1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hammer-Purgstall, Joseph, Freiherr von
HAMMER-PURGSTALL, JOSEPH, Freiherr von (1774–1856), Austrian orientalist, was born at Graz on the 9th of June 1774, the son of Joseph Johann von Hammer, and received his early education mainly in Vienna. Entering the diplomatic service in 1796, he was appointed in 1799 to a position in the Austrian embassy in Constantinople, and in this capacity he took part in the expedition under Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith and General Sir John Hely Hutchinson against the French. In 1807 he returned home from the East, after which he was made a privy councillor, and, on inheriting in 1835 the estates of the countess Purgstall in Styria, was given the title of “freiherr.” In 1847 he was elected president of the newly-founded academy, and he died at Vienna on the 23rd of November 1856.
For fifty years Hammer-Purgstall wrote incessantly on the most diverse subjects and published numerous texts and translations of Arabic, Persian and Turkish authors. It was natural that a scholar who traversed so large a field should lay himself open to the criticism of specialists, and he was severely handled by Friedrich Christian Diez (1794–1876), who, in his Unfug und Betrug (1815), devoted to him nearly 600 pages of abuse. Von Hammer-Purgstall did for Germany the same work that Sir William Jones (q.v.) did for England and Silvestre de Sacy for France. He was, like his younger but greater English contemporary, Edward William Lane, with whom he came into friendly conflict on the subject of the origin of The Thousand and One Nights, an assiduous worker, and in spite of many faults did more for oriental studies than most of his critics put together.
Von Hammer’s principal work is his Geschichte des osmanischen Reiches (10 vols., Pesth, 1827–1835). Another edition of this was published at Pesth in 1834–1835, and it has been translated into French by J. J. Hellert (1835–1843). Among his other works are Constantinopolis und der Bosporos (1822); Sur les origines russes (St Petersburg, 1825); Geschichte der osmanischen Dichtkunst (1836); Geschichte der Goldenen Horde in Kiptschak (1840); Geschichte der Chane der Krim (1856); and an unfinished Litteraturgeschichte der Araber (1850–1856). His Geschichte der Assassinen (1818) has been translated into English by O. C. Wood (1835). Texts and translations—Eth-Thaālabi, Arab. and Ger. (1829); Ibn Wahshiyah, History of the Mongols, Arab. and Eng. (1806); El-Wassāf, Pers. and Ger. (1856); Esch - Schebistani’s Rosenflor des Geheimnisses, Pers. and Ger. (1838); Ez - Zamakhsheri, Goldene Halsbänder, Arab. and Germ. (1835); El-Ghazzālī, Hujjet-el-Islám, Arab. and Ger. (1838); El-Hamawi, Das arab. Hohe Lied der Liebe, Arab. and Ger. (1854). Translations of—El-Mutanebbi’s Poems; Er-Resmi’s Account of his Embassy (1809); Contes inédits des 1001 nuits (1828). Besides these and smaller works, von Hammer contributed numerous essays and criticisms to the Fundgruben des Orients, which he edited; to the Journal asiatique; and to many other learned journals; above all to the Transactions of the “Akademie der Wissenschaften” of Vienna, of which he was mainly the founder; and he translated Evliya Effendi’s Travels in Europe, for the English Oriental Translation Fund. For a fuller list of his works, which amount in all to nearly 100 volumes, see Comptes rendus of the Acad. des Inscr. et des Belles-Lettres (1857). See also Schlottman, Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall (Zurich, 1857).