In the middle of the seventeenth century, a lower-level bureaucrat in the Ottoman fiscal administration, with a wide-ranging but irregular education, set out single-handedly to create a set of encyclopedic works that were designed to make all useful knowledge of mankind accessible to his contemporaries. The geographical part of this enterprise was recently translated into English: An Ottoman Cosmography: Translation of Cihānnümā, ed. Gottfried Hagen and Robert Dankoff (Brill, 2021). Now, for a new publication on his place in intellectual history, I will use it to raise old and new questions about the practices of knowledge production and organization, as I discuss this work and its companions in a new culture of knowledge that sought to remedy the troubles of the Ottoman Empire by prioritizing empirical validity, accessibility, and applicability over moral and spiritual edification.
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