No copy in US libraries or in auction records: "Can easily be characterized as one of the most knowledgeable and perceptive works ever written on the subject in early modern Europe" - Cemal Kafadar

Nagy, Jakab Harsanyi. Colloquia familiaria Turcico Latina, seu status Turcicus loquens, in quo omnes fere Turcici imperii, ministrorum cujuscunque conditionis, extra vel intra Aulam Regiam, inqueè gubernaturis dignitas, qualitas, officia; regime, gentis robur terrestre et maritimum; item natura, mores ritus et consuetudines variae; religio, sectae, et religiosi, etc. etc. per Colloquia [...].

Berlin, Georg Schultz, 1672.

8vo. (22), 510 pp., 1 blank leaf, (36) pp. Contemporary full vellum with 18th century giltstamped black label to spine.


Very rare sole edition of this ground-breaking work of East-West relations, both refuting the common Christian misconception of the despotic Muslim empire and offering an entirely novel linguistic insight into Ottoman culture. "The significance of Harsanyi's book can be found in the fairly unique perspective he offers on the chances of Christian-Muslim coexistence in south-eastern and east central Europe. With much praise showered on 'born Muslims' (in contrast to 'renegades'), he refutes western European stereotypes concerning the tyrannical rule of the Ottomans over their Christian subjects and presents a more positive image of the former" (Christian-Muslim Relations. A Bibliographical History 9, pp. 1004-6).

The work is couched as a series of dialogues intended for a European ambassador visiting Turkey, effectively offering both linguistic and cultural advice to Nagy's readers. In Chapter IV, for example, the ambassador goes in search of hotels, entertainment and restaurants: the Turkish phrases are both practical ("Do you have separate rooms?"; "Do you serve food and drink?"; Do you have stables for my horse?" etc.) and idiomatic ("What kinds of wine do you serve? Good God! What a lovely color it has. It will be an honor to drink it." etc.). Long disquisitions by the 'interpreter' also instruct the ambassador on Ottoman administrative, military, and religious affairs. At the end of his book is a 10-page 'Will of the Prophet Mohammed' (in which he encourages his followers to keep the peace with the Christians), a popular discovery first published in 1630 and revealed as a forgery only in 1804. "Apart from basic theological elements, such as the Five Pillars of Islam, most space is given to the practical aspects of religion, such as the various branches of Islam, the religious offices and dervish orders, and especially to a relatively flattering description of Muslim piety. The moral differentiation between 'born Muslims' and converts to Islam ('renegades') is one of the main elements in Harsanyi's text." (ibid).

According to Thomas and Chesworth's "Christian-Muslim Relations", the Colloquia Familiaria is in fact "the first attempt to apply the colloquia tradition, a popular method of textbooks for language learning, to Ottoman Turkish, specifically the version spoken in mid-17th century Istanbul." Rare in census, Nagy's book has nevertheless attracted considerable interest from modern scholars; for Harvard's Professor of Turkish Studies Cemal Kafadar, it "can easily be characterized as one of the most knowledgeable and perceptive works ever written on the subject in early modern Europe. It reflects not only the rigorous humanist education of its author but also the extraordinarily nuanced perspective that a Hungarian could have on the Ottoman world, partitioned and squeezed as his political space was between competing imperialisms, of which the Ottomans represented only one" (The Sultan's Procession: the Swedish Embassy to Sultan Mehmed IV in 1657-1658 [2006], pp. 61f). More recently, a biography of Jakab Harsányi Nagy stresses the novelty of Nagy's approach: "In contrast with the scholastic method of learning the grammatical system by heart and then memorizing classical texts, these textbooks were a novelty in that they simulated real life situations and conversations [...] No one had ever written such a book for the study of Turkish before. Until the mid-seventeenth century the Turkish language had received relatively little attention from Western European scholars, at least in comparison with Arabic" (Kármán, p. 160) .

An accomplished linguist, Jacob Nagy de Harsany (1615-ca. 1679) taught several oriental languages he had picked up during visits to the Ottoman Empire as the agent of the Prince of Transylvania and later of the Elector of Brandenburg.

OCLC shows no copies in US libraries, nor in Anglo-American auction records; the last copy at German auction appeared in 1993 (Reiss & Auvermann, sale 52, lot 2603).

Not in Blackmer. Cf. Gábor Kármán, A 17th-Century Odyssey in East Central Europe: The Life of Jakab Harsányi Nagy (Brill, 2015).