The Sultan's Organ: London to Constantinople in 1599 and adventures on the way

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Press: Fortune; 1 edition (April 26, 2012)
Author Name:Mole, John


In 1599 Queen Elizabeth I sent a wonderful present to Sultan Mehmet III of Turkey. 
It was a self-playing organ, which could play for six hours, combined with a speaking clock and jewel-encrusted moving figures, all contained in a gilded cabinet sixteen feet high, six feet wide and five feet deep.
With it went four craftsmen led by young Thomas Dallam, musician and organ builder.
It took them six eventful months to get from London to Constantinople.
They encountered storms, volcanoes, exotic animals, foreign food, pirates, brigands, Moors, Turks, Greeks, Jews, beautiful women, barbarous men, kings and pashas, armies on the march, janissaries, eunuchs, slaves, dwarves and finally the most powerful man in the world, the Great Turk himself.
Thomas kept a fascinating diary, now in the British Library.
Faithfully translated into modern English, unembellished and unedited, this marvellous traveller’s tale reads as if its author were alive today.


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Comment List (Total:9)

  •     Sir Thomas Dallam was an ancestor of my husband and he was delighted with this edition of the book.
  •     I read this book while travelling (for all of 15 hours) from Kalkan on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey to Amersham on the Buckinghamshire borders of the M25. The journey was uneventful - unlike the wonderful Mr Dallam's - no pirates or sudden deaths for me.Thomas Dallam's account of his 6 months' expedition from Gravesend to Constantinople - and another 5 months back again - is a joy to read. The language may (thankfully) have been updated by the adroit Mr John Mole but Mr Dallam himself speaks to us directly from another Elizabethan age - an age rather more stoic and considerably less self indulgent than our own.
  •     This has been a favorite of mine for a very long time. I am descended down from Thomas Dallam and Dallam is my middle name. This young man took SO many risks during his year long trip for Queen Elizabeth I. I have the hard bound copy and now on my Kindle. Had he been killed, I would not exist. It made me again realize how, through many circumstances, our lives come to be. The many escapes he made and the exciting adventure make it a good read. I am astounded that a 24 year old would keep such a detailed diary.
  •     'The Sultan's Organ' is a modern English rendering of the diary of an organ builder who completed am amazing journey into the Ottoman Empire at the close of the C16th. Remarkable as a historical document and early example of travel journalism, this account also offers a fascinating insight into the lively mind of the young craftsman. The candour with which he records his observations and experiences of a land and civilisation far removed from the Elizabethan London of his previous experience is a delight. This little volume is a must for anyone travelling to the Eastern Mediterranean or seeking novel insight into the Elizabethan world picture.
  •     This enchanting story follows an unusual journey undertaken to fulfill a piece of sixteenth century trade policy.
  •     I am a collector of mechanical music instruments and was made aware of this book through AMICA, the Automatic Musical Instrument Collectors Association in the US.
  •     This is an extraordinary story of how a 24-year old organ inventor became the first Westerner to see the inside of the Turkish Sultan's harem and live - and come back to London overland via Greece, another first.But not only is it a rattling tale of adventure into strange and unknown lands, it is also a revealing insight into some of the customs and attitudes of the time, both national and religious. He shows us how "Turk" and "Greek" were religious labels, and what pressure there was in Moslem countries to convert to Islam in order to escape from slavery and for all women to wear the burka. The centuries between then and now, the rise and fall of nationalism and religious tolerance, seem in the light of this book to have been a passing phase.Equally fascinating is the way some Greek islands only produced one or two products, but England was buying a wide range of goods from the whole world and marketing itself as a high end supplier of technology and culture. Are we back there again?Dallam's is an extraordinarily fresh and spontaneous account of the many adventures that they encounter. It reads almost like modern journalism, without the philosophic detail of other Elizabethan writers. He was not an aristocrat, but a highly skilled artisan, inventor and musician. His opinion of the corrupt, bribe-taking captain of their ship is withering, but his view of consuls or ambassadors balanced, giving credit when due and blame when justified.All in all, a fascinating read, made easier by John Mole's excellent rendering into modern English and occasional notes to explain Dallam's account by what else we know of the events and attitudes he relates. So many riches in such a relatively short account!
  •     An account of the creator of this gift which also offers an insight into the Ottoman Court and the Sultan's interest in Elizabeth I's marvelous present.
  •     On the request of the merchants of London and with support of Queen Elisabeth Ist in order to get commercial advantages, a very young organ builder, Thomas Dallam, has to bring a special present to the sultan Mehmet in Constantinople, a splendid automatic organ with chimes, bells and birds. This is the diary of his travel by boat, in a time when England, France, Spain and Portugal were all in war together, and when North Africa and a large part of Greece were Muslim, Christians beeing totally unconsidered. Dallam tells us about his trip and his impressive meeting with the sultan in simple and lively words instead of the usual "educated" written style of that period. It's full of funny remarks, more or less pleasent incidents and unexpected meatings. Sometimes it's necessary to intimidate, sometimes help and friendship are provided. People die on board from time to time, but those ordinary events do not deserve more than a simple mention, do they? Food, water, wine completing is not always easy. Well, such a trip to Turkey was far to be a simple affair...This marvellous text was already known by scholars but Mr Mole, who wrote some excellent novels, offers us the first "translation" from Elisabethan English, which avoids the reader to cope with original passages as (description of a thunderstorm) "the lightning was lyke a verrie hote iron taken out of a smythe's forge, sometimes in liknes of a roninge worme, another time lyke a horsshow, and agine lyke a lege and a foute". Apart from the translation the original has not been edited, even leaving a few Dallam's obvious mismatches as so. However Mr Mole inserted titles (to help searching in the e-version) and also a few short but efficient notes about technical words.Dallam provides very little details about the organ itself, but Mr Mole added some comments (out of Dallam's document) taken from outside sources, and organ lovers will know most of the instrument, actually a real marvel which fascinated the sultan and made the trip a great success.The book is pleasently set, easy to read, and comes with adelightfull cover (which you cannot see properly on screen).

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