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  • Cycles and Peripheries:An Ottoman Kitâb el-Edvâr
  • Deniz Ertan (bio)

There are literary, artistic, musical works which remain closed or only superficially accessible to even the most welcoming of perceptions. In short, the movement towards reception and apprehension does embody an initial, fundamental act of trust. . . . But without the gamble on welcome, no door can be opened when freedom knocks

(George Steiner, Real Presences).


Collections of Ottoman music theory treatises dating from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries include Edvârs,2 also common to the traditions of Arab and Persian musics. The study of such treatises often ensures the link between the past and the present. Due to their interdisciplinary nature, Edvârs invite philosophical/cosmological discussions, merging theoretical knowledge and aesthetic/ethical views by covering such diverse domains as music, language, poetics, astrology, theology, spirituality, numerology, and psychology. The present article examines a Kitâb el-Edvâr ("Book of Cycles"), a treatise on the theory of Ottoman-Turkish art music dating from 1477, housed at the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, Deansgate, as Turkish MS.148. This three-part study includes: (i) an exploration of the relevant socio-cultural background by briefly commenting on the literary and musical cosmography of Ottoman tradition; (ii) a presentation of a bibliographical description of the manuscript; and (iii) a consideration of the treatise from the perspectives of form and content. Inviting discourse on Ottoman-Turkish music, the article ultimately attempts to connect these areas by drawing together various aspects of context and idea.

As the material considered is a form common to other examples of Edvârs, the present evaluation does not intend to constitute a unique class of its own, nor does it necessarily intend to be compared with other treatises on music theory. Further, it does not aim to eventually emphasize the what as much as to understand the why (through the written text), i.e. focusing on a deep-seated symbolic flow and perpetuity of substance rather than quantity. By doing so, the author hopes to link the network of musical, cosmological, and socio-cultural values [End Page 31] and concepts through an exploration of the philosophical ramifications of the notion of cyclicity. As Paul Ricoeur comments, "[t]o understand is not to project oneself into the text; it is to receive an enlarged self from the apprehension of proposed worlds which are the genuine object of interpretation" (1981, 182; cited in Trix 1993, 21–22).

It is also hoped that an investigation of another fragile and disremembered3 music treatise encourages further research of Ottoman musicology and helps illuminate the musical and literary cosmography in relation to bibliographical 1features of such manuscripts. The audience of this article would primarily include area specialists in Ottoman music, regional specialists in the music(s) of Islamic and Near Eastern traditions, and theoretical specialists who are interested in intertextual relations.

The subject of this article, Kitâb el-Edvâr, belongs to the "Bibliotheca Lindesiana" collection of the library; this collection was purchased by Mrs. Rylands in 1901 from the Lindsay family whose bibliographical interests have a long history (1530–1930). The inception of this collection "is generally ascribed to John Lindsay, Lord Menmuir (d.1598)" (Matheson and Taylor 1976, 6). The fact that the Near Eastern manuscript collections of the John Rylands University Library came in large measure from other libraries and were "assimilated in whole or part into the Bibliotheca Lindesiana of Lord Crawford" (Hodgson 1999, 33), complicates the acquisition history of Turkish MS.148. Lord Crawford explained that the manuscripts, which had been collected by Nathaniel Bland (a member of the Royal Asiatic Society), "were purchased en bloc through Mr Quaritch" in 1866. While this rich collection consisted of 204 Arabic, 364 Persian, and 63 Turkish works, there was another large addition in 1868 with "the greater portion of the manuscripts collected by Colonel G. W. Hamilton, H. E. I. C., consisting of 303 Arabic, 407 Persian, and 7 Turkish MSS" (Crawford 1898, ix).

The manuscript is in good condition. The writing on the second of the binder's leaves is in French:4"Kitab el adwâr | traité de musique...


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