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The Turks

CHARPENTIER, in the Carpenteriana, says that the Turks, whom the vulgar literati regard as having neglected the sciences and literature in general, have many particular and general histories, from Osman, the first of their emperors, to the present. In the library of the King of France, there are a number of these historians. None have yet been translated, but the Annals of Leunclavius; which, however, are not very considerable. The library of the Great Turk forms a part of his treasures; and there historians paid by him, who record, with care and accuracy, the actions and the conquests of their Princes.

There are colleges established at Constantinople, where the Alcoran, the Mathematics, and Rhetoric, are taught: but it is principally at Cairo where there are a multitude of scholars, who live by transcribing books; as once was practiced at the university of Paris, where the scribes assembled, sometimes to the number of twenty or thirty thousand. The invention of the art of printing having deprived then of the means of subsistence, they have disappeared. It is to prevent the same inconvenience, that printing is prohibited throughout the Ottoman Empire.

When a Jew, who was a famous Dutch printer, brough to Constantinople printing-presses, &c. to introduce the art of printing in that city, the Vizir caused him to be hanged; declaring, that it would be a great cruelty that one man should enrich himself by taking the bread of eleven thousand scribes, who gained their living by the pen.

Editor’s Notes

This and the next fifteen articles appeared only in the first and second editions of the Curiosities (1791/2).