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New publication: The detailed defter of the Liwa` (district) of Noble Jerusalem. Tapu Defter No. 427 (932 AH/1525-26 - 934 AH/1527-28 Basbakanlik Osmanli Arsivi. A critical and annotative study of the Ottoman text with Arabic translation [by] Muhammad Adnan al-Bakhit and Noufan Raja al-Sawariyyah (with preface by Sheikh Ahmad Zaki Yamani). Amman 1426 AH/2005. (Series: Tapu Defters of the Liwa of Jerusalem, No. 1), 478 pp., 2 maps enclosed. The work is published under the auspices of the Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, from where it can be ordered: Eagle House, High Street, Wimbledon, London SW19 5EF, U.K. No price indicated.
This volume contains the full Ottoman Turkish text in facsimile, plus a selective edition of the contents with Arabic translation, of the oldest Ottoman census registers (tapu defteri) for the District of Jerusalem for the years 932-934 AH (1525-1528) as kept in the Ottoman section of the Turkish Prime Minister`s Archives in Istanbul. It also contains an extensive analytical study on the contents of the register. The present section on Jerusalem was taken from the larger Ottoman register which held records for Safed, Ghaza and Jerusalem together. More volumes are being prepared for publication. The senior editor of this volume and of the series, Muhammad Adnan al-Bakhit, is an authority on the subject and has been active for several decades in the study of Ottoman archival materials relevant to Palestine and Syria. Both editors have shown their competence and scholarly devotion by their cooperation in earlier publications, of which may be mentioned here their recent edition of al-Khalili`s Ta`rikh al-Quds wal-Khalil, the History of Jerusalem and Hebron (London 2004), and their earlier edition of the Kitab al-Tamyiz by the Druze prince Ibn Ma`n al-Shami (Amman 2001).
The present work provides an interesting and important cross section through the social geography of the Jerusalem area in the beginning of the sixteenth century. The editors have braved the difficult siyaqat script of the original defter. They give the reader a wealth of information. First and foremost agriculture is on their agenda, but they prove that this is far from all that can be gathered from a source as rich as the Ottoman registers. Human involvement and organisation get their share as well, when awqaf, pious foundations, and the organisation of land ownership are treated. And with that comes the economical information, the organisation of weights and measures, surface measuring, types of currency, etc. The work is a true treasure trove, which will prove its value and wealth in the years to come. The editors and publisher are to be praised for their effort in making this important primary source available in such an intelligent way. See for a sample page here.
A few words of criticism may be added here, without diminishing the great merit of the present book. First, and this is really important: why have the numerous personal names in the defter been left out of the edition and translation? Admittedly, that would have been a lot of extra work, but the general reader cannot be expected to decipher all the personal names from the facsimile section all by himself. The constitution of the different millets, nations, is interesting without a doubt, but this is left somewhat neglected here. Secondly, the two maps which are added to the volume are somewhat of a disappointment. One map shows localities in the district of Jerusalem, the other shows locations of important graves and mausoleums in the same area. Either map is apparently based on geographical information provided by the Royal Jordan Geographic Center in Amman. The scale of the maps is not indicated, but seems to be 1:125000 (nor is a compass provided, but the maps are orientated towards the North). However, neither map can be said to belong to physical or human geography, as all further detail is missing. That makes difficult and confusing reading. A serious flaw is that the connection between the maps and the text to which they are added is rather loose. Why are so many geographical names on either map not included in the geographical register of the book? With a little extra care and effort all this could have been done much better and professionally. Finally just a minor critical remark: Why is the bibliography of Western sources (pp. 345-350) arranged alphabetically according to the personal names or initials of the authors? Donald P. Little we find under the D., etc. Isn`t it a bit odd to let a computer sort names in this way? These seem a few missed opportunities, and it is only hoped that such shortcomings will be avoided in the next volumes of this important publication. (Jan Just Witkam)