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Katip Çelebi, Mustafa bin Abdallah, Haji Khalifa or Kalfa, (1609, Istanbulmarker - 1657 Istanbul) was an Ottoman scholar. Historian and geographer, he is regarded as one of the most productive author of non-religious scientific literature in the 17th century Ottoman Empire. Among his best-known works is the Kashf al-zunūn ‘an asāmī al-kutub wa-al-funūn, ("The Removal of Doubt from the Names of Books and the Sciences"), a bibliographic encyclopaedia, written in Arabic, which lists more than 14,500 books in alphabetic order.

The son of a soldier, he himself was a soldier for ten years until a heritage made him turn to a more contemplative life. As the accountant of the commissariat department of the Turkish army in Anatoliamarker, he accompanied the Ottoman army in the campaign against Baghdadmarker in 1625, was present at the siege of Erzurummarker, and returned to Constantinople in 1628. In the following year he was again in Baghdad and Hamadanmarker, and in 1633-34 at Aleppomarker, whence he made the pilgrimage to Mecca (hence his title Hajji). The following year he was in Erivanmarker and then returned to Constantinople. Here he obtained a post in the head office of the commissariat department, which afforded him time for study. He seems to have attended the lectures of great teachers up to the time of his death, and made a practice of visiting bookshops and noting the titles and contents of all books he found there.

In 1648 he published Taqwīm al-tawārīkh, a chronology from Adam up till 1648 (translated in Italy by Rinaldo Carli as Chronologia historica, Venice 1697). This, coupled with support from the Sheikh ul-Islam, obtained him a post as a government official (ikinci halife). He continued to write his encyclopaedic contributions, the best known being the Kashf al-zunūn, a bibliographical dictionary in the Arab language with over 14,500 entries in alphabetical order. This work served as basis for the Bibliothèque Orientale of Barthélemy d'Herbelot de Molainville.

Among his other works: Fadhlakat al-tawārīkh (1639), a chronology up till 1639, of which the list of 1300 sources was lost from the unique manuscript. He also translated Latin texts in cooperation with a French convert to Islam, known as Shaykh Mehmed Ikhlāsī: Rawnaq al-sultāna = Historia rerum in Oriente gestarum, Frankfurt 1587; Tārīkh-i Firengi = Chronique de Jean Carrion, Paris 1548. Also to be noted is his study and partial translation of the Atlas Minor by Gerardus Mercator and Jodocus Hondius.

One of his shorter and more accessible works is Mīzān al-ḥaqq fī ikhtiyār al-aḥaqq ("The balance of truth in the choice of the truest"), a collection of short essays on topics in Islamic law, ethics, and theology, in which he takes a relatively liberal and tolerant view—often critical of narrow-minded Islamic religious authorities. This book serves as a source on Ottoman social developments in the 16th and 17th centuries, such as the introduction of coffee and tobacco. While he did not concur with the outlawing of coffee and tobacco, he found tobacco smoke personally distasteful, writing of the "noxious effects of the corruption of the aerial essence." An English translation by G. L. Lewis of the Mīzān al-ḥaqq has been published with annotations under the title The Balance of Truth.

Katip Çelebi died suddenly and peacefully in October 1657, while drinking a cup of coffee.


  • Encyclopædia of Islam (Leiden, 1954) vol. 4, s.v. Katib Celebi.
  • The Balance of Truth translated with an introduction and notes by G. L. Lewis (London, 1957).

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