last month
next month

Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC)

manuscript  of the month

The Cosmopolitan Compendium of ʿAlī Ufuḳī

When he first took up his reed pen to notate Ottoman music, ʿAlī Ufuḳī (or Ufḳī, ‘from the horizon’) had come a long way. Born around the year 1610 as Albert (Wojciech) Bobowski in Lviv (today in the Ukraine, then in Poland), he had been captured by the Crimean Tatars and sold to the Sultan’s court around 1630. Well-educated in languages, music and medicine, and endowed with both talent and an unprejudiced curiosity, this prisoner of war became a crucial witness to Ottoman music history. Presumably on account of his musical talent, young Albert was selected from among the human booty to be trained as a musician in the rank of a household page (iç-oġlan). Confronted at once with a new musical language and a vast, orally transmitted repertoire, he turned to a device he had learned in his childhood: notation. This resulted in two large notation collections, one of which is the compendium under scrutiny here.

Fig. 1: 152b/23b Staff notation of a vocal piece (murabbaʿ).Text underlay
by scribe 1 (along the upper edge, reading direction from right to left);
transliteration by Alî Ufukî (along the bottom of the page). Various notes
by Alî Ufukî. ©: BnF > Enlarge

Many biographical details are still obscure, including the dates of his birth and death. We know, however, that ʿAlī Ufuḳī’s ties to the court were not severed after his graduation from palace service. He worked as an interpreter for the state council and became an influential intermediary for Europeans in Istanbul. Among other things, the prolific ʿAlī Ufuḳī composed a manual on Ottoman language, a description of the Seraglio (the Ottoman palace), an Ottoman translation of the Bible three music-related manuscripts. One of them, the so-called compendium, MS Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Turc 292 (fig. 1) was taken to Paris by his friend Antoine Galland (1646–1715), secretary at the French embassy, oriental scholar and manuscript collector. Just when and how Galland acquired the compendium remains unknown.

ʿAlī Ufuḳī poured his entire world of experience into this manuscript, thus creating a highly personal, spontaneous, even intimate source. This has of course consequences for how we interpret its contents. In the absence of another work of its kind we are bound to take all of ʿAlī Ufuḳī’s decisions for granted – for example what he has to say about musical concepts and performance. With its astonishingly wide range of content, the compendium mirrors his time, locale and life circumstances in Istanbul and the Topkapı Palace around the middle of the 17th century. There are complex ceremonial compositions (fig. 2) and works which set to music the verses of the most prominent courtly authors. On the other hand, Turc 292 contains a rich treasure of songs of the Anatolian singer-poets, the ʿāşıḳ. ʿAlī Ufuḳī was interested in everything he encountered. Musical and poetic repertoire is recorded side by side with extensive texts on Ottoman and European medicine and countless marginal notes on the most varied topics (fig. 3).

The untitled Turc 292 has an oblong format bound along the narrow edge, what in Ottoman Turkish is called cönk or sefīne (‘boat’). The term cönk further designates a collection of lyric texts, and ʿAlī Ufuḳī used it himself to describe his collection (‘giunk’ in his self-developed transliteration). The compendium bears resemblance to the European commonplace book as well, as it includes spontaneously collected information from a wide range of topics as well as writings in the hands of various other persons. Overall, the compendium consists of 313 folios in at least 69 irregular quires, whose structures are not always easy to identify. It is bound European-style in dark red leather, gold-tooled with the coat-of-arms of Louis XV. The dimensions of the cover are 13 x 24 cm, and the folios vary between 14 x 10 cm and 23 x 11.5 cm in size.

Fig. 2: 290a/136a First half of a pėşrev (courtly instrumental composition),
accompanied by a demonstration of
uṣūl (rhythmic mode) Çenber. Reading
direction from right to left. Bound upside down in the book, the folio is
displayed here in the correct direction. ©: BnF > Enlarge

Turc 292 is complex in both form and content. Detailed analyses of collation, paper, watermarks, scribal hands and later additions suggest that it is a subsequently bound part of an originally larger loose-leaf collection. It is undated; the terminus post quem is 1645, but ʿAlī Ufuḳī may have started considerably earlier, adding sheets and gatherings to the loose-leaf collection until near the end of his life. The compendium features two independent foliation systems written by two different persons. One of them is, unsurprisingly, ʿAlī Ufuḳī himself, the other most probably Antoine Galland (this hypothesis comes from comparisons with the handwriting in Galland’s journals). Except for two minor errors, this latter foliation is consistent, while the primary, autograph foliation is disrupted in many places. When one tries to piece together the original order according to the primary foliation, it becomes clear that a substantial amount of material, amounting to 147 folios and perhaps more, was lost. While there is no concrete proof, we can surmise that Antoine Galland received a loose-leaf collection. Prior to the final binding in Paris, some reordering was done at some point, but it is unclear by whom and when. This resulted in an irregular collation with small coherent sections, e.g. a group of folios with excerpts from Torquato Tasso’s (1544-1595) epic poem Gerusalemme liberata interspersed with Ottoman compositions. Many sheets contain a coherent text in the space of one leaf. It is impossible to establish an internal chronology on the grounds of writing style and conventions of musical notation. For instance, inconsistent use of self-developed symbols make interpretation difficult.

Fig. 3: 259a/105a Second half of a song by the famous ʿāşıḳ Ḳaraca-oġlan
(17th century), with two medical case studies recorded by Alî Ufukî (below
the empty staff at the outer edge) and a recipe (upside down along the lower
edge) (‘This is the composition of the above-mentioned pill’) by scribe 2.
Bound upside down in the book, the folio is displayed here in the correct
direction. ©: BnF > Enlarge

The paper in the manuscript is of varying quality. Some sheets are glazed and polished, and being in relatively good condition, the writings on them can generally be deciphered without substantial problems. Other sheets, made of cheaper quality paper, are often damaged, making reading difficult. These folios are brittle and rough, and are usually darkened and frayed around the edges. Not all the watermarks in the compendium can be identified, but the identifiable ones point to Italian sources. Obviously ʿAlī Ufuḳī did not always have access to high-quality paper, but simply took what he had at hand. Several hands, presumably belonging to his informants – fellow musicians? – cover a broad range of scribal styles. The writing implement are reed pens, which, when sharpened and eventually replaced, account for changes in the appearance of the writing in the course of time. Inks vary between opaque black and translucent brown; red is rarely encountered.

Turc 292 is transcultural in more than one regard, beginning with its author himself, who committed to the page a broad range of knowledge in roughly a dozen languages sourced from a large and diverse community. Another crucial aspect is ʿAlī Ufuḳī’s adaptation of staff notation for an essentially different musical culture. The compendium is a receptacle of both the knowledge ʿAlī Ufuḳī acquired in his youth in Poland and what he learned in his years in Istanbul, where he lived and worked at the crossroads of many intellectual currents.


AYNUR, Hatice / ÇAKIR, Müjgân / KONCU, Hanife / KURU, Selim S. / ÖZYILDIRIM, Ali Emre (eds.) (2012): Mecmûa: Osmanlı Edebiyatının Kırkambarı. İstanbul: Turkuaz.

BEHAR, Cem (2008): Saklı mecmua. Ali Ufkî’nin Bibliothèque Nationale de France’taki [Turc 292] Yazması. İstanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları.

FELDMAN, Walter Zev (1996): Music of the Ottoman Court: Makam, Composition and the Early Ottoman Instrumental Repertoire. Berlin: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung.

HAUG, Judith I. (2016): “Being More than the Sum of One’s Parts: Acculturation and Biculturality in the Life and Works of Ali Ufukî”. In: Archivum Ottomanicum, 33, 179–190.

HAUG, Judith I. (forthcoming): Ottoman and European Music in ʿAlī Ufuḳī’s Compendium, MS F-Pbn Turc 292: Analysis, Interpretation, Cultural Context. Münster: Readbox Unipress.

Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Shelfmark: MS Turc 292 (digital scan:
Material: Paper (glazed and unglazed), 313 folios
Dimensions: 24 x 13 cm (cover), folios between 14 x 10 and 23 x 11.5 cm
Provenance: Istanbul, c. 1630-1670

Manuscript of the Month 08/2017
Text by Judith I. Haug
© for all pictures: Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF)
Reference note:
Judith I. Haug, “The Cosmopolitan Compendium of ʿAlī Ufuḳī”
In: Wiebke Beyer, Zhenzhen Lu (Eds.): Manuscript of the Month 2017.08, SFB 950: Hamburg,