Burckhardt, Titus 1908-1984

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BURCKHARDT, Titus 1908-1984

PERSONAL: Born 1908, in Florence, Italy; died 1984, in Lausanne, Switzerland; son of Carl Burckhardt (a sculptor).

CAREER: Scholar, translator, and publisher. Urs Graf Verlag (publishing house), Olten, Switzerland, artistic director, 1942-68. UNESCO consultant to preservation of city of Fez, 1972-75. Director of exhibition of Islamic art at Hayward Gallery, London, England, 1976.


Land am Rand der Zeit (title means "Land on the Edge of Time"), 1941.

Tessin, Mit Zeichnungen des Verfassers und Aufnahmen verschieder Herkunft, Urs Graf (Basel Switzerland), 1943.

Vom Sufitum; Einführung in die Mystik des Islam, O. W. Barth, Munich, Germany), 1953, translated as An Introduction to Sufi Doctrine, Sh. M. Ashraf (Lahore, India), 1959, translated by D. M. Matheson, Thorsons (Wellingborough, England), 1976.

(Editor) Zeus und Eros: Briefe und Aufzeichnungen des Bildhaurs Carl Burckhardt, Urs Graf (Olten, Switzerland), 1956.

Siena; Stadt der Jungfrau, Urs Graf (Olten, Switzerland), 1958, translated as Siena, the City of the Virgin, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1960.

Fes, Stadt des Islam, 1960, translated by William Stoddart as Fez, City of Islam, Islamic Texts Society (Cambridge, England), 1992.

Alchemie, Sinn und Weltbild, Walter (Olten, Switzerland), 1960, translated by William Stoddart as Alchemy: Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul, Stuart & Watkins (London, England), 1967, reprinted, Element (Shaftesbury, England), 1986.

Chartres und die Geburt der Kathedrale, Urs Graf (Olten, Switzerland), 1962, translated by William Stoddart as Chartres and the Birth of the Cathedral, World Wisdom (Bloomington, IN), 1996.

Sacred Art in East and West: Its Principles and Methods, translated from the French by Lord Northbourne, Perennial (London, England), 1967, new edition, Fons Vitae (Louisville, KY), 2001.

Die Maurische Kulture in Spanien, G. D. W. Callwey, (Munich, Germany), 1970, translated by Alisa Jaffa as Moorish Culture in Spain, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1972, revised edition, Fons Vitae (Louisville, KY), 1999.

Marokko, 1972.

(Translator into the French) Muhyi-din Ibn al-'Arab, La sagesse des prophètes, Albin Michel (Paris, France), 1974. (Translator into the French) 'Abd al-Karim ibn Ibrahim, De l'homme universel: extraits du livre al-Insân al-kâmil, Dervy (Paris, France), 1975.

Art of Islam: Language and Meaning, translated from the French by J. Peter Hobson, World of Islam Festival Publishing (London, England), 1976.

Principes et méthodes de l'art sacré, Dervy (Paris, France), 1976.

Symboles: Recueil d'essais, Arché (Milan, Italy), 1979.

Mirror of the Intellect: Essays on Traditional Science and Sacred Art, translated and edited by William Stoddart, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY), 1987, reprinted, Fons Vitae (Lexington, KY), 2001.

(Translator) Letters of a Sufi Master: The Shaykh ad-Darqawi, Fons Vitae (Louisville, KY), 1998.

Mystical Astrology according to Ibn 'Arabi, translated by Bulent Rauf, Beshara (Sherbourne, England), 1977, Fons Vitae (Louisville, KY), 1999.

William Stoddart, editor, The Essential Titus Burckhardt: Reflections on Sacred Art, Faiths, and Civilizations, World Wisdom (Bloomington, IN), 2003.

Author's works have been translated into several languages, including French.

SIDELIGHTS: Writing in both German and French, scholar Titus Burckhardt spent his lifetime studying and writing about the concept of "universal truth." Born the son of sculptor Carl Burckhardt and great-nephew of noted art historian Jacob Burckhardt, Burckhardt attended schools in Switzerland, then traveled to Morocco where he learned Arabic and studied Sufi texts and Islamic culture and history. He belonged to the traditionalist school of twentieth-century authors, both in a literary and philosophical sense.

For several years, Burckhardt worked as the artistic director at Urs Graf Verlag, a publishing house located in Switzerland. He was involved in making high-quality facsimiles of medieval manuscripts, including the Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow from Trinity College, Dublin, and the Book of Lindisfarne from the British Library. The work was groundbreaking and attracted the attention and admiration of both experts and the public alike. While he was working on this project, Burckhardt published several articles and books, which also received wide acclaim.

In his 1953 book, translated as An Introduction of Sufi Doctrine, Burckhardt examines esoterism, specifically Islamic esoterism or "Sufism," and concludes with a description of "spiritual alchemy." In the area of cosmology, Burckhardt's principal work is Alchemy: Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul, in which he described alchemy as the expression of spiritual psychology.

Sacred Art in East and West studies the metaphysics and aesthetics of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, and Islam, while Fez, City of Islam focuses on the heritage of Morocco. Considered one of his most important works, Fez, City of Islam took root when Burckhardt travelled to Morocco as a young man and became intimately familiar with the people and spiritual heritage of the Maghrib. Although he wrote of this formative period in his life, it was not until much later Burckhardt transformed these experiences and writings into book form.

Moorish Culture in Spain, which Burckhardt published in 1970, is similar in tone to Fez, City of Islam, yet introduces the concepts of romance, chivalry, and poetry. He studies the religious idealism that inspired the construction of medieval cathedrals in Chartres and the Birth of the Gothic Cathedral, which relates the different architectural styles of the French city's cathedrals to the intellectual and spiritual thinking of the time.

Art of Islam: Language and Meaning, Burckhardt's last major work, focuses on the spiritual role of Islamic art forms. The book won broad acclaim and stands as a great final achievement for a man who contributed significantly to the study of truth and traditionalism.



Sophia, Volume 5, number 2, Jean-Louise Michon, "Titus Burckhardt and the Sense of Beauty," pp. 113-140, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, "The Vision of Titus Ibrahim Burckhardt," pp. 141-154.


Center for Islam and Science Web site,http://www.cisca.org/ (February 20, 2004), "Sidi Ibrahim Titus Burckhardt."

Fons Vitae Publishing Web site,http://www.fonsvitae.com/ (February 20, 2004).

World Wisdom Books Web site,http://www.worldwisdom.com/ (September 16, 1997).*

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