HAMMER, Joseph von. Topographische Ansichten gesammelt auf einer Reise in die Levante,Vienna, Carl Schaumburg und Comp., 1811.


Joseph Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall (1774 - 1856) was an Austrian orientalist. He was born in Graz, Styria, on 9 June 1774. At the age of thirteen he entered the Oriental Academy in Vienna, where he was trained to become a diplomat in the Ottoman Empire, and studied Arabic, Persian and Turkish. After graduation, he published his first work, a German translation of Kâtip Çelebi’s bibliographical encyclopaedia ("Enzyklopädische Übersicht der Wissenschaften des Orients", Leipzig, 1806). He entered the diplomatic service in 1796 and was appointed interpreter to the Austrian Embassy at Constantinople in 1799. In this capacity he was sent to Egypt where he took part in the campaign of the British and the Ottomans against the French. From October 1802 to July 1806 he was posted again at Constantinople as an embassy secretary. After having served as a consul in Iaşi (Moldavia), he returned definitely to Vienna, where he continued to serve in various diplomatic capacities. In 1817 he was made Privy Councillor, was knighted in 1824, and when he inherited the Styrian estates of the Countess Purgstall in 1835, he was made a baron and was granted permission to join her name to his. In 1847 he was elected president of the newly founded Academy of Sciences (1847–1849). Both foreign governments and learned institutions bestowed honours on him. Before his death in 1856, he already had had a gravestone prepared, which carried inscriptions in all ten languages he spoke.

For fifty years Hammer-Purgstall wrote prolifically on the most diverse subjects and published numerous texts and translations of Arabic, Persian and Turkish authors. However, his knowledge of Oriental languages was extensive but not thorough. One of his fiercest critics was the German philologist Friedrich Christian Diez (1794–1876), who devoted an entire volume to exposing Hammer’s alleged fraudulence and ignorance. Nevertheless, thanks to the wide range of his studies Hammer made valuable contributions to the field of Oriental history, while his translations exerted noteworthy influence, especially on German literature. His version of Hafiz’s Persian poems ("Der Diwan des Mohammed Schemsed-Din Hafis, Stuttgart, 1812-13") inspired Goethe's “West–östlicher Divan” (1815), one of the great classics of German literature.

In his travel account "Topographische Ansichten gesammelt auf einer Reise in die Levante" ("Topographic views collected on a trip to the Levant"), Hammer describes the sites visited on a journey in 1811, including Troy, Imbros, Samothrace, Tenedos, Lemnos, Lesbos, Chios, Rhodes, Makri (anc. Telmessos), and Jaffa. Hammer also provides information on the island of Cyprus, where he visited Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos and Kouklia (Palaepaphos), the mythical birthplace of Aphrodite. The twelve illustration plates which supplement the text include maps of historical places (the Dardanelles, the fortress of Rhodes, Paphos, and the ancient ruins of Kouklia), as well as coats of arms, ancient inscriptions and monuments (the fortress of Makri, Lycian sarcophagi and rock-cut mausoleums at Makri).

Selected works
Enzyklopädische Übersicht der Wissenschaften des Orients, Leipzig, 1806.
Schirin, Leipzig, 1809.
Der Diwan des Mohammed Schemsed-Din Hafis, Stuttgart, 1812-13.
Rosenöl, Stuttgart and Tübingen, 1813.
Fug und Wahrheit in der morgenländischen Literatur, nebst einigen wenigen Proben von der feinen Gelehrsamkeit des Herrn von Diez in Berlin in Sprachen und Wissenschaften, Vienna, 1816.
Geschichte der schönen Redekünste Persiens mit einer Blüthenlese aus zweyhundert persischen Dichtern, Vienna, 1818.
Mörgenländisches Kleeblatt, Vienna, 1819.
Motenebbi, der grösste arabische Dichter, Vienna, 1824.
Baki’s, des grössten türkischen dichters, Diwan, Vienna, 1825.
Geschichte des osmanischen Reiches, 10 vols., Pesth, 1827-35.
Geschichte der osmanischen Dichtkunst, 4 vols., Pesth, 1836-38.
Mahmud Schebisteri’s Rosenflor des Geheimnisses, Pesth, 1838.
Geschichte der Ilchane, 2 vols., Darmstadt, 1842-43.
Literaturgeschichter der Araber, 7 vols., Vienna, 1850-56.
Duftkörner, Stuttgart, 1836; 2nd edn., rev. Friedrich Bodenstedt, Stuttgart, 1860.
Erinnerungen aus meinem Leben 1774-1852, ed. R. Bachofen von Echt, Vienna, 1940.

Chisholm, Hugh, ed. “Joseph, Baron von Hammer-Purgstall.” Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911.

Remy, Arthur F.J. “Joseph, Baron von Hammer-Purgstall.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910.

De Bruijn, J. T. P. “Joseph, Baron von Hammer-Purgstall.” Encyclopædia Iranica, Vol. XI, Fasc. 6, pp. 644-646; available at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/hammer-purgstall (accessed on 7 May 2016).

Written by Nicolas Nicolaides

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  • HAMMER, Joseph von. Topographische Ansichten gesammelt auf einer Reise in die Levante,Vienna, Carl Schaumburg und Comp., 1811.