Časopis ARS 32 (1999) 1-3


Leidenský skicář: města podél cesty z Vídně do Cařihradu (1577 – 1585)
[The Leiden Sketchbook: Towns along the Road from Vienna to Constantinople (1577 – 1585)]


The article focuses on the analysis and interpretation of the so-called Leiden Sketchbook. Town views, which compose this drawn itinerary, are kept in Collections of old prints and manuscripts of the Leiden University Library, in the Biblioteca Vossiana and have so far not been published. The volume contains twenty six anonymous sketches of towns, representing places in Central and South Eastern Europe: Hainburg, Bratislava, Komárno, Esztergom, Visegrád and Nagymaros, Buda and Pest, Erdőd, Vukovar, Bodin, Petrovaradin, Slankamen, Zemun, Belgrade, Nish, Pirot, Sophia, Plovdiv, Svilengrad, Edirne, Hafsa, Babaeski, Lüleburgaz, Çorlu, Silivri, Büyük Çekmice and Kücük Çekmice. A look at the geographic location of the towns reveals that they were the stopping places on one of the most important roads of this region connecting Vienna with Constantinople.

The manuscript was first ascribed to Melchior Lorichs (Lorck) and dated 1555 – 1560, with a necessary question-mark. The content analysis has proved, however, that it must have been produced about twenty years later. All the important architectural monuments, which the author portrayed in his sketches, were in place only from 1578 to 1585. The dating, the style, the handwriting, together excluded the possibility of Lorichs's authorship. Nevertheless, the sketchbook presents an interesting contribution to the western image of Ottoman towns. The style suggests that drawings were produced by a person familiar with techniques of drawing views of towns common in the second half of the sixteenth century, using two main approaches to the urban landscape: bird's-eye view and panoramic view. The author of the Leiden Sketchbook undertook the journey along the imperial road downstream the Danube to Belgrade and then across the interior of the Balkan Peninsula. It was an exclusively official road used by diplomatic missions, merchants and the army. As no private person took it and no private written account was produced of this track, also the author of the Leiden Sketchbook was probably in some way attached to an official group of travellers - an embassy or a messenger. The Leiden Sketchbook represents a rather systematic presentation of towns on the imperial road. The author included all obligatory stopping places, practically all fortresses, large and even small towns. Nevertheless he omitted many castles and several other places, such as Illok, Smederevo, Jagodna or Tatar Pazardzik, some of which were considered towns or boroughs in travelogues. Our knowledge of the road is quite detailed thanks to considerable historical research, which proved numerous travel descriptions as reliable sources of information. Following the historical analyses of various versions of itineraries, it was concluded, that the important places, where travellers stopped to get permission to continue their journey and stayed often more than one night, were identical. The mentions of less important places, which were just passed on the way, or places, where travellers spent only one night are more variable. In this aspect the Leiden Sketchbook is quite unique. It is surprising that several towns in the interior of the peninsula, so small and unimportant that they did not have their own entries in the sixteenth- and seventeenth- century dictionaries or topographic description, have their own "portrait". In large and famous collections of the period produced either in Italy, Germany or the Low Countries, we would find towns of this region only occasionally. Small Serbian towns and practically all places in Rumelia and Thracia (today Bulgaria and Turkey) are missing, with the exception of Edirne and Constantinople, which were drawn in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The technique of a town- view experienced an innovative period in the sixteenth century. The Leiden Sketchbook corresponds with the efforts to provide reliable information about distant regions, to present an impressive interpretation of urban landscape. The author succeeded to create drawing of small towns more or less true to the topography. However, when he attempted to depict large, administrative centres, he produced rather impressionistic views. From this aspect, the collection has to be treated as a western interpretation of towns, and in the context of an early development of "vedutti".

The analysis of the Leiden Sketchbook contributes to the study of the procedure of the "image" creation of an Ottoman town. In the society of central and Western Europe the "image" of a town was created as an integral part of the "image" of a Turk and of the whole Ottoman society. These "images" or perceptions resulted from the experience of individuals who knew urban life in towns of Early Modern Europe, and who confronted their European stereotype with the Ottoman reality in the course of their journey through the Ottoman Empire. Efforts to articulate a factually true information appeared in the second half of the sixteenth century and their influence reached into the seventeenth and, in some cases, even well into the eighteenth century. The iconography and the travelogues both contributed to the formation of a stereotype of an Ottoman town. As the imperial road went through several important European provinces of the Ottoman Empire and many towns were located on this road, the author of the sketchbook had a unique possibility to depict diverse types of towns. This article focuses first on the last three stops on the Habsburg territory (Hainburg, Bratislava, Komárno). Once the author entered the territory under the Ottoman rule, the urban scenery changed immediately. Then the focus turns to the old administrative centres (Buda, Belgrade, Sophia and Edirne), and on towns stimulated by highways, traffic on them and by large service complexes (külliye). A comparative study of the sketches, travelogues and the results of contemporary historiography offers an opportunity to discuss the ways in which the 16th-century itinerants perceived Ottoman towns, and how they interpreted them for the purpose of public opinion formation. Towns on the imperial road were used by the Ottoman state as effective instruments of transmission of cultural values, as well as of integration and transformation into the Ottoman system. At the same time they functioned as a first rate "informant" for every visitor of the country. However this material contributes to the historical knowledge about the impact of the Ottoman power on Balkan towns in the period of its greatest expansion. Thus the Leiden Sketchbook discloses a deep layer in the urban "palimpsest", it tells the dramatic story of the incorporation of the conquered territory, of the phases of ottomanization of Balkan towns. It is also a testimony of the limits of the foreigner's ability to observe and to understand.