Cabi Ömer

Other Available Languages: 

Except for the short entry in Bursalı Mehmed Tahir’s Osmanlı Mü’ellifleri, there is no record of C.Ö. in biographical and bibliographical sources. The place and date of C.Ö.’s birth is unknown. If we assume that he was middle aged when he wrote his Ta’rih in 1203/1789, we may conclude that he must have been born in the second half of the 18th century. Because of the lack of information on C.Ö., many scholars have referred to him erroneously as Cabi Said and his work as Cabi Said Ta’rihi instead of Cabi Ta’rihi. Ahmed Hamdi Tanpınar made another mistake regarding the name of the author. A note on the inside cover of the Istanbul University manuscript calls the work Cabi Said’in Ta’rihi, but Tanpınar, who used this copy as a source, refers to the work as Cabi İsmet Bey Ta’rihi in 19. Asır Türk Edebiyatı Tarihi, the first edition of which appeared in 1942. Although the origin of the name “Said” is unknown, it certainly has nothing to do with the author, whose name is recorded as “Cabi-yi Ayasofya Ömer Efendi” on fol. 278a. Thus, the attributions to “Said” and to “Cabi İsmet Bey” are unfounded. Fol. 379a of the autograph copy (Esad Efendi 2152) records Ömer Efendi’s name and official title written by a different hand.

Some of the information on C.Ö.’s life comes from explicit statements and clues in his work. C.Ö. notes several times that he lived in Üsküdar. For example, he ascribes the warm welcome he received from Seyyid Feyżullah Efendi, the viceroy (na’ib) of Saqız (Chios), and his retinue during his exile on that island to the fact that they were both from Üsküdar. C.Ö. had been sent to exile in Saqız for his illegal correspondences concerning a house with disputed waqf status located in Istanbul-Ortaköy. His life in exile began on 7 Safar 1225/14 March 1810 and ended after three months on 5 Jumada I 1225/8 June 1810, when he returned to Istanbul either upon the completion of his sentence or with a pardon.

C.Ö. appears to have had many friends in bureaucratic circles who helped him compile accurate records of various fermans and imperial decrees (hatt-ı hümayun). Although he generally refers to them as summaries (me’al), comparisons with official chronicles establish these documents as verbatim copies of the originals. The statesmen C.Ö. mentions in his work must have allowed him to consult these documents. For example, his cordial conversation with Mehmed Ragıb Efendi, who held the office of defterdar between 3 Shawwal 1223-26 Jumada I 1226/22 November 1808-12 June 1811, leaves the impression that they were close friends. During the fiscal crisis which began in Rajab 1224/August-September 1809, C.Ö. was obliged to pay a due of 3000 guruş because of his title. When he met with defterdar Mehmed Ragıb to pay the money, however, he was able to reduce his share to 1500 guruş. The author was the tax collector of the Ayasofya district (Ayasofya cabiligi), but scholars do not know if he held any other offices. C.Ö. made his first written reference to this office on 3 Rajab 1224/14 August 1809, but the date of his first appointment as tax official is unknown. The lack of any information concerning C.Ö.’s father’s name, birth place, or pseudonym also impedes archival research on the author. Therefore, it is difficult to establish whether the two references to a certain Ömer Halife b. Ali in a register of appointments of tax collectors dated Muharram-Safar 1218/May 1803 actually refer to C.Ö.

The exact date of C.Ö.’s death is unknown. The date 13 Safar 1229/4 February 1814 located at the bottom of the last paragraph of his work marks the date of the last event C.Ö. recorded, but there is no indication that Ta’rih ends there. After all, the catchword on the last folio of the autograph copy confirms that the work was not completed. C.Ö. probably left his Ta’rih unfinished because of illness or sudden death. Thus C.Ö. probably died soon after 13 Safar 1229/4 February 1814. Although the exact dates of his birth and death are unknown, C.Ö. probably lived during the second half of the 18th and the first quarter of the 19th centuries.

Frequent spelling errors, incorrect vocabulary usage, and idiomatic defects suggest that C.Ö. lacked a good education and taught himself to read and write. His use of French vocabulary, his etymological analyses, and his references to Quranic verses, hadiths, Arabic proverbs and poems, all suggest, however, that C.Ö. was an intelligent and curious researcher who could grasp and assimilate what he read.

(d. 1750’ler; ö. 1814?)
Cabi Ta’rihi, Ta’rih-i Sultan Selim-i salis ve Mahmud-ı sani

C.Ö.’s only known work. Concisely known as Cabi Ta’rihi in scholarly circles, Ta’rih covers the period between 1203-1229/1789-1814. There are three extant manuscripts of the work in three volumes. In the first paragraph of the first volume, C.Ö. states that he composed his work to relate the events that transpired during the reign of Selim III. Ta’rih covers the reign of Selim III (1203-1222/1789-1807), the short reign of Mustafa IV (1222-1223/1807-1808) and the first five years of the reign of Mahmud II (1223-beg. 1229/1808-1814). Although the title of the work is recorded as Ta’rih-i Sultan Selim Han on the inside cover of the autograph copy and the catalogue of Esad Efendi Library, Osmanlı Mü’ellifleri and later the İstanbul Kütüphaneleri Tarih-Coğrafya Yazmaları Katalogları refer to it by the correct title Ta’rih-i Sultan Selim-i salis ve Mahmud-ı sani. Because C.Ö. did not give his work a specific title, some scholars argue that the title Ta’rih-i Sultan Selim-i salis ve Mahmud-ı sani is inaccurate. Given the coverage of Ta’rih, however, this title is most appropriate for the work.

Ta’rih is an important source on contemporary Ottoman history. The author witnessed many historical events which occurred in the Ottoman capital. In his work which covers a period of a quarter of a century from the succession of Selim III up to and including the first five years of the reign of Mahmud II, C.Ö. relates important events which took place in Istanbul, including the death of Abdülhamid I, the ascension to the throne of Selim III, the Nizam-ı Cedid movement, the French occupation of Egypt, the recapture of Egypt, rebellions of some local notables and feudal lords (ayan, derebeyi), wars between European states, the rebellion of Bogaz yamakları, the deposition of Selim III and the succession of Mustafa IV, Alemdar Mustafa’s (d. 1223/1808) arrival in Istanbul, the succession of Mahmud II, and the Alemdar episode. Cabi Ta’rihi also includes information regarding daily events in Istanbul, street fights among janissaries and the oppression suffered by the people, price movements in markets, economic aspects of the social life such as the purchasing power of money, inner workings of the bureaucracy, anecdotes concerning some statesmen, information on grants of offices and deaths, news about natural disasters such as fires, earthquakes, and storms.

Cabi Ta’rihi has been a source for later Ottoman chronicles. Foremost among these is one of the most important late Ottoman chronicles entitled Şanizade Ta’rihi. Although Ahmed Cevdet does not explicitly state that he used Cabi Ta’rihi, the fact that he utilized Şanizade Ta’rihi shows that he borrowed from C.Ö.’s work indirectly.

Manuscripts: (1) Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Hs. or. oct. 1034/1 (formerly Marburg Staatsbibliothek). Part of the Süssheim Collection. Copied by Seyyid Ahmed Tebrizi from the Esad Efendi manuscript in 1910-11. Each part is arranged as a separate volume. The bindings are black and the paper is yellow and glossy. The dimensions of the bindings vary. Those of the first volume are 23x15 cm., the second 23x15,5 cm. and the third 26,5x18 cm. The numbers of folios of the three volumes vary. The total number of folios is 730. There are 19 lines on each page, written in talik script. (2) Istanbul, Istanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Tarih Semineri Kitaplığı KA. 282. Copied from the Esad Efendi manuscript. An incomplete copy with words, lines, paragraphs and even folios omitted. Its dimensions are 20x30 cm. and the number of lines per page is 25. Numbered as 1040 pages (520 fols.). Written in rıka from the beginning up to page 1010 (fol. 505a). The rest is written in nesih. Various terms and names, including the names of sultans, grand viziers, viziers, queen mothers, and the wives of sultans are recorded in red ink. There is no information on its copyist. (3) Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, Esad Efendi 2152. Consists of 622 folios with the dimensions 17x22 cm. The number of lines per page vary between 20 and 34. Written in nesih script. The text does not include section headings. All three parts are included in one volume with consecutive folio numbers. The paper is white and was rubbed smooth. The other two manuscripts are copies of this oldest extant manuscript. Many personal and place names are left blank, indicating that the author did not know these names when he was composing his work and intended to complete these sections later. In the other two manuscripts, however, these lacunae have been filled. The text includes many words which were crossed out and later rewritten. Some information which the author forgot to include are recorded between the lines or on the margins. As such, this manuscript appears to be the autograph copy of the work.

An indexed critical edition of Cabi Ta’rihi was published in two volumes by M. Ali Beyhan in 2003.


(1) Cabi Ta’rihi, Ta’rih-i Sultan Selim-i salis ve Mahmud-ı sani

Manuscripts: (1) Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Hs. or. oct. 1034/1 (formerly in Marburg Staatsbibliothek), Süssheim Collection; 730 fols., 19 lines, talik (Barbara Flemming, Verzeichnis der orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland, 13/1 (Wiesbaden, 1968), 163). (2) Istanbul, Istanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Tarih Semineri Kitaplığı, no. KA. 282; 520 fols., 25 lines, rıka/nesih. (3) Istanbul, Süleymaniye Kütüphanesi, Esad Efendi, no. 2152; 622 fols., 20-34 lines, nesih (Defter-i Kütübhane-i Esad Efendi (Istanbul, nd), 126).

Editions: Cabi Ömer Efendi. Cabi Ta’rihi veya Ta’rih-i Sultan Selim-i salis ve Mahmud-ı sani. Ed. Mehmet Ali Beyhan (Ankara, 2003).

General Bibliography

Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi. Ruus Defteri, no. 126, 133-134. Defter-i Kütübhane-i Esad Efendi (Istanbul, nd), 126. Bursalı Mehmed Tahir. Osmanlı Mü’ellifleri, vol. 3 (Istanbul, 1324/1906-1907), 181, fn. Ludwig Forrer. “Handschriften Osmanischen Historiker in Istanbul.” Der Islam, 26/3 (1942), 173-220. Istanbul Kütüphaneleri Tarih-Coğrafya Yazmaları Katalogları (Istanbul, 1943), 224. Nihal Atsız. “Tanınmamış Osmanlı Tarihleri.” Türk Kütüphaneciler Derneği Bülteni, 1-2 (1957), 47-81. Ahmet Cevat Eren. Selim III.’ün Biyografisi (Istanbul, 1964). Semavi Eyice. “Mango, Cyril: Material for the Study of the Mosaics of St. Sophia at Istanbul” [Review], Belleten, 28/112 (1964), 773-789. İsmail Hami Danişmend. İzahlı Osmanlı Tarihi Kronolojisi (Istanbul, 1971). İsmail Hakkı Uzunçarşılı. “Nizam-ı Cedid Ricalinden Kadı Abdurrahman Paşa.” Belleten, 35/138-139 (1971), 245-302; 409-450. Fahri Ç. Derin. “Yayla İmamı Risâlesi.” Tarih Enstitüsü Dergisi, 3 (1973), 213-272. Reşat Ekrem Koçu. “Tarih Kaynaklarımız.” Tercüman, (Istanbul), 20 Mart 1975. Cavid Baysun. “Mustafa IV.” İslâm Ansiklopedisi, vol. 8 (1979), 708-714. İsmail Hakkı Uzunçarşılı. “Mustafa Paşa, Bayrakdar.” İslâm Ansiklopedisi, vol. 8 (1979), 720-727. Ahmet Cevat Eren. “Selim III.” İslâm Ansiklopedisi, vol. 10 (1980), 441-457. Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar. 19. Asır Türk Edebiyatı Tarihi (Istanbul, 1985). Yılmaz Öztuna. II. Mahmud (Ankara, 1989). Mehmet Ali Beyhan. Câbî Târihi. Unpublished PhD Dissertation (Istanbul University, 1992). Mehmet Ali Beyhan. “Şânîzâde Tarihi’nin Kaynaklarından Câbî Tarihi.” Osmanlı Araştırmaları, XV (1995), 239-283.


[Translated into English by Historians of the Ottoman Empire
English version posted September 2008]

July 2013


July 2013