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Title: Hearts of Gold and Silver: The Production of Alchemical Knowledge in the Early Modern Ottoman World
Authors: Artun, Tuna
Advisors: Greene, Molly
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: alchemy
Subjects: Middle Eastern history
History of science
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation is an initial attempt to historically contextualize the Ottoman alchemical literature and those who produced it. Starting in the late fifteenth century, the Islamic tradition of alchemy was transmitted and vernacularized by learned Rumis who would make significant contributions to it over the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The first part of the dissertation introduces the major works, the contents thereof, and the alchemists who authored them in the early modern Ottoman world. I argue that the writings attributed to `Ali Çelebi, also known as al-mu'allif al-jadid ("the new author"), in particular belie the traditional characterization of Ottoman science as stagnant and derivative. At the same time, I maintain that the learned population's interest in alchemy greatly increased in the early seventeenth century, at a time when the `Ali Çelebi corpus began to circulate widely within the Empire and subsequently engendered a period of intense textual activity in this branch of knowledge. Employing the unusual interactions of the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV (r. 1623-40) with a number of alchemists as a starting point, I link this seventeenth-century moment to the flooding of the eastern Mediterranean world with debased European coins. In the second part, I focus on the elusive alchemist `Ali Çelebi and trace the ways in which his early modern readership actively sought to fashion an author-figure out of a textual material that betrayed limited, and often ambiguous, autobiographical information. After demonstrating that the corpus of alchemical books and treatises ascribed to him had circulated anonymously for almost three decades, I investigate the multiple competing author-figures that were imagined by the commentators, copyists, and readers of these texts. I attribute the overwhelming popularity of one of these figures, Eshrefzade `Ali, to his distinguished Sufi pedigree, which emerged gradually over the course of the long seventeenth century as the corpus reached a larger audience. This, I claim, is indicative of the kinds of circles that were involved in the (re-)production of alchemical knowledge in the Ottoman world, many of which were connected to particular Sufi orders.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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