This unusual, richly illustrated travelogue of Europe by Ahmed İhsan, published in Ottoman script in 1891, describes the author’s trip in 1890. The book is richly illustrated with images of cities, buildings and people of Europe, as modern curiosities, seen by an Ottoman, a map of author’s travels and a portrait of Ahmed İhsan.
The map shows the author’s route, which marks the author travel from Istanbul to Marseille, Paris, London, Belgium, the Netherlands, Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Switzerland, from North Italy to Trieste, and then with a train to Vienna The lithographed title page showcases modern means of transportation, such as a steamboat, train, and a coach, the author was using during his trip, and European cities, such as London, Venice and Rome. The title page is followed a list of works by Ahmed İhsan, including 8 novels by Jules Verne, which influenced İhsan’s trip of Europe.
Around the World in Eighty Days and İhsan’s Voyage
Ahmed İhsan was a great admirer of Jules Verne and the first translator to of Verne’s texts to Ottoman. Still today Jules Verne’s texts are highly popular in Turkey thank to Ahmed’s late 19th century translations.
İhsan’s travel to Europe was heavily influenced by the novel Around the World in Eighty Days, which was first published in 1873, and translated to Ottoman by İhsan in 1890, in the year, when he decided to undertake the travel.
It was not the wanderlust, which triggered the need in İhsan to begin his own travel adventure, but the progress in the development of the new transportation system.
What enabled Phileas Fogg to make his journey around the world in 80 days, were the newly opened travel routes, such as the First Transcontinental Railroad in America (1869), the opening of the Suez Canal (1869) and the linking of the Indian railways across the sub-continent (1870).
Europe also had new transportation routes, such as railway connections and most important for Istanbul, the newly opened line of the Orient Express, which connected Istanbul via a short sea trip through Varna to Vienna in 1889.
Ahmed İhsan travelled Europe in the quickest way possible at the time. He took an established sea route to Marseille from Istanbul, a train to Paris, he travelled per ferries and trains through London to the north of Germany, with new train lines through Germany to Switzerland, where he changed for a coach to travel through the Alps, took a ferry to Trieste, from there travelled to Vienna with a train connection opened in 1857, and from Vienna with a brand new direct train line to Varna, and then Istanbul. Only a year later, in 1891, this train line received the name Orient Express.
In his book İhsan included images of modern Europe with its contemporary architecture and tourist attractions. He also included an image of a bicycle, which would soon become very popular in the Ottoman Empire.
The journey of Europe, which took Ahmed İhsan to complete in a couple of weeks in 1890 would probably take double as much only a year before, and a few months forty months earlier.
Ahmed İhsan Tokgöz
The author Ahmed İhsan Tokgöz (1868 – 1942) was probably one of the most influential figures of the literature of the late Ottoman Empire, connecting the influences from the West with Ottoman tradition.
Growing up in Shkodra, Albania, and Damascus, Syria, Ahmed İhsan finished a law degree. A keen translator and a big fan of the Jules Verne novels, he made first translations of Verne’s text to Ottoman, starting a new genre of the adventure novels in the Ottoman world.
Ahmed İhsan is also remembered as a founder of most influential Ottoman illustrated literary and cultural magazine Servet-i Fünun ( ثروت فنون ) or Wealth of Knowledge, which promoted Ottoman modern literature. He was the magazine’s editor from the first number in 1888 until his death in 1942.
We could trace 9 examples of the book on Worldcat. (University of Chicago Library, University of Toronto Robarts Library, Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden, Bibliothèque nationale de France, University of Oxford, Boğaziçi University Library, HCL Technical Services, Princeton University Library, KOÇ University Library).
References: OCLC 459502523; 30939499. Aydın SÜER, Diskurse des Niedergangs: Reflexionen über das Eigene und das Fremde in osmanischen und türkischen Reiseberichten, 2017, pp. 111-112. Ziyad EBÜZZİYA, TDV İslâm Ansiklopedisi. AHMED İHSAN TOKGÖZ (1867-1942) (On-line version: https://cdn.islamansiklopedisi.org.tr/dosya/2/C02000637.pdf)