Following on from President Erdogan’s December 2021 statement, the United Nations this month acknowledged a formal request from Ankara for the country to be known as Türkiye. It is after all how most Turks know their country anyway.
As one would expect from such an ancient land, it is a country that has known other names, of which Anatolia and Byzantium are perhaps the best known.It only became Turkey after the Seljuks defeated the Byzantines at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071.
To mark the international name change for this ancient country, we offer a small selection of books showing its culture and relationship with the West, from the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
A Relation of a Journey of the Right Honourable My Lord Henry Howard, from London to Vienna, and thence to Constantinople
John Burberry was a member of the court of Henry Howard and accompanied him on Walter Leslie’s embassy to Constantinople in 1664-65. He wrote an account of his travels, A Relation of a Journey of the Right Honourable My Lord Henry Howard, from London to Vienna, and thence to Constantinople (1671), which is particularly interesting as it not only includes typical embassy content such as international relations, but also shows his awareness of his surroundings. He was very impressed by the scale of the aqueducts and noticed the complete absence of clocks.
I suppose it is only natural that Türkiye exerted a great fascination for Great Britain - two great powers bookending Europe. The best accounts of the Ottoman Empire in the seventeenth century were written by Richard Knolles and Paul Rycaut. Knolles was commissioned to write the first English language history on this subject which first appeared in 1603 and has been hailed (by Dr Johnson no less) not only as an important history but as a skilfully crafted piece of English prose.
The editor and updater Sir Paul Rycaut went to Constantinople as secretary to the English ambassador. Rycaut's detailed information on the Ottoman Empire of his time came from various sources, Turkish records, members of the government and Ulema and from a Pole who had spent 19 years at the Ottoman court. These accounts were eventually combined into one and we can offer the first edition of this, The Turkish History (1687).
One of the finest visual records of the Levant in this period is provided by the Dutch traveller, Cornelius Le Bruyn. He spent the years 1678-1685 in the region and the first edition in English of his travels was published in 1702, as A Voyage to the Levant, featuring vast panoramic engravings of Smyrna, Aleppo, Palmyra, and above all, Constantinople.
The grandest work from this period was Recueil de cent estampes representant differentes nations du Levant (1714). The engravings for this work were commissioned by Charles de Ferriol, the French Ambassador to the Porte between 1699 and 1709 and were after drawings by the Flemish artist J.B. van Mour, who lived and worked in Constantinople for many years during the first part of the eighteenth century. The engravings are of great importance as they soon became the prototype for Levantine costume and feature some sixty depictions of the Ottoman court. The work is normally found in black and white, but our copy is remarkable for being one of very few copies hand-coloured at the time and heightened with gold and mica.