Turkish Delight: the Ottoman World Observed

Coinciding with the launch of our Ottoman World catalogue, we asked Dr Philip Mansel, a fellow of the Institute of Historical Research, to give a talk at our bookshop. On the evening of 22 February the celebrated author brought to life the wonders of the Ottoman Empire, as seen through the eyes of European travellers, recorded in literature and art.

Luckily for those who did not attend, here is the podcast.

Philip Mansel’s top picks at Shapero Rare Books (click through for further information)

The Ferriol Album (A collection of 100 engravings depicting various nations in Levant), 1714

The album is one of the most important works of the epoch regarding both fashion and other aspects of daily life in Levant. It was created as part of the Occident’s effort to understand the Orient and offers important clues about the way in which the Europeans perceived the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 18th century. The portraits were commissioned by Charles de Ferriol, the French ambassador in Istanbul, and made by the Flemish artist Jean Baptiste Van Mour, in 1707 – 1708.

Van Mour’s paintings (and the plates that derive from them) show Constantinople as a cosmopolitan place with Muslims and non-Muslims uniting in shared ‘Ottoman’ pleasures. Armenians, Franks, Greeks and Persians are shown drinking coffee, playing mankeh (a version of backgammon), or making music.

£37500

MAYER, Luigi
Sala del Divan Dove Il G. Vizir Tratta con Pranzo, 1790

It was common practice in the 18th and early 19th centuries for ambassadors and wealthy travellers to employ artists to accompany them abroad. In an age before photography, visual records of significant events and places were as important as textual documentation as markers of authority or achievement.

Sir Robert Ainslie was not alone among diplomats in Istanbul in employing an artist to record the events of his office; as Philip Mansel has noted, the city inspired an unusual number of “embassy pictures”.

The Topkapı Palace in Istanbul was one of the major residences of the Ottoman sultans for almost 400 years and where the Imperial Council held state meetings. Mayer’s watercolour depicts a gathering of senior ministers presided over by the Sultan, with Europeans also in attendance.

Signed by Luigi Mayer. £50,000

FORBIN, M. Le Comte de.
Voyage dans le Levant, 1819

In his talk, one of the reasons Philip Mansel gave for Europeans extending their grand tour to this great Muslim power was the exoticism and glamour of the Oriental markets and Ottoman court.  Another reason was the desire to tread in the footsteps of the ancient civilizations.

Limited to 325 copies and issued in folio with 80 plates,  Forbin’s was one of the first important French books to use lithography on a grand scale. Most of the plates illustrate views in Egypt and Syria. As Director of Museums in 1817 he undertook a year-long voyage to the Levant, having been authorised to purchase antiquities for the Louvre.

The folio includes this famous image of Bernardino Drovetti, French consul in Egypt and notable collector of antiquities, holding on to a colossal statue. To his left, in Arab costume, is the Marseilles-born sculptor Jean-Jacques Rifaud, who combed Egypt for relics on behalf of the consul.

£15,000

THORP, John.
Sketches of Constantinople and the Crimea, 1854

A highly accomplished sketchbook recording a tour of duty from Dublin to Odessa at the time of the Crimean War, with views of Constantinople, Gallipoli, Odessa, and Scutari.

John Thorp set sail from Dublin for the Crimea on 21st July 1854, on board the Royal West Indian mail steamer Avon, which was being used as a transport ship. The sketches include Gibraltar (1), Malta (1), and 22 of Turkish/Crimea interest of which 14 are double-page panoramas.

£13,500

BAEDEKER, Karl.
Palestine and Syria, 1912

Baedeker Guides were published for travellers in the era of the Grand Tour. This is the last edition in this series giving a detailed description of Palestine and Syria six years before the end of the Ottoman Rule, giving a sense of life and geography before World War I and the upheavels that followed, changing the region forever.

A reproduction of Baedeker’s map is also featured in Philip Mansel’s book Aleppo (2016).

Fifth edition incl. 56 plans. £275

Discover more

Philip Mansel chose these 5 items; “Because they are all realistic and based on direct observation, and they show the many direct links and alliances between European powers and the Ottoman Empire, of which they are an  artistic expression and product.”

Philip Mansel (born 1951) is a historian of courts and cities, and the author of a number of books about the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire. He helped found the Society for Court Studies and the Levantine Heritage Foundation. Writing in the Financial Times, Elif Shafak stated about Aleppo (2016): “Written by a scholar who is not only profoundly knowledgeable but who also sincerely cares about his subject, it is a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about what we have lost.”

Explore more highlights in our Ottoman World catalogue