Dr. J. (Jan) Schmidt

  • Lecturer
  • Turkish history and philology

Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 2021
E-Mail: j.schmidt@hum.leidenuniv.nl
Faculty / Department: Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Leiden Institute for Area Studies, SMES APT
Office Address: Witte Singel-complex
Witte Singel 25/M. de Vrieshof 4
2311 BZ Leiden
Room number 1.18b


My research has, off and on, been focused on the historiography and literature of the Ottoman Empire, and in particular on the interaction between the two. It was also a dominating theme in my dissertation (of 1992), in which I analyzed the contents of a famous, as yet unedited, 16th-century history of the world and the Ottoman Empire: Mustafa Âli’s Künhü l-ahbar (‘Essence of Histories’). My interest in the fascinating personality of the Ottoman polymath has not waned; last year I presented a paper on Mustafa Âli’s intimate biography as reflected in his surviving letters at a conference in Ankara devoted to the author; it will be published in the near future.

From the onset, I have been fascinated with the perusal of  as yet unexplored sources like archival papers and manuscripts. Papers in the National Archive in The Hague and elsewhere as well as the lecture of travel books stood at the basis of my study of the historical relations between Europe, the Netherlands in particular, and the Ottoman Empire. This led to the publication of a number of monographs and articles, lately on a rare travel book by Stephan Schultz who travelled as a Protestant missionary in the Ottoman Empire during the years 1752-56.

My interest in Ottoman manuscripts, which are still largely a terra incognita, got me involved in various cataloguing projects. During the 1990s I made a description of the Turkish manuscripts in the John Rylands University Library in Manchester (UK) and later turned my attention to the Turkish manuscripts in Dutch public collections. This has resulted in the publications of four illustrated volumes; a fifth will follow this year (2012). These projects were supported with funding from the British Academy, London, and the Dutch research Board (NWO), The Hague. The perusal of Turkish manuscripts and the question of their provenance led, almost inescapably, to research into the history of European scholarship on the Middle East and the Ottoman Empire, and in particular on the activity of European travellers who were also book collectors in the Levant.

Progress in the cataloguing of Turkish manuscripts both in Europe and Turkey since the late 1960s, has brought much unexpected material to light, among them diaries and other personal papers of orientalist scholars who were forced to live in exile in Turkey in the 1930s and ’40s, among whom Karl Süssheim (1878-1947), Robert Anhegger (1911-2001) and Fritz Rudolf Kraus (1910-1991). This led to various publications, among them a monograph on the Süssheim Diaries (together with Barbara Flemming, who discovered the manuscripts of this text in the Berlin State Library – a hitherto unknown volume of the diaries has recently been discovered in the Library of Congress in Washington DC and will be published in the near future). At present I am preparing a publication of the selected correspondence of Kraus during the period of his exile in Turkey (1937-50).

Another impetus to manuscript studies was the discovery that all Ottoman manuscript collections that I so far had seen contained a great many miscellanies and multi-text volumes to the point even tat these formed in fact the bulk of such collections. Together with Dr. Maurits van den Boogert, I initiated a project to explore the more personal items in the genre for a sounding of the lower echelons of the world of Ottoman letters about which little is known. The project, entitled ‘The Sultanate of Letters’, was financed by NWO, and is in the last stage of its development. It explores the genre of the oriental, in particular Ottoman, multi-text manuscript as a phenomenon in itself and its importance for the study of Ottoman literary culture. Both in 2010 and 2011 I held forth on the topic at conferences devoted to the subject in Hamburg and Istanbul; publication of my papers presented there is underway.

Teaching activities

At BA level, I teach courses on the history of the Middle East before 1800; Ottoman Turkish; and the lecture and analysis of Ottoman texts. I also participate in more general courses on Middle Eastern history and literature.

At MA level I teach seminars on the relations between Europe and the Ottoman Empire and Ottoman book culture. For the more advanced students, there is the possibility to study paleography and codicology so as to be able to work with Ottoman manuscript materials preserved in the Leiden University Library. Last year I joined the multidisciplinary MPhil course ‘Culture and Conquest’ on the impact of the Mongols in the history of Europe and Asia during the Middle Ages.


  • ‘Mehmed Hashim Efendi’s Memorandum (Memu'a) on Circassia of 1213 (1798-9); Contents,Style, Textual History and a Hitherto Unknown Autograph Kept in the Library of Leiden University’, in The Journal of Ottoman Studies, XXVI (2005), 413-479.
  • [with İsmail Hakkı Kadı] ‘Paul Maashoek, Dutch Merchant and Adventurer in Palestine (1669-1711)’, in Eurasian Studies, IV/1 (2005), 1-17.
  • ‘Between Author and Library Shelf: The Intriguing History of Some Middle Eastern Manuscripts Acquired by Public Collections in the Netherlands prior to 1800’, in Alistair Hamilton, Maurits H. van den Boogert, en Bart Westerweel (eds.), The Republic of Letters and the Levant, 27-51. Leiden/Boston, 2005.
  • ‘Johannes Heyman (1667-1737); His Manuscript Collection and the Dutch Community of Izmir’, in Colin Imber, Keiko Kiyotaki & Rhoads Murphey (eds.), Frontiers of Ottoman Studies II, 75-89. London/New York 2005.
  • [ with Edith Gülçin Ambros]. ‘A Rhymed Petition of 1587 by a Deli: A Unique Document Kept in the Groningen University Library (Hs. 486)’, in Günay Kut & Fatma Büyükkarcı Yılmaz (eds.), Şinasi Tekin'in Anısına Uygurlardan Osmanlıya,112-121. Istanbul, 2006.
  • ‘Exil im Orient – Die Briefe von Fritz Rudolf Kraus aus Istanbul, 1937-1949’, in Ludmila Hanisch (ed.), Der Orient in akademischer Optik; Beiträge zur Genese einer Wissenschafsdisziplin (Orientwissenschaftliche Hefte 20), 145-153. Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, 2006.
  • Catalogue of Turkish Manuscripts in the Library of Leiden University and other Collections in the Netherlands III. Comprising the Acquisitions of Turkish Manuscripts in Leiden University Library between 1970 and 2003. Leiden 2006.
  • ‘Hamza Efendi’s Treatise on Buying and Selling of 1678’, in Ebru Boyar & Kate Fleet, eds., The Ottomans and Trade, 181-6. Oriente Moderno (2006) XXV (LXXXVI), n.s.
  • ‘Mustafa Vasfi Efendi’s ‘Historiën’. De autobiografie van een Turkse huurling, 1801-1826’, in Paul Hoftijzer, Kasper van Ommen et alii (eds.), Bronnen van kennis; Wetenschap, kunst en cultuur in de collecties van de Leidse Universiteitsbibliotheek, 157-65. Leiden 2006.
  • [with Edith Gülçin Ambros] ‘A Cossack Adopted by the Forty Saints; an Original  Ottoman Story in the Leiden University Library’, in Eugenia Kermeli & Oktay Özel (eds.), The Ottoman Empire; Myths, Realities and ‘Black Holes’, Contributions in Honour of  Colin Imber, 297-324. Istanbul 2006.

Last Modified: 11-12-2015