Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Ferenc Wathay Songbook

This post comes from my current research and serves to introduce a manuscript to an English-speaking audience while also offering some preliminary observations and avenues for further exploration. Just slightly outside of my own cutoff date of 1600, this unique and important product of the Ottoman-Hungarian cultural exchange deserves attention.

Figure 1
Nándorfehérvár (now Belgrade, Serbia), The Ferenc Wathay Songbook, Magyar Tudományos Akadémia (K 62, previously M. Cod. 4rét 29), folio 23b-24a

Figure 2
Temesvár (now Timişoara, Romania), The Ferenc Wathay Songbook, Magyar Tudományos Akadémia (K 62, previously M. Cod. 4rét 29),  folio 30b-31a

The Ferenc Wathay Songbook, preserved in the Magyar Tudományos Akadémia (K 62, previously M. Cod. 4rét 29), contains two remarkable city views of Nándorfehérvár (now Belgrade, Serbia)[1] and Temesvár (now Timişoara, Romania) and a host of intriguing illuminations depicting Ottomanized life along the frontier. The 133 folio manuscript, written and illuminated in 1604-6, contains twenty-eight Hungarian ballads with accompanying illustrations, followed by a twenty-four page autobiography detailing the events of the author’s life, capture, and slavery. The text and images were crafted by a member of the Hungarian lesser nobility, Ferenc Wathay, who was held as an Ottoman captive between 1602 and 1606.  Below, I provide an overview of the contents of the volume and a list of illuminations and their accompanying text, translated from the original Hungarian by myself, or left in the original Latin. Below that, I provide a preliminary list of future topics of exploration, some of which may be taken up as future posts.


3a -- title page
4a-5b -- introduction
6a-105b -- songs
107a-131b -- autobiography
132a-133a -- various remarks

Images and accompanying inscriptions

2a – coat of arms with the inscriptions:

 “This is my coat of arms, this is my Christ. 1605.
“Written by the hand of F. Wathaj”

7b – simple ink drawing of a castle

9a – a crow on a mountain

10a – a lion in a green field

 23b-24a – Nándorfehérvár city view from the river (figure 1)

“From the south, this is how the good Nándorfehérvár looks
More beautiful places do not exist on this earth
That it was taken from the Hungarians, what a shame”

27a – slaves in front of a building

Figure 3
Wathay in chains by the Temes River, The Ferenc Wathay SongbookMagyar Tudományos Akadémia (K 62, previously M. Cod. 4rét 29),  folio  27b

27b – a castle in the background with the Temes (Romanian: Timiş) River in front of it, Wathay in chains being carried in the foreground

30b-31a – Temesvár city view (figure 2)

"This is how the sun rose, and to the South lies Temesvár
The little Temes River contains and is surrounded by mud
I did not know, and I too wait as a captive. 

31b – illustration to the autobiography - the torture of Wathay at Ferhát hodzsa

“This was how Ferhat hoddzsa (Turkish: wise man)’s hospitality ended
At Temesvár, I broke with him
Three locks, and I ran”

33b - Turkish horsemen accompanying Wathay barefoot towards a fortress

35b – transporting Hungarian slaves in a cart illustration to the biography with inscription

"As such sixty new ones, ten carts of slaves
They took us under, with great chains on our necks
In one month I will see the ruler’s home and the sea"

37b – a boat on the sea, in the background a town.

"Prior Pars Asia
Olim Bithinia
Nuc apata”

42a – a town, foreground with the sea with boats and fish

"Finis Europae
Olim Tratia
nuc pars Constantinapolis.”

44a – slaves in a basket on the back of a camel

Figure 4
Countryside with two towns, The Ferenc Wathay Songbook
Magyar Tudományos Akadémia (K 62, previously M. Cod. 4rét 29),  folio  44a-45b

44b- 45a – countryside with two post-raid villages completely pillaged and burned

52b – Turkish galley ship on the sea

71a – nude female standing on a wheel with wings on her heels

“Fronte Capillata Post Haec est Ocasio Calva”

72b – stag on its hind legs

“Tempora Labvntvr sic nos Ibimvs Ibitis Ibvnt”

74b – Wathay looking through the bars locked in a tower

80b – fighting bear and tiger

Figure 5
Wathay crying in his cell, The Ferenc Wathay Songbook
Magyar Tudományos Akadémia (K 62, previously M. Cod. 4rét 29),  folio  83b

83b – Wathay crying in his cell

“Psal Cii Factvs svm Sict Nocticorax in Domicilio.”

86a – nude male with a skull and leg bones

“O Homo Memento Quod Pvlvis es et in Pvlvere Reverteris”

87a – the last judgment

“Svrgite Mortvi Venite Ad Ivdicivm”

91a – colorful flower

100a – hunting scene with fox and crow

101a – roosters and crows with a fox

106b – dead deer with a crow on top of it with two other crows flying above

“Sic Transit Gloria Mvndi”

Some future research topics

* Ottomanization as depicted in 23b-24a (Nándorfehérvár) and 30b-31a (Temesvár)
* genealogy of the visual vocabulary
* mixing of languages in the text
* the significance of the crow and other animals
* depiction of battle scenes
* representing the Hungarian/ representing the Ottoman in image and text
* the visualization of architecture
* cruelties of war
* how Wathay acquired the tools to make this volume and how it survived
* the last judgment scene 

For a scan of the full manuscript see here.
For the text of the songs in Hungarian see here.


(Ács 1979)
Ács, Pál. 1979. “Wathay Ferenc: Áldott filemile. Allegória és invenció.” Irodalomtörténeti Közlemények 83 (2): 173–186.

(Wathay and Katona 1976)
Wathay, Ferenc, and Tamás Katona. 1976. Wathay Ferenc énekes könyve [Ferenc Wathay's song book]. Budapest: Magyar Helikon.

(Benda 1968)
Benda, Kálmán. 1968. “Adalékok Wathay Ferenc életéhez.” Irodalomtörténeti Közlemények 72 (2): 211-213.

(Nagy 1957)
Nagy, Lajos. 1957. Wathaz Ferenc: Székesfejérvár veszérül való história. Székesfejérvár: István Király Múzeum.

 (Angyal 1955)
Angyal, Endre. 1955. “Vathay Ferenc énekeskönyve.” Irodalomtörténeti Közlemények 59 (1): 51-61.
(Nagy 1955)
Nagy, Lajos. 1955. Wathay Ferenc énekeskönyve [Ferenc Wathay's song book]. Székesfehérvár: István Király Múzeum közleményei.

[1] The image of Nándorfehérvár was incorrectly bound. Without access to the manuscript itself, I cannot be sure when this mistake was made. Contemporary images of the city reveal its shape as I switched it in Figure 1.