Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall

Intro Austrian orientalist
A.K.A. Josef von Hammer-Purgstall, Joseph Freiherr Hammer von Purgstall, Jose…
Was Explorer Translator Diplomat Writer
From Austria
Type Literature Politics
Gender male
Birth 9 June 1774, Graz, Austria
Death 23 November 1856, Vienna, Austria (aged 82 years)
Star sign Gemini

Baron Joseph Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall (9 June 1774 in Graz – 23 November 1856 in Vienna) was an Austrian orientalist and historian.


Born Joseph Hammer in Graz, Styria (now Austria), he 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 Istanbul, and in this capacity he took part in the expedition under Admiral William Sidney Smith and General John Hely-Hutchinson against France. In 1807 he returned home from the East, after which he was made a privy councillor. In 1824 he was knighted (Chevalier). For fifty years Hammer-Purgstall wrote prolifically on the most diverse subjects and published numerous texts and translations of Arabic, Persian and Turkish authors. He was the first to publish a complete translation of the divan of Hafez into a western language. By traversing so large a field, he laid himself open to the criticism of specialists, and he was severely handled by Heinrich Friedrich von Diez (1751–1817), who, in his Unfug und Betrug in der morgenländischen Litteratur, nebst vielen hundert Proben von der groben Unwissenheit des H. v. Hammer zu Wien in Sprachen und Wissenschaften (1815), devoted to him nearly 600 pages of abuse. He also came into friendly conflict on the subject of the origin of The Thousand and One Nights with his younger English contemporary Edward William Lane. Hammer-Purgstall supported the foundation of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna and became the Academy's first president (1847–1849). The Austrian Oriental Society, founded in 1959 to foster cultural relations with the Near East, is formally named 'Österreichische Orient-Gesellschaft Hammer-Purgstall' in recognition of Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall's accomplishments. He died in Vienna on 23 November 1856.


Hammer-Purgstall's principal work is his Geschichte des osmanischen Reiches (10 vols., 1827–1835). Among his other works are "Ancient Alphabets & Hieroglyphic Characters Explained" (1806) Geschichte der schönen Redekünste Persiens mit einer Blüthenlese aus zweyhundert persischen Dichtern (Vienna, 1818) Morgenländisches Kleeblatt (Vienna, 1819) Constantinopolis und der Bosporos (1822) Sur les origines russes (St Petersburg, 1825) an English language translation (1834) of the first two volumes of Evliya Celebi's travelogue Seyahatname The History of the Assassins trans. O. C. Wood (London, 1835), an English language translation of Die Geschichte der Assassinen aus morgenländischen Quellen (Stuttgart und Tübingen, 1818) Geschichte der osmanischen Dichtkunst (1836) Geschichte der Goldenen Horde in Kiptschak (1840) Geschichte der Chane der Krim (1856) an unfinished Litteraturgeschichte der Araber (1850–1856) a four-volume biography of Melchior Cardinal Khlesl titled Khlesls, des Cardinals Leben. Mit der Sammlung von Khlesls Briefen und anderen Urkunden (4 vols., 1847–1851). For a comprehensive list of his works see: Schlottmann, Constantin. Joseph von Hammer-Purgstall, Zurich, 1857.


Hammer married Caroline von Henikstein (1797–1844), the daughter of Austrian Jewish financier Joseph von Henikstein in 1816. In 1835, upon inheriting the estates of the Countess Purgstall (née Jane Anne Cranstoun), the widow of his late friend Gottfried Wenzel von Purgstall, he acquired the title Freiherr and changed his family name to Hammer-Purgstall.


 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hammer-Purgstall, Joseph, Freiherr von". Encyclopædia Britannica. 12 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.  Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1910). "Joseph, Baron von Hammer-PurgstallJoseph, Baron von Hammer-Purgstall" . Catholic Encyclopedia. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

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