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Title: Cronica der Turckey : Sebastian Franck's translation of the Tractatus de Moribus, Condicionibus et Nequitia Turcorum by Georgius de Hungaria
Author: Williams, Stephen Christopher
ISNI:       0000 0004 2684 7760
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 1991
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The Tractatus de moribus, condicionibus et nequitia Turcorum is one of the most important first-hand accounts of life in fifteenth-century Turkey known to modern scholarship. It is the work of a Christian former slave of the Turks, writing after his return to the West. Although the author does not name himself, he can be identified as a Dominican priest, Georgius de Hungaria, who died in Rome in 1502. His Tractatus is conceived as a work of anti-Islamic polemic, yet it contains a surprisingly unbiased appraisal of Turkish customs. First printed c.1480 when European apprehension in the face of Ottoman expansion was at its height, the Tractatus was reprinted in numerous editions, and was widely used as a source by other authors. Luther edited the text in 1530, using the positive account of Turkish customs and religious observance as a weapon in his polemic against the Roman Catholic Church: if heathens could perform such exemplary works, who could fail to doubt the efficacy of works as a means of salvation? Sebastian Franck in his German translation of the Tractatus went further: replacing Georgius' commentary with his own, he used the text to attack institutional religion as a whole and to promote his concept of a non-dogmatic, spiritual Church of individuals united with each other only through their union with God -a Church which was not closed to Moslems or members of any other creed. This translation or adaptation, the Cronica der Türckey, marks Franck's decisive break with the Lutheran cause and the beginning of his lonely path as a 'spiritual individualist'. Franck reworked his translation of the Tractatus for his major geographical work, the Weltbuch of 1534. This thesis concerns itself primarily with Franck's Cronica, providing the first modern critical edition of this text, in a near-diplomatic transcription with an extensive glossary. The thesis also includes transcriptions of the Tractatus; of Türckei, an anonymous translation of the Tractatus, and of relevant additional material from Franck's Weltbuch. None of these texts has been published in full in a modern edition. In the Introduction Franck's Cronica is compared in detail with the Tractatus, highlighting the changes that occur in translation; the character and the significance of these changes are then discussed. It is established that Franck, whilst being unwilling to reverse any of Georgius' value judgements on Islam and Turkish culture, is highly selective in his choice of material for translation, and frequently gives the text new nuances and adds his own comment. The question of the Tractatus' influence on Franck's further development as a writer and thinker is also raised. The investigation then turns to Franck's use of the Tractatus material in his Weltbuch. His eclecticism becomes apparent in this text, in which Georgius' account is juxtaposed - but not synthesised - with material from other sources, often of lesser veracity and greater anti-Islamic bias. Franck's distortion of the Tractatus material to suit his own line of argument is clearly discernible: from the unique phenomenon presented in the Tractatus the Turks become one more example of the general human tendency to externalise and dogmatise faith. In addition, the transmission of Cronica and Türckei is examined, and the relationship between these two translations is clarified: Franck certainly used Türckei in writing his Cronica, but is unlikely to be the author of the anonymous work.
Supervisor: Byrn, R. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available