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ORIENTALISM IN AUSTRO-HUNGARY / TURANISM: Das neue Turán. Ein Gruss an das erwachende Morgenland!


An unusual pan-Turanian work in German language, representing the contemporary movement in the Ottoman Empire, was written and self-published in Ljubljana by a Slovenian author and orientalist Arthur von Wurzbach, who appears to be overlooked in the historical books, possibly for his monarchist and pro-Ottoman sentiments in his homeland, which would soon become Yugoslavia.


Small 4°, 32 pp. letterpress on thicker paper, old signature (Mehmed G…?) in black pen and date 1331 (1915) on the cover, later blue cloth binding with gilt lettering on the cover and spine (minor staining, light ink-staining in the lower inner side of the gutter, binding with light stains, old hand-written price on the inner side of the rear board, otherwise in a good condition).

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In the introduction Wurzbach presents the Turanism, a movement, which tried to connect the nations of the Inner and Central Asian origins (such as Turks, Hungarian, Finns and Japanese), by trying to find their cultural, linguistic or ethnic relations.

Wurzbach presents the famous female writer and activist Halide Edib (1884 – 1964) as a person who started the modern movement with her work Yeni Turan (The New Turan) in 1912. In the novel, which Wurzbach presents as a revolutionary work, a female named Kaja takes over the leadership of the movement. The work was translated to German in 1916.

The powerful introduction is followed by a translation of a Muslim prayer  and a series of poems and texts by contemporary Istanbul-based Ottoman prominent authors, such as Mehmet Emin

Yurdakul (1869 – 1944), Tevfik Fikret (1867 – 1915), Recaizade Mahmud Ekrem (1847-1914). These are first and in some cases only translations of such texts of the modern literature from the late Ottoman period to German.

The book is dedicated to Sultan Mehmed V Reşâd (1844 – 1918) with a permit of the Ottoman embassy in Vienna.

Anton von Wurzbach – a overlooked Orientalist

The author was Dr. Arthur Wurzbach Edler von Tannenberg also known under his Turkish name Ertogrül (possibly chosen for its similarity to Arthur). He was a lawyer from a prominent Ljubljana family. His grandfather (or great grandfather) Maximilian Wurzbach was a Ljubljana-based lawyer, who got promoted with a noble title von Tannenberg in 1854.

Due to the lack of information in the literature and the fact, that Maximilian von Wurzburg had 10 sons it is difficult to place Arthur in the family tree of Wurzbachs without appropriate research at the archives.

Arthur’s uncles (or great-uncles) were the biographer and lexicographer Constantin von Wurzbach (1818 – 1893), the author of the revolutionary work Biographical dictionary of the Austrian Empire  (Biographisches Lexikon des Kaisertums Oesterreich) and a politician Karl baron Wurzbach Tannenberg (1809-1886). Karl, a representative of Crain in the Austrian parliament and a monarchist was a defendant of the Slovenian language in Austro-Hungary.

Other members of the Arthur’s family were the art historian Alfred Wurzbach Ritter von Tannenberg (1846 – 1915) and a theater actress Theodora von Fiedler-Wurzbach (1847 – 1894).

The family owed a large amount of houses and castles in what is today Slovenia.

Arthur von Wurzbach was active as a lawyer in Ljubljana, but was in his private live an active orientalist and author. He was in contact with the highest intellectual circles of Istanbul, wrote several works in the Ottoman language and translated Ottoman works to German. Most of his non-commercial works were published in limited numbers by the author in Ljubljana.

Until now, no researches has been made on Arthur von Wurzbach. He was forgotten in the bibliography of his homeland, possibly due his monarchist believes and sympathising with the Ottoman Empire, which represented the opposition to the unification of the South Slavic nations into Yugoslavia.

This book was published in the first years of WWI. Only a few years later, with the formation of Yugoslavia, the subject would become somewhat unpopular, as it would after WWII.

Wurzbach appeared to be a very private person and was not self-promoting in the press. Some years ago we have unknowingly bought a series of reference books and Ottoman novels from the library of Arthur von Wurzbach. According to the source the other material from his library was destroyed at a renovation of one of the castles.

The book is very rare. Examples are housed circa seven European libraries. Most of the other examples, listed under OCLC 1030919162 appear to be eBooks.

References: 444489112, 72669399, 918138919, 837443906, 1030919162, 250613130.


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