Rare first edition of these three books known under the general title of “La République des Turcs”, composed by the orientalist Guillaume Postel (1510-1581). Brunet, IV, 839; Graesse, Trésor de livres rares, 424; Fairfax Murray, French, n°454 (for the second edition).
It is “one of the best documented works about the Ottoman society during Renaissance” (M. Bertaud, Les Grandes Peurs, II, p. 295).
“Guillaume Postel (1505-1581) is one of the most erudite man in his time and a famous visionary. His passion for the study was great; but misery compelled him to leave his country in order to find ways to make a leaving […] He was happy to go with La Forest in Constantinople who was sent to Turkey for business. In 1539, Francis I had appointed him professor of mathematics and oriental languages at the Collège Royal; but carried away by the disgrace of chancellor Poyet, he left France. […] The sixteenth century highly valued the large knowledge of Guillaume de Postel, considered by Francis I and the Queen of Navarre as a genius of erudition. Hs discussions were sought-after by the greatest lords, such as the cardinals de Tournon, Lorraine and Armagnac. It is said that when he was teaching at the college des Lombards, he was attracting such an audience, that since the great room of the college couldn’t hold everybody, he would tell them to go down and would speak to them through the window. Whatever the opinion about Postel’s expressed feelings in his various works may be, it is fair to notice that all the historians pay tribute to the purity of his manners, the wisdom of his conduct and the amiability of his nature.” (Biographie générale, XL, 879-885).
In 1536, Postel’s extraordinary gifts for language got him to follow Jean de La Forest in Turkey, Francis I’s ambassador to the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The Levant is a revelation, Postel tastes there the art of living, learns the Arabic and determines to convert the Muslims to the Christian faith.
More than a relation it is a real mission report, which writing started in 1538. “The purpose of the work clearly is expressed in the dedicatory epistle to the Dauphin in book I: it is essential that this Dauphin, ‘future emperor of his country’, ‘looking at the history and the image of the biggest state and Prince of Orient’ was able to get worthy of owning the goods of his ‘biggest enemy as far as religion is concerned’. He will be all the more capable of ‘weakening’ this enemy as he will be informed in detail of what is going on in this ‘Turkish force’. Postel thus warns that he is writing about what he saw, as a witness of the Turkish power and of Suleiman’s greatness. It’s not the chronicle of a Christian out of the East; it’s not either a more or less novelized travel story. It’s a mission report. And the scandal is here for the French opinion who, for twenty years, has been reading much different remarks about this Oriental empire.” (C. Postel, Les écrits de Guillaume Postel, p. 94).
These are the only three books printed by Enguilbert de Marnef in 1560. They bear the mark of the man in the mirror on the title leaves. This work will become one of the references of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Essay on the Origin of Languages.
“Postel's work on the Ottoman Empire ... represents the fruition of his experiences in the East and his appreciation of Islam” (Atabey, 977).
Is bound at the end a suite of 56 superb etched engravings slightly posterior, representing the costumes of the Levant, numbered 1 to 56 (n°17 is missing). They are like Nicolay’s ones in his book “Livre des Navigations et pérégrinations orientales” published in this size in 1576.
A very beautiful copy of this rare and estimated book, preserved in its elegant 18th century binding.