Risale-i Mimariyye in Historiography of Ottoman Architecture

The scarcity of architectural treatises in Ottoman architectural history has made understanding the theoretical basis of architecture a problematic undertaking. Ultimately, the greatest obstacles to this line of inquiry stem from a fundamental flaw in the reading of the architectural historiography of the period. Positivist approaches, which de-contextualize architecture from the history of ideas, have led to many misconceptions about what one might define as an Ottoman architectural theory. The reading of two critical texts through such discourses has given rise to many questionable assumptions about the relation between theory and practice. In order to understand architectural meanings stemming from cultural contexts, these texts provide invaluable insights. The first text is the autobiographical memoirs of the Ottoman chief architect Mimar Sinan, narrated by his friend, the poet-painter Mustafa Sâî Çelebi in the sixteenth century. The second, surprisingly understudied text is Risale-i Mimariyye (A Book on Architecture) written by Cafer Efendi in 1614. In this article, primary sources related to Risale-i Mimariyye, as well as the second¬ary sources that give reference to the Risale, will be introduced and critically evaluated. I believe that such an examination of the Risale within the sphere of architectural literature will also reveal some simultaneous transformations in Ottoman historiography.


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