ʿĀṢEM EFENDĪ, SAYYED AḤMAD (1168/1755-1236/1819), an Ottoman Turkish linguist and chronicler, known as Mütercim (translator) in recognition of his translations of two famous dictionaries, the Persian Borhān-e qāteʿ and the Arabic al-Qāmūs al-moḥīṭ.

Born at ʿAyntāb (now Gaziantep) in the province of Aleppo, ʿĀṣem came from a cultured family related to Shaikh ʿOṯmān of Samarqand. He began to study languages while still a child, learning Persian from his father Rūḥī Moṣṭafā Efendī, who was an Ottoman Turkish poet, and Arabic from Ḵᵛāǰa Naǰīb ʿAbdallāh Efendī; before long he knew both well enough to write Arabic and Persian poems. After completing his studies, he worked as an official clerk and already enjoyed local fame for his wide learning. Difficulties arising from the war of 1203/1788-89 compelled him to part with the library left to him by his ancestors. In 1204/1789 he went to Istanbul and started on the translation of the Borhān-e qāṭeʿ. After presenting part of this translation to Sultan Salīm III, he found favor with the Ottoman court and was later appointed to the post of official chronicler (wāqeʿa-nevīs). He next translated into Turkish a biographical work in verse by Ebrāhīm b. Moḥammad Ḥalabī (d. 956/1549) and composed an Arabic vocabulary in verse for young beginners. While working as the official chronicler, he embarked on the translation of the Qāmūs and finished this task in four years. After the deposition of Salīm III in 1222/1807, he again saw hard times, but not for long because he was well regarded by Maḥmūd II. His last official appointment was that of qāzī at Salonica. He returned to Istanbul before his death on 9 Ṣafar 1235/1819.

ʿĀṣem Efendī’s works are as follows: 1. Tebyān-e nāfeʿ dar tarǰama-ye Borhān-e qāṭeʿ, Turkish translation of the Persian Borhān-e qāṭeʿ by Ḥosayn b. Ḵalaf Tabrīzī. In preparing it, ʿĀṣem consulted more than thirty other books (Tebyān-e nāfeʿ, p. 6, lines 6-10). He first gives the meaning of the Persian word and then, if necessary, provides further data, sometimes a clarification if the meaning given by the author of the Borhān-e qāṭeʿ is obscure, sometimes an additional meaning not given in the Borhān. He also discusses word formations and derivations. The data on plants are particularly valuable. The translation of the Borhān was completed by ʿĀṣem Efendī on 1 Jomādā I 1212/22 October 1797 and printed in 1214/1799-1800. (For other editions, see F. E. Karatay, İstanbul Üniversitesi kültüphanesi Türkçe basmalar kataloğu, Istanbul, 1956, I, p. 321).

2. al-Oqīānūs al-basīṭ fī tarǰamat al-Qāmūs, Turkish translation of the Arabic al-Qāmūs al-moḥīṭ of Abū Ṭāher Moḥammad Fīrūzābādī (d.817/1415), completed by ʿĀṣem Efendī on 15 Ḏu’l-qaʿda 1225/12 December 1810. It is a faithful rendering apart from the Arabic examples, which are not translated but left as they stand in the original. The translation of the Qāmūs was first printed by order of the Sultan Moḥmūd II (3 vols. 1230/1815-1233/1818; for other editions, see Karatay, op. cit.).

3. Turkish translation of the Sīar of Ebrāhīm b. Moḥammad Ḥalabī, a narrative poem. The translation was printed in 1248/1832-33.

4. Toḥfa-ye ʿĀṣem, an Arabic primer in Turkish verse; printed at Būlāq in 1254/1838-39.

5. Marāḥ al-maʿālī fī šarḥ qaṣīdat al-amālī, Turkish translation and commentary on al-qaṣīda al-lāmmīa fi’l-tawḥīd wa badʾ al-amālī by Serāǰ-al-dīn Abū Moḥammad ʿAlī b. ʿOṯmān Ūšī; translation printed at Istanbul in 1248/1832-33.

6. Moẓher al-taqdīs be-ḵorūǰ ṭāʾefat al-Feranses, Turkish translation of the Moẓher al-taqdīs be-ḏahāb dawlat al-Feranses of ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān b. Ḥasan Jabartī; the chronicle is preserved in manuscript (Bibl. Nat, s. t. 1283).

7. A chronicle known as the Tārīḵ-eʿĀṣem, whose first redaction covered 1220/1805-1223/1808; later it was expanded by the author to cover the period 1206/1791-1223/1808; printed in Istanbul (n.d.).

ʿĀṣem Efendī also wrote Turkish, Arabic, and Persian poems; they have not yet been collected and printed. 


See also Faṭīn, Taḏkera, Istanbul, 1271/1855, p. 266.

Jamāl-al-dīn, “Āīna-ye ẓorafāʾ,” in Osmanlı tarih ve müverrihleri, Istanbul, 1314/1896-97, p. 65 İA I, pp. 665-73.

EI2 I, p. 707.

(T. Yazici)

Originally Published: December 15, 1987

Last Updated: August 16, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. II, Fasc. 7, pp. 740-741

Cite this entry:

T. Yazici, “ʿĀṢEM EFENDĪ,” Encyclopædia Iranica, II/7, pp. 740-741, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/asem-efendi-sayyed-ahmad-1168-1755-1236-1819-an-ottoman-turkish-linguist-and-chronicler-known-as-mtercim-transl (accessed on 30 December 2012).