The Sultans Organ by Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy


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Amid the turbulence of sixteenth century European politics, there existed a system of bribery enabling competing countries to keep their place in the one of the most important and lucrative areas of contemporary commerce – the great trade and spice routes. When Thomas Dallam, a young organ builder from North-West England was commissioned to build a musical clockwork marvel, jewel encrusted and with a multitude of wondrous moving parts, he suddenly found himself acting as ambassador for Elizabeth I; The organ was to be a gift for the mighty Ottoman Sultan – intended to buy his favour and cement England’s trading rights across his empire – and Dallam was instructed to present it to the Sultan in person.Closely following the detailed diary he kept during his year-long voyage, The Sultan’s Organ reveals the extraordinary world Dallam travelled to as he sailed through the Mediterranean and Levant before eventually arriving at the beating heart of the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople.The people and places he encounters, from the pirates of Algiers to the inside of the Sultan’s Harem itself – something virtually no outsider ever witnessed before or after him – introduce us not only to a charming and erudite man of his age, but also shed light on a part of the world which was, and remains, a beguiling, fascinating and challenging place to understand.