COSTUME OF TURKEY,
ILLUSTRATED BY A SERIES OF
DESCRIPTIONS IN ENGLISH AND FRENCH
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NOTHNG, says the Chevalier D’Ohsson in his valuable inquiry concerning the Ottoman Empire ought to be considered as more interesting than an acquaintance with different nations. Their religion, their history, their manners, and their customs, are worthy of the attention of every one. The more considerable a nation is in itself, the more connections it has with others, the more important its political situation, the more it deserves to be known, both by its neighbours, and those countries connected with its government or commerce. We admire, and with reason, the rapid progress which that part of Europe, over which Christianity has spread her benign influence, has made in every department of science. It has thrown a ray of light over the most distant periods of antiquity, dissipated the clouds which obscured the origin of ancient nations, investigated the concerns of those which have risen from their ashes, while the spirit of inquiry has hitherto scarcely reached a nation, which sprang up on the borders of the Caspian Sea in the thirteenth century, and has, for near four hundred years, acquired the possession of, and still reigns over, the most beautiful part of Europe, while its forces have often thrown terror into the most powerful of its neighbours.
We know, even in this enlightened age, hardly more of the Ottoman Empire than its vast extent and local situation. The illusions and errors, which have resulted from faint, distant, superficial, and slight inquiries, have, with respect to some authors, afforded us only phantoms, which, being looked and acted upon as realities, have been thrust forward as the religion, laws, and manners of the Turks. It is, indeed, as Monsieur D’Ohsson justly observes, very difficult to penetrate the thick clouds, which surround this uncommunicative nation. The prejudices of religion have raised a barrier, which has been still farther strengthened by physical, moral, and political causes. The present work, then, has at least the merit of being both interesting and valuable as to its objects; and these objects are, to delineate with fidelity tile various modes of dress and peculiarity of customs now existing among this singular nation, and its various dependencies; and to accompany such portraits with appropriate and accurate descriptions. With respect to the latter division, much is not to be expected from the very narrow limits, to which it was necessary to confine the descriptive part of this work. But it was impossible to enter more in detail upon the subject, without writing almost a volume instead of a page. The merits of this work depend upon the accuracy and beauty of the Drawings, and the truth of the colouring; and for other inquiries, we must have recourse to the laborious and curious researches of D’Ohsson, D’Herbelot, Dallaway, Oliver, Tott, Montague, Tournefort, and various other writers. From these sources, indeed, added to the manuscript notices of Monsieur Dalvimart, the present descriptions have been drawn up; nor has that admirable work, the Arabian Nights, been neglected, at least where any circumstance mentioned in it has been confirmed by the testimony of other writers. We may, indeed, depend upon any description we meet with in that singularly interesting work, relative to Oriental nations. They all carry with them the genuine stamp of originality, and are rendered authentic by the concurrent testimony of other authors.
There is another reason, too, if it may be allowed to look forward with something like a prophetic eye into the womb of time, that will perhaps give an additional value to this work. As a nation, the Turks seem drawing near to their dissolution. The power, and, it may be, the ambition and wants of the surrounding kingdoms, is not small; they look with an eager and longing eye towards that most beautiful part of the world; and the half-drawn sword appears ready to strike at the Ottoman crescent, which, meteor-like, sparkles with a dazzling lustre, and seems equally evanescent; at least when comparative weakness is opposed to comparative power. The Drawings, from which these plates have been engraved, were made on the spot, about four years ago, by Monsieur Dalvimart, and may be depended upon for their correctness. They have been most accurately attended to in the progress of the engraving; and each impression has been carefully coloured according to the original Drawing,
that the fidelity of them might not be impaired.
Respecting the orthography of the peculiar names of the Turks, no one standard has been adhered to, because no one standard exists; each writer spelling the names as his ear may have caught the sounds. Thus the different companies, or divisions, of the Janissaries are called Odahs, and Ortas; and it is the same respecting other names. The Publisher has only to add, that he has endeavoured to make this work superior in point of elegance to his other publications of this nature; and has only to hope for a patronage equal to that he has hitherto been honoured with.
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