William ROBERTSON (1721 – 1793), author; Abdülgaffar Enisî, translator;
آمريقا تاريخ كشفى
[Amerika Tarih-i Keşfi / History of the Discovery of America]
Istanbul: El-Cevaib Matbaası 1297 
8°. 216 pp., contemporary black cloth boards with debossed decoration, dark calf spine with gilt decoration, pink marbled paper endpapers (title page with an old taxation stamp, minor staining and foxing, sporadic tiny tears in margins, generally in a good condition with a decorative contemporary binding).
References: AEKMK – BDK – ÖZEGE; 734. OCLC 708721958, 25346190, 23916366 (with also eBooks).
Cristopher Columbus in the Ottoman World
The Ottomans were always fascinated by the discovery of America and the adventurous life of Christopher Columbus. Several articles, books and pamphlets were published on the subject in the 19th century.
History of America by William Robertson, first printed in 1777, served as a basis for the first Ottoman publications on the subject. Around 1850 a relatively unknown state clerk Abdülgaffar Enisî, who worked a secretary (kâtib) at the Translation Chamber (Terceme Odası) and a corresponding member (âzâ-i hariciyyeden) of the Encümen-I Daniş (Strauss 2014, p. 271), translated the first two parts of Robertson’s work into Ottoman, what was one of the first mentioning of the discovery of America in that language. Abdülgaffar Enisî’s translation ends with the death of Christopher Columbus.
His original manuscript in not preserved, but we can conclude from the information given in the contemporary sources, that the transcriptions, such as our manuscript, were circulating around Istanbul for three decades until the work was finally published in 1880 under the title Amerika Tarih-i Keşfi (Strauss 2014, p. 272).
Only shortly after Abdülgaffar Enisî translation from circa 1850, another author adapted the Robertson’s text. That was Ali Rıza from Cairo, who in 1858 published the first Ottoman printed book on America titled Tarih-i Amerika. Loosely based on the Robertson’s text, the author had to omit and adjust the passages, to make them acceptably to the contemporary political situation and censorship in the area.
The Manuscript in Focus
The manuscript is written on 278 pages and is bound in a contemporary dark blue vellum boards with black calf spine and corners.
The title page is written in Ottoman and French and reads:
روبرتسون نام مورف مشهورك موًلفاتندن يكى دنيانلر كشفنه داتر اولان تاريخى اولوب انجمه دانشگ اعضاً خارجيه سنده و باب عالى ترجمه اوطه سى خلفا سنده عبدالغفار انيس بنده لرى انكليز لسانزه ترجمه اتمشدر
Histoire de la découverte du nouveau monde p. Robertson traduite p. Enis Abdoulgaffar effendi membre de l’académie turqe en 1269 de l’Hegir – cet ouvrage est traduit de l’anglais
Both titles could be translated approximately as:
History of the Discovery of the New World by Robertson, translated by Enis Abdoulgaffar, member of the Translation Chamber and a corresponding member of the Academy for Science, in 1269 AH. The work was translated from English
The French title is contemporary, written with somehow uneven writing, what was typical for the time for the Ottoman writers, who knew French as the second language, but only seldom practiced it in writing.
This title page presents two new information: it dates the Abdülgaffar’s translation in 1269 AH, which is circa 1852 AD, and mentions, that the translation was based on the original English version. The literature until now assumed that Abdülgaffar based his work on the French edition, which was also published in 1777.
The text inside the book is the same as the printed text from 1297 AH. The scribe is signed at the back as Ahmed Hamdi, who also dated the script in 1295 AH, so two years before the printed version.
Our manuscript is accompanied with its first printed editon from 1880.
Note on Rarity
We could not find any other preserved manuscripts of Enis Abdülgaffar’s text, predating the printing version. Our manuscript possibly presents the earliest obtainable example of this early important Ottoman Americana.
References: Cf: Johann Strauss, Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Americana, In: Frontiers of the Ottoman Imagination, 2014, pp. 259-281.