The Ottoman Turkish Translation of History of Shah Abbas the Great

By Elif Bozgan
Submitted to Session P4895 (Practices of Translation in the Ottoman and Safavid Empires, 2017 Annual Meeting
Ottoman Empire;
13th-18th Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
The Ottoman Turkish Translation of History of Shah Abbas the Great (Tarih-i Alamara-yi ‘Abbasi)

Tarih-i Alamara-yi ‘Abbasi, renowned Safavid chronicle, written in Persian by Iskandar Bag Munshi, and dedicated to Shah Abbas I (r. 1588-1629) was translated into Ottoman Turkish in the early eighteenth century. The translator Mehmed Nebih was a member of the translation committee officially created by Grand Vizier Damad Ibrahim Pasha during the reign of Sultan Ahmed III (r.1703-1730). In 1720, Damad Ibrahim Pasha launched this state-sponsored translation project which marks an important period of cultural activity in Ottoman history, later labelled as the "Tulip Age" by the twentieth-century Ottoman historiography. The formation of the translation committee and the texts chosen to be translated is significant. Tarih-i Alamara-yi ‘Abbasi, a remarkable Safavid chronicle, was a highly read text in the Ottoman lands in Persian, yet the attempt to translate it as a part of the committee, shows renewed interest of Ottomans in Iran. The time period is more than coincidence; Ottomans were highly engaged with the decline of Safavids and the Afghan invasion of Isfahan in 1722 along with Russians.
Being a Sunni Muslim, in his own preface to the translation, he makes clear that he will convert phrases against the Sunni tradition which were in the original Shii text. I will try to locate what the translator took out or kept in his translation in order to understand what he found problematic or not to his target Sunni audience, by considering recent translation studies as opposed to the linguistic approach. Recent studies elaborate on the translations within the context of the receiving culture which emancipated the translations from being restricted to the linguistic framework. This new approach enabled historians to analyze the translations from various languages into Ottoman Turkish in their historical context. Accordingly, I will decipher the layers of Ottoman Turkish translation of Tarih-i Alamara-yi ‘Abbasi within the new religio-political context of Islamic world.