumle size and I have told it all to you
Lˆkin bunda bir mahal geldi bana
± We have now come to point at which I must
Bu da tezkˆre ola giru ana
± summarize the rest

Pˆrˆ Reis™s works dominate this period, but three other atlases of porto-
lan charts of the standard Mediterranean type have survived: the Atlas of
Ali Macar Reis (Topkapi Palace Library); the anonymous Atlas-i humayun
(Imperial Atlas) preserved in the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul; and
the Deniz atlasi (Sea Atlas) in the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore. They
all belong to the second half of the sixteenth century, and, together with the
more refined copies of the Kitab-i bahriye, they reflect the vogue that this
genre must have enjoyed among the more sophisticated Ottomans. The
plainer, functional marine charts or atlases that no doubt existed have not
survived except for such isolated examples as the Aegean sea-chart of
Mehmed Reis ibn Menemenli.
Renaissance medical knowledge was mainly brought to the Ottoman
Empire in the sixteenth century by Jewish physicians expelled from the
Iberian Peninsula by the kings of Spain and Portugal. Some of these
physicians had been educated in European universities. During the period,
however, the access of Jews to European universities was restricted and even
those who were fortunate enough to be admitted to a university were not
Ottoman encounters with European science 199
awarded a degree at the end of their studies. An exception to this situation
was the University of Padua, which allowed Jewish students to study and
awarded them degrees. The Ottoman sultans allowed them to profess their
religion and to treat non-Jewish patients.
One of the most renowned Jewish physicians of the Ottoman court in
the early sixteenth century was Moses Hamon (d. 1554), the private physi-
cian of Suleiman the Magnificent, also known as ˜The Lawgiver™ (reigned
1520“66). His father, Joseph Hamon, had emigrated from Spain and
entered the court of Sultan Beyazit II (reigned 1481“1512). The medical
literature brought by these physicians probably allowed Shemseddin Itaqi to
ˆ ˆ
compile his treatise on anatomy, the Risale-i tesrih-i ebdan (Treatise on the
Anatomy of the Human Body) at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
Sixteenth-century European travellers to Asia Minor and the Middle
East witnessed not only Jewish and Turkish but also Spanish and
Italian physicians practising in Ottoman lands. Dispatched by Ferdinand
I (1503“64) to Istanbul in 1554 as ambassador to Sultan Suleiman I, the
Fleming Ogier Ghislain de Busbecq (1522“92) related in his Turkish Letters
that before leaving Istanbul in 1562, he had sent a Spanish doctor named
Albacare to the island of Lemnos. He had asked the physician to attend the
annual ceremony organized for the opening of clay beds:
Before leaving Constantinople, I sent to Lemnos a Spanish physician called
Albacare, so that he would be present at the customary ceremony on 6 August,
when they open that marvellous earth. I told him to write an exact description
of what happened, to inform himself precisely about the spot and if the earth
needed care for its power to be preserved: I have no doubt that he will carry out
this commission, unless there is some insuperable obstacle, the Turks do not
always allow everyone to go there and I would have gone myself long ago if I had
been allowed to do so.6
According to the French traveller Pierre Belon (1517“64), the small lumps
of clay were stamped with the seal of the Ottoman administrator (subasi) of
the island. They therefore bore the inscription tin-i mahtum in Arabic
characters, literally meaning ˜sealed earth™ or terra sigillata. Also known as
Terra Lemnia (from Lemnos), this drug was extremely popular for its
various medicinal properties. Owing to its astringent and siccative effects,
it was used to prevent haemorrhage, heal wounds and treat ulcers and
gonorrhoea. It was also recommended as an antidote to food poisoning
because of its emetic qualities.

Ogier Ghislain de Busbecq (1581), Epistolae quatuor (Antwerp).
On his way back to Vienna in 1562, Busbecq was accompanied by Don
Alvaro de Sande, the Spanish commander who had fought against
the Ottomans at the Battle of Djerba (1560). Captured by the Turks,
´ ´
Sande was released thanks to Busbecq. Sande had a Spanish physician
whom he had ˜bought™. The latter was possibly one of the captives brought
from Djerba and later sold in Istanbul. Busbecq did not give his name but
related the quarrel between this physician and a janissary while looking for
accommodation at Tolna, a town south of Buda, in 1562.
In 1553, a year earlier than Busbecq, the sixty-year-old Hans Dernschwam
(1494“1586), a Bohemian traveller, had left Vienna for Istanbul in the
company of a delegation Ferdinand I sent to Suleiman I. Thanks to his
services in the Fugger Company, Dernschwam had made a small fortune and
could travel at his own expense together with his ˜servant, coach, three horses
and a purse full of gold coins™. He noted in his diary that he had seen many
Jewish and Italian physicians but omitted to give their names:
Turks use the prescriptions they inherited from their ancestors as well as those they
get from Italian druggists. An Italian physician used to pay frequent visits to our
ambassador [Busbecq?]. He knew Latin very well and had assisted several persons.7


Their military campaigns in Central Europe in the seventeenth century
gave the Ottomans the opportunity to become acquainted with famous
Western scientific works. It is interesting to note, first, that most of the
translations or compilations from European books were made into Turkish
and not into Arabic, the language of the main scientific institution of the time,
the medrese. Second, the translations were generally made by professional
translators or government officials familiar with European languages.
The reason why medrese teachers were little involved in translating
European books in the seventeenth century was that European scientific
treatises could hardly be used in medreses, given that their primary aim was
to teach Islamic religion, Islamic law, the Arabic language and to a lesser
extent the mathematical sciences (computing, timekeeping, the use of
astrolabes etc.) These subjects were taught on the basis of the abundantly
available Islamic mathematical works. Another reason for their lack of
involvement was the unfamiliarity of medrese scholars with European
languages. Their knowledge of Arabic, Persian and Turkish, as well as
Hans Dernschwam (1923), Tagebuch, ed. Franz Babinger (Munich).
Ottoman encounters with European science 201
the availability of Islamic textbooks, might have led these scholars to place
excessive trust in Islamic authors. Some members of medreses made partial
translations, however, or consulted or studied European works with the
help of a translator. The latter was either a European with some knowledge
of Turkish or a convert to Islam.
A number of seventeenth-century translators of European scientific texts
into Turkish were officials (secretaries and translators in service) in the
various military and civil offices of the state. They were either born
Muslims or converts to Islam. A young clerk (katib) who obtained a job
in a state office would be trained by senior officials, but he might also
educate himself by reading books on grammar, rhetoric, history, geogra-
phy, law and diplomacy as well as literary compositions. State offices acted
at that time as a kind of educational institution. Bureaucrats trained in
these offices, even though they were not as respected and influential as
medrese members (the ulema class), produced valuable literary, historical
and to a lesser extent scientific works.
Generally speaking, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Turkish bureau-
crats and scholars were knowledgeable in Turkish, Arabic and Persian. They
did not feel the need to learn European languages because interpreters were
employed in foreign affairs. In the translation of scientific books, scholars or
bureaucrats had to cooperate with an interpreter. The Turkish translations of
Mercator and Ortelius™s atlases resulted from such a collaboration.

ˆ ˆ

Best known in Europe as Hadji Khalifa, Katib Celebi (1609“57) was
the ˜scholar-bureaucrat™ par excellence who introduced sixteenth- and
seventeenth-century European cartographical and geographical knowledge
to the Ottoman Empire. Cihannuma (Cosmorama), the comprehensive
work he compiled in Turkish on the basis of both Islamic and European
geography books and atlases, was substantial in shaping the Ottoman
perception of geography.
An outstanding polygraph and bibliophile, Katib Celebi was charmed
by geography because it provided the opportunity, while seated comfort-
ably at home, to journey around the world and to acquire more informa-
tion than people who travel their life long. For him, geography was a part of
astronomy and he believed that astronomy was necessary to understand the
universe and God. Moreover, statesmen should be acquainted with the ˜art
of geography™ since a knowledge of the subject was required for the success
of military campaigns and in order to control the borders. Katib Celebi ¸
stressed the importance of geography by giving an example from the
Christian world: ˜The ˜˜infidel™™ Europeans who considered the science of
geography important were able to discover America and could sail up to
India. Venice, a small Christian dukedom, could enter a sea (the Aegean)
which is under Ottoman control and challenge an empire that rules in the
West and the East.™8
Katib Celebi, like other young Ottomans aspiring to become a bureau-
crat, was enrolled as assistant at the age of fourteen in one of the accounting
offices of the Council of State where he learned computation and siyakat,
the writing style used in treasury accounts. Transferred to a military office,
he participated for about ten years in the Ottoman military campaigns
against the Safawids in Iraq and Iran. Returning to Istanbul, he spent most
of his fortune buying books. While continuing to work in the office, he
paid visits to medrese teachers to learn astronomy, mathematics, religious
sciences and logic. He was a keen reader of biographies, bibliographies and
history books.
The Ottoman campaigns in Crete against Venice (1645“59) drew Katib
Celebi™s attention to naval history and geography. He first wrote Tuhfetu™l-
ˆ ˆ ˆ
kibar fi esfari™l-bihar (Gift to the Nobility: A Chronicle of Naval
Campaigns, 1645), in which he analysed former victories and defeats of
the Ottoman navy, discussed the measures that might be taken for its
improvement and described the neighbouring territories ruled by the
Venetians, Albanians and Peloponnesians. Then, he decided to compile a
comprehensive book on the geography of the world and set to work in 1645.
He started to compose his book on the basis of Islamic geographical texts
such as al-Muhˆt (The Ocean), Tarih-i hind-i garbˆ (The History of the
± ±
Discovery of America), Taqwim al-buldan (Geography of Countries),
ˆ¨ ˆ
Menazir ul-avalim (Panorama of the World) and Kitab-i bahriye (Book
of Navigation).
As he worked, he realized that Islamic sources were not sufficient for his
project. He stopped writing and tried to obtain European geography books
and to learn their contents. He procured the Atlas minor, which was widely
known in the European market. This was the popular version of the atlas of
Gerhard Mercator (1512“94) printed by Josse Hondius (1546“1611).

ˆ ˆ
From Katib Celebi™s Tuhfetu™l-kibar fi esfari™l-bihar (Prominent Figures of Naval Campaigns, 1645)
cited in Gokyay (1982), 12, 129.
Ottoman encounters with European science 203
Katib Celebi also tried to procure the Theatrum orbis terrarum (1570) of
Abraham Ortelius (1527“98) but he apparently only had access, at a later
stage, to the catalogue of geographers attached to it. The translation of the
Atlas minor from Latin into Turkish was made orally by Sheikh Mehmed
Ihlasˆ, a French convert to Islam. Katib Celebi wrote down the Turkish
± ¸
ˆ ˆ
text, edited it and named the translation Levami™al-nur fi zulmat-i atlas
minor (Lights Glittering in the Darkness: Atlas Minor, 1654). He appended
a bibliography of cartographers and geographers that he compiled from
Ortelius™s text.
Katib Celebi now started to write Cihannuma anew. In the second
version (1654) he made use of the European geographical literature cited
above and it is also likely that he procured new information from other
sixteenth-century geography books and maps. Cihannuma stimulated
other Ottomans to write on geography; its printed version (1732), enriched
by Ibrahim Muteferrika, aroused considerable interest in the eighteenth
Geography was not the only concern of Katib Celebi. He wrote on
Islamic, Ottoman and European history and compiled a bibliogra-
¨ ¨¨ ¨
phical encyclopedia, the Kesfu™z-zunun an-esami™l-kutub vel™l-funun (The
Elimination of Doubts about Book Titles and Sciences) including about
14,500 book entries and 10,000 biographies.9 The financial difficulties the
Ottoman state faced in the mid-sixteenth century encouraged him to think
about measures to be taken in order to secure the prosperity of the state and
society. He compared society to the human body and had recourse to the
Hippocratic doctrine of four humours to explain the ˜illness™ of society and
¨ ¨
the way to recover its ˜health™. In Dusturu˜l-amel li islahi™l-halel (Principles
of Action for Reform, 1653), one reads:
The human body is a combination of four humours, and functions through its
senses and natural capabilities that are delivered to the competent hands of the
human soul. Likewise, the structure of a society is made up of four elements, and
its regulation and administration by means of statesmen (the senses and capabil-
ities) is submitted to the competent hands of the glorious Sultan (the human soul).
The four elements of society are scholars, soldiers, tradesmen and the populace.


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