ONE OF A KIND-AN ISLAMIC MANUSCRIPT WRITTEN IN ST. PETERSBURG IN 1814
Ahmed Bican's JEWELS OF THE OCEAN, written in St. Petersburg, dated October 29th, 1814.
31.3 x 19.6 cm, 424 folios, black naskh script, headings and key words in red, 2 diagrams and several tables.
This intriguing manuscript is a unique example of an Ottoman literary classic copied in St. Petersburg, the capital of Tsarist Russia. A colophon at the end of the first part of the work gives the exact date and place of origin. The Russian provenance of the manuscript is confirmed by the presence of the 'Pro Patria' watermark on several folios; this watermark was only used in Dutch and Russian mills.
No clue is given to the identity of the copyist or the reason for his undertaking the work in St. Petersburg. It is possible that the manuscript was completed by a Ottoman diplomat in the Russian capital. It is also possible that it was copied by a Crimean or Volga Tatar, whose homelands had been absorbed into the Russian Empire. A waaf note on the colophon shows that by 1840 it was in Tatar hands in the small town of Chutay in modern day Tatarstan.
Though called the 'Garipnama' in the colophon, elsewhere the manuscript is identified as the 15th century dervish Ahmed Bican's Enveru'l-A ikin, the 'Luminescence of Lovers'. A member of the Bayramiyya dervish order and brother to the famous historian Yazicioglu, Ahmed Bican was the author of one of the earliest and most widely read Turkish literary classics. Written in a simple and engaging style, the Enver is an anthology of pious and cosmological information pertaining to the prophets, the early years of Islam, heaven, hell and the earth. This manuscript contains a chart of the earth showing various directions, and a representation of the Prophet Muhammad's banner, as well as numerous tables. Both he and his brother were buried in Gelibolu, their town of residence, where their tombs became a popular pilgrim site.
Following the colophon is a poetic work entitled the Cevahir'ul-Bihar, or 'Jewels of the Oceans'. Though works of this title are recorded, the stated author, Ahmed Attar, is not recorded elsewhere.