State Sponsored Textile Workshops

It appears that in the mid-sixteenth century the Ottoman State, taking up a mercantilist approach, established workshops in Istanbul to weave silk fabric. These workshops, referred to as Kârhane-i Âmire (Imperial workshop) or Kârhane-i Hassa (royal workshop), are believed to have been located in Çarşıkapı, near the region of Beyazıt. The silk required by these workshops was brought from Bursa, and the warp and weft yarns were prepared there as well; only the weaving was actually done in Istanbul. Another related item, dating much later (H. 1293/AD 1876), a plan for a weaving workshop in Topkapı Palace, was also related to the above workshops. In this plan the workshop known as Kemhacılar Kârhanesi (brocade-makers) is depicted as being larger than the other workshop, the Kadifeciler (velvet makers) Kârhanesi. Moreover, the workshop constitutes an example of traditional weaving workshops with an embroiderer (nakışbent) room, silk storeroom and numerous rooms along a corridor in which workers were accommodated.

Wool and Silk Weaving Mill in the 18th Century

Some reforms were undertaken in the early eighteenth century, and a broadcloth mill was established in Istanbul in 1719 by the grand vizier to Ahmed III, Nevşehirli İbrahim Pasha. This move was taken in order to develop the textile industry, which had come to a standstill after the seventeenth century, but had declined in the face of competition with imported products.1 State Silk Fabric Textile Workshop (Mirî Hatâyî Kârhanesi) was added to the factory in 1721, with the aim of weaving silk. Forty weaving looms were ordered to complete the workshop for the ustabaşı (foreman) Yorgi of Sakız and the kalfa (supervisor) Manol. The number of looms reached 79 by 1725, and 400 arşın (between 60 and 70 cm) of hatâyî (floral design in Chinese art: i.e., flowers in profile) or 120 arşın of rich silk brocade (ağır diba) were woven per year.2

Although these factories were opened by the state, they were leased to private citizens to operate. Their account books have even survived until today. From these records, we can attain detailed information from topics, such as what types of weaving looms were used, what their capacities were, the production costs, the types of the tools used in the dyeing and finishing fabrics, the types of woven fabrics used, their costs and their selling prices. On the other hand, no information has yet been obtained in regards to how many years these factories operated, or why and when they ceased to operate.

The Beykoz Broadcloth Mill

1- Spinning factory (Yıldız Albums)

By the early nineteenth century, large industrial public enterprises were being maintained in order to meet the needs of the state. During the reign of Selim III, in 1805, one paper and a broadcloth factory were established in Beykoz.3 It can be understood that these factories did not stay open for long, and were later abandoned. In 1828, an attempt was made to revive the old broadcloth factory in Beykoz to weave the material for the winter uniforms of the newly established Asâkir-i Mansûre-i Muhammediye (the victorious army of Muhammad). Atıf Efendi, who was assigned to re-open and operate the factory, realized that some of the equipment had been lost and some were no longer functional. He stated that 20,000 zira (a zira is equal to 75-90 cm) of broadcloth could be woven per year if the existing twelve weaving looms could be repaired, and three more were added. Furthermore, he also said that a new factory would have to be built if there was an increase in demand.

Yanyalı Şakir Bey was appointed manager of the factory in Beykoz; he made an agreement with the Austrian Karlo to bring the necessary equipment for the factory. As a result, a şeytan dolabı (a type of wheel), which was used to comb the wool before spinning it, two spinning wheels, one for fine thread and one for thicker thread, and looms, as well as necessary tools began to be produced. Mechanization in weaving, brought about by the Industrial Revolution, had been completed by that date in various European countries, particularly in England. Now the three main steps of the weaving process; combing, spinning and weaving, were being performed with water or steam powered machines. Now the construction of the necessary machines had also been fabricated. It can be understood that the şeytan dolabı, built according to Karlo’s description, was an inferior type of combing machine; in addition, the spinning wheel was probably a manual spinning wheel of the Hargreaves type, the first example of spinning wheels.

It was estimated that 500,000 Turkish zira of broadcloth was needed annually to make the soldiers’ uniforms; however, it would be impossible to manufacture this amount of fabric with just the five weaving looms that were built that year. These looms could not produce more than 200,000 Turkish zira, even if an additional fifty to sixty handlooms were to be placed in the old, derelict paper mill. Initiatives were launched to establish a new broadcloth factory in the spring of 1832 in order to meet the deficit of 300,000 Turkish zira. Tenders were invited for this from Austria, England, Holland and France; ultimately France was chosen to provide the necessary tools and masters, as it had made the lowest bid. It was agreed that the new factory be constructed on an area that covered 10,000 Turkish zira in Beykoz, and the plans were prepared. Several attempts were made to find the financial support for this, but after some time the establishment of the factory was abandoned and broadcloth weaving was shifted to the Feshane.

İplikhane-i Âmire4

2- Feshane (Fez Factory) (Yıldız Albums)

The Evkaf-ı Hümayun Nezareti (Department of Imperial Foundations) was assigned with the task of establishing the İplikhane-i Âmire (spinning factory) in Istanbul in order to meet the naval demand for sailcloth, as well as to manufacture summer uniforms and undergarments for the newly-founded Asâkir-i Mansûre-i Muhammediye. During the era when el-Hac Yusuf Efendi was the superintendent (nazır) Necib Efendi prepared a feasibility report so that the treasury could meet the expenses. In this report, it was estimated that the factory would use 14 sets of yarn wheels with a capacity of spinning 15 vukiyye (kıyye/okka) cotton per day and 40 horses to operate the wheels to manufacture 63,000 vukiyye of thread per year; there would be a loss of 10% from a total of 69,300 vukiyye of cotton. One foreman would work with 106 laborers. In the report it was suggested that necessary wheels (looms) be built and the necessary cotton be provided. The construction of the factory began in H. 1242 (1826-1827), and was completed in January, 1828. It was located on the Hançerli Sultan and Çukur Saray plots in Bahariye on the Golden Horn in Eyüp; there was a courtyard in the middle, and it stood 350 meters in length.

Employing over a hundred workers, in the 1830s the factory came close to working at full capacity. A significant amount of sail cloth thread, as well as thread for undergarments, shirts and summer uniforms were manufactured here from Western Anatolian cotton. Although it profited in its early days, the factory lost importance due to the opening of new factories, such as Feshane and Hereke. It is believed that the factory was still operating in H. 1286 (1869-1870).

The Feshane-Defterdar Factory5

When the uniforms of the Asâkir-i Mansûre were changed, the fez was introduced; this headgear was first imported from Tunisia, Egypt and Europe. However, an initiative for the domestic production of the fez was launched, as it was now a part of the military uniform. It was thought that the continuous import of the fez was not suitable. Kâtibzade Mustafa Efendi of İzmir, who was known to be familiar with the production process, was assigned to be the superintendent responsible for manufacturing the fez.

The first fez production started in a fez factory established in Cündi Square in Kadırga, Istanbul. However, the production here failed to meet the needs of the military, and was costly; as a result, manufacturing began in Bursa, Edirne, and then later on in Thessalonica. However, the Tunisian fezzes were of superior quality, and other factories could not match them. Those made in Istanbul were particularly expensive. Due to this, and for other reasons, the fez department was abolished in 1830, and imported fezzes prevailed. Another solution was bringing foremen from Tunisia to bring the quality of local fezzes up to the level of Tunisian ones; as a result, twenty-four Tunisian fez foremen came to Istanbul in February of 1832.

Fifteen assistant foremen who had gained experience in fez production in Bursa were assigned to work with the Tunisian masters. However, curly wool of the kıvırcık sheep was used instead of merino fleece wool in manufacturing the fez. As the desired result could not be obtained, the import of merino fleece started. The fez dye pronkona grew in the vicinity of Kavala, Serez, Yanya and Delvine in Rumelia, and it was imported from these areas. Also, because the local cardoon was not deemed suitable for the tufting process, cardoon was imported from France. A brick fez factory was built on Kiraz Creek in İzmit for the washing process.

3- Feshane

After providing the necessary material to make Tunisian quality fezzes, and training assistant foremen, the fez factory in Cündi Square became inadequate in terms of production. Enlarging the building was initially considered, but after looking for a place that would be more cost-effective, it was decided that Beyhan Sultan Palace on Defterdar Pier was more suitable. The dyeing processes, which had previously been done in the Beykoz Paper Mill, could now be done in the new fez factory, as there was a large water tank and a spring from Kırkçeşme there.

The Tunisian foremen were sent back to their countries, and the fez factory was moved to its new building. After increasing the number of employees, production began. In the first six months, from May to November, 1833, 12,220 fezzes were produced; in the following six months, the number rose to 22,000 fezzes. 355 fezzes were produced per day in early 1835, 430 in early 1836 and 772 in early 1839. Meanwhile, fezzes made of domestic fleece were manufactured in Bursa and Edirne. The cost of the fez produced here was lower than those made in Istanbul, which were made from merino fleece. Also, pronkona was being used in Istanbul for the dyeing process, and this was more expensive than the red dye used in Edirne and Bursa.

Gabardine (aba: coarse woolen cloth) and carpets were also manufactured in the fez factory. Mules harnessed to cabinets were used for the washing (milling) process during this period, and about 40 mules were kept for this purpose. Feshane was converted into a modern weaving factory after being redesigned in 1843, becoming the core of the woven woolen industry in Turkey. Steam-powered spinning, weaving and finishing machinery were imported from England, France and Belgium, and the management was affiliated with the Imperial Mint. With the factory becoming steam-powered, the mules and horses that had been used to operate the machinery were sold.

Between 1848 and 1850, 30,000 meters of broadcloth and 400,000 fezzes were produced in Feshane, and shops were rented in Vezneciler, the Grand Bazaar, Tophane and Beşiktaş to sell the products. The operation of the factory was transferred to the Privy Purse (Hazine-i Hassa) in 1849. The entire factory, except for the steam chamber, burnt down in a fire in 1866 and Feshane-i Amire was equipped with the modern machinery after being rebuilt in the same place in 1868. In the early 1860s, the number of workers in the factory was about 200-250. In this period, 216,000 meters of fabric, primarily military, was produced annually, with about 1,300-1,500 fezzes being produced daily.

The factory was renovated in 1894, and again in 1916. The 1894 expansion and renovation was carried out by the architect Krikor Balyan, and the factory consisted of pavilions made in late empire style. The machine brands appear to have been John Haigh and Sons Ltd. - Huddersfield 1893 and Kaye Crowter-Huddersfield as read in photographs from the 1890s. Feshane was the largest enterprise of the Turkish weaving industry and in 1917 it provided half entire weaving production, with the Hereke Factory supplying the rest. Although the factory was steam-powered at first, in 1915, immediately following the establishment of the Silahtarağa Power Plant, nineteen more electric motors, with 650- horse power, were added.

An industrial elementary school (Sanayi Sıbyan Mektebi) was established in 1895 in order to train apprentices and labourers for the Feshane. The students of the school simultaneously went to classes in the school and were apprenticed in the factory.

Being put under the auspices of the Ministry of War in 1877, the factory was then operated under the order of General Military Munitions (Levazımat-ı Umumiye-i Askeriye) until 1921. Immediately after the proclamation of the Republic in 1925, management was taken from the military and transferred to the Industry and Mines Bank (Sanayi ve Maadin Bankası); the Feshane began to be run by an affiliate of the bank, Feshane Mensucat (textile) T.A.Ş. (Co. Inc.), at an annual rent of 75,000 lira. After the liquidation of this company in 1937, the Feshane was transferred to Sümerbank, and the factory began operating as Birleşik Yün İpliği ve Yünlü Mensucat Fabrikaları T.A.Ş. (United Wool Yarn and Woolen Textile Factories Co.Inc.). The factory became affiliated with Sümerbank İplik ve Dokuma Fabrikaları Müessesesi (Sümerbank Spinning and Weaving Mills Corporation) in the same year, and became the Sümerbank Defterdar Mensucat Fabrikası (textile factory). There was a large fire at the factory on December 30 of 1949, but following repairs, it was reopened on January 2, 1950. The factory was eventually demolished in 1986, and the garment section was moved to the Bakırköy Factory, which had been created within the rearrangements of the area around the Golden Horn by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

1,290,708 meters of a variety of woolen raw fabric was woven in the factory – which had operated with 156 weaving looms, 65 officers, and 1,273 workers in 1985. 1,394,272 meters of fabric with chemical finishing, 242,070 units of various flags, 92,994 units of blankets and 106,000 kilos of industrial soap were produced. In addition, a variety of apparel products were also manufactured.

In the central workshops of Sümerbank Defterdar Yünlü Sanayi Müessesesi, spare parts and various machine parts were produced both for this factory and other Sümerbank factories. Examples of these are a sheep wool dye tank, a wool drying pan stove, card clothing, carding engine and a fixed spinning machine. The fixed spinning machine was of an original design, and was manufactured with 216 spindles; this was especially made for a factory to be built in Diyarbakır. In this machine, the spindle bank was fixed, but the ring bank was mobile.

The technical staff of the Defterdar Factory issued Feshane-Aylık Mensucat Meslek Dergisi (monthly journal of textile crafts) from 1 July 1948. After the fourth volume, the journal, the franchise of which was owned by Ömer Lütfi Sugan and the chairman was Sedat Saip Altuğ, became the Mensucat Meslek Dergisi. This is the first textile magazine to be published in Turkey that had a technical aspect; it continued to be published for nearly 30 years.

The Hereke Imperial Factory

Although the Hereke Fabrika-yı Hümayunu (Imperial Factory) technically was a factory outside the city limits of Istanbul, it should be considered within the scope of Istanbul since it manufactured according to the needs of the imperial family and ruling elite.

During the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid, Ohannes and Boğos Dadyan undertook the construction of İzmit Çuha Fabrikası (Broadcloth Factory); with the profit they earned, they set out to open a factory on their own behalf in Hereke which they deemed a suitable location. Garabet Balyan was the architect of the first factory building which is no longer standing today. The factory started production in 1843 with fifty cotton and twenty-five silk taffeta weaving looms. In 1845, the government purchased it, and then made it the property of the Privy Purse (Hazine-i Hassa Nezareti)

The cotton looms in Hereke were moved to the factory, which was established in Bakırköy in 1850. In return, one hundred jacquard looms were set up in order to weave silk taffeta and upholstery for the palace. The Hereke Factory opened a company store in 1875 in the Grand Bazaar to sell its products in Istanbul. It was anticipated that the factory would manufacture made-to-order as well as factory sales, but the Privy Purse raised difficulties, claiming that the orders could only be manufactured with its own approval. It was stated that all the customer requests “should be forwarded to the aforementioned department via petition and those found appropriate would be manufactured with the consent granted by the department”. Being unable to operate due to these bureaucratic difficulties, the store was unable to operate anymore, and was closed down in 1875.

4- Feriköy Fez Factory (<em>Malumat</em>)

The Hereke Factory burnt down in 1878, and all production was halted while it was being rebuilt. It continued operations in 1882 after the repairs were completed. A company store was reopened in 1889 on Zaptiye Street with the aim of giving the factory a commercial nature. The store carried on operations until 1925. The preparations for carpet manufacturing began when craftsmen were brought from Manisa and Sivas in 1890. Production started in 1891. In 1902 the “Broadcloth, Kersey (şayak) and Yarn (iplik)” section was introduced with 20 looms, and in 1905, wool began to be woven. In 1908, fez production began.

The Hereke Factory made a name for itself both at home and abroad with its quality products. It participated in exhibitions both inside and outside Turkey, and its products also received awards.

The General Military Munitions Cloth Factory (Levazımat-ı Umumiye-i Askeriye Bez Fabrikası)

This cloth factory was established as a private initiative by Barutçubaşı Ohannes in Makriköy (Bakırköy) as the Basmahane (calico-house).6 The stone building, situated on the coast, was established in order to make calico prints with boxwood molds. Various calico print patterns were imported from England, and the designs were transferred to boxwood molds in Istanbul. Unique Turkish and Arab motifs were used later on, and these, and the harmony in color composition, increased the Basmahane’s reputation. However, after ten years, the Basmahane was unable to continue its operations due to lack of sponsorship and rivalry with Europe. Transferred to the Privy Purse in 1860, the factory worked under this authority for six years, at which point it was transferred to the Department of Military Munitions under the Ministry of War (Harbiye Nezareti Levazımat-ı Askeriye Dairesi) in 1867 to weave military uniforms and fabrics to meet the needs of the army. Captain of the Hassa Army (Hassa Yüzbaşı) Hurşid Agha served as the first manager of the factory for fourteen years, and during his management, annexes, bachelor rooms for the workers and a mosque were built. Seriously damaged in the earthquake of 1894, the factory was repaired and reopened in October of the same year.

Around 1900, a handloom section was opened in the factory, and towels, loin cloth (peştemal), cloths, sofa covers, drapery and the like were woven here. Exhibitions were held to sell these products to the public on Thursdays in the single story buildings next to the factory’s main entrance. An exhibition was also held in the courtyard of Beyazıt Mosque during the month of Ramadan.

Nuh Bilal Efendi of Bursa, who had previously been the foreman of these handlooms, was later appointed as foreman of the factory. With a handloom he developed during the First World War, he manufactured rifle straps which were of the same quality of the German ones. The handlooms operated until 1923, but in 1924 these were eliminated. In 1928, forty handlooms were re-opened to weave belts for military factories, and seamless money sacks for the Royal Mint. The handlooms were eliminated in 1933. The first female workers started to work in the factory during World War I. The factory came under the control of the Askerî Fabrikalar Umum Müdürlüğü (general directorate of military factories) in 1921; it had been open for 51 years without any annexes being built or renovations carried out. Followed by three years repair and renovations, the factory was reopened for operation on September 15, 1924. Until this date, the factory was capable of manufacturing only 200 kilos of thread and 1,000 meters of cloth per day by working ten hours a day, the amount of cloth woven increased to 2,000 meters per day after the factory was equipped with combs, drawing, 3,200 spindle rings, warping and sizing machines. In the period from 1926 to 1927, electricity was introduced to the factory, and the use of the Magdeburger Machinen Fabrik horizontal steam engine, which had been used since 1852, was terminated. An independent weaving workshop with sixty simple looms operating with separate engines was established in 1931, and repairs were carried out to the carding machines; the preparation section was expanded by importing a group of Asa Lees blowing and carding machines and fly frames.

5- Beykoz paper factory

Transferred to the Bank of Industry and Mines (Sanayi ve Maadin Bankası) in 1925, the factory was first affiliated with the Sanayi Ofisi (office of industry) in 1932. After a five-month period, it was then affiliated with the newly-established Sümerbank in 1933; the factory now had 3,200 spindles, sixty weaving looms and 369 workers. The capacity was increased in 1934 after renovations and expansion activities. With the addition of sixty-five looms in 1968, the factory also fulfilled the requirements of the Ministry of Defense, and the bulk of its sales were to this ministry; in addition, the factory produced calico, flannel, muslin, awning fabrics and raw cloth as Sümerbank Bakırköy Cotton Industry Corporation. Today, this factory is known to the locals as Basmahane.


Although attempts at paper production were made at several intervals in the Ottoman period, these were all short-lived and they could not be maintained due to both the insufficient level of demand and the inability to compete with the imported paper from Europe. Paper imported from the East and the West were available on the market. The papers imported from the East in the sixteenth century were generally named according to their origin and features like haşebî (made of dry wood), dımışkî (Damascene), semerkandî (Samarkandish), harirî semerkandî (silken Samarkandish), sultanî semerkandî (sultanic Semerkandish) and hindî (Indian). The price of paper in the market was given per one sheet of paper and for 24 sheets of paper. Paper was classified according to quality as “very good” or “medium”, and according to the size, as large, medium and small. It was known that the price of paper was usually high. For example, based on the fact that a package of European paper in 1600 cost 8 akçes, a package of Istanbul paper was 24 akçes; the daily wage of a worker during the same time period was 10-12 akçes, and one sheep cost 70-80 akçes. Thus, it can be calculated that with his two-day wage a worker could either choose to buy a package of Istanbul paper and three packages of European paper, or a sheep for the price of four packages of Istanbul paper and ten packages of European paper. These prices increased 150 % from 1600 to 1640.

The Istanbul Paper Factory

It can be ascertained that a paper mill from the Byzantine Period existed in the Kağıthane village at the time of the conquest of Constantinople, as the name suggests (kağıt is the Turkish word for paper).7 The fact that İstanbolî kâğıd is mentioned in a waqf deed from Bayezid II dated 911 (1505-15-6) establishes that the paper mill was operational during that time. Evliya Çelebi also mentions the existence of a paper mill in Kağıthane in his Seyahatname. Although it is known that this paper mill was in operation in the early 1500s, it is not known when it ceased to function. There were attempts to reopen this paper mill, which became derelict later on, under the management of Mehmed Emin Behiç Efendi, during the reign of Selim III (1789-1807). After a 1,500 purses of loss (each purse contains 500 guruş), the factory ceased production.

The Yalova Paper Factory

The founder of the first Turkish printing press, İbrahim Müteferrika, attempted to establish a paper mill to supply paper to the printing press.8 A Jewish man named Arslan of Khotin was sent to Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth for this purpose and he brought three paper masters from Poland to Istanbul. According to an annual contract made between the Polish masters and İbrahim Müteferrika the tools of the paper mill were to be manufactured by these foremen, and the necessary equipment was to be provided by the government. These foremen, who were to be very well-paid for the period, were to teach papermaking to the assistants. With the help of these Polish foremen, a bronze mortar paper mill was established on Hark Creek next to Saruhanlı [Elmalı] Village in Yalova [Yalakabad]. Starting operations in 1744, this paper mill manufactured similar watermarks to European watermarks featuring a lion that was very popular then. It is known that a second water wheel was added to the paper mill in 1745. The villagers of Saruhanlı were exempt from tax as they were assigned the task of repairing and protecting the water network. Printing his last book in 1742, İbrahim Müteferrika was unable to make use of the paper from this paper mill. No information is available on whether or not this paper mill continued to operate after 1760.

The Hünkar İskelesi (Beykoz) Paper Mill

Selim III made efforts to build a paper mill near the Değirmen Ocağı next to the Hünkar Pier in Beykoz.9 A bakery and a grocery were opened here for the workers, and a dilapidated masjid was restored. Papermaking in this mill, which was managed by the Darphane-i Âmire, started in March, 1805. Selim III visited the paper mill on 28 October, 1805. In addition to the constant change of managers, there were also difficulties in the provision of rags used as raw material, as well as provision of leather shreds that were used in the production of animal glue from the tanners. It is known that the expensive paper manufactured by this mill could only be sold to the government, and it ceased operations in April 1832 as a result of failing to compete with the mechanized papermaking from Europe. It may have continued operation for some time, however, at an insignificant level. Nonetheless, this was the long-lasting paper mill amongst the ones founded in the Ottoman period. At least five, and at most forty-one, workers worked in this paper mill, and the average number of employees at any single time was twenty-eight. All the paper produced by the Hünkar Pier Paper Mill had a unique watermark.

The Hamidiye Paper Factory

On September 6, in 1886, Abdulhamid II’s serkarîn (chamberlain) Osman Bey was given the privilege of establishing a paper factory under the name of Hamidiye Paper Factory for a four-year period; he was able to monopolize papermaking in the Ottoman State for fifty years, and to be exempt from customs.10 Osman Bey established a company with 300,000 Ottoman gold coins. After finding British shareholders, the company’s became known as The Ottoman Paper Manufacturing Co. Ltd. In English, while the Turkish name was Hamidiye Kâğıt Fabrikası Şirketi. The company was registered on June 10, 1980 and had two administrative councils - one in Istanbul and one in London. The head of the administrative council and the proprietor in Istanbul was Leonidas Zarifi.

A plot of forty-two acres was purchased from Osman Bey’s son Ali Cevad Bey in Beykoz for the factory, which was to be designed to manufacture paper from rags and straw cellulose; the construction began on June 19, 1890. The interior equipment and four paper making machines were ordered from Masson Scott and Co. in England. The money could not be paid to the company as the necessary capital could not be raised from the equity sales; thus it was agreed that the company would run the factory on its own account for six months. The factory began manufacturing on January 22, 1893 and as no debt could be paid in the following six months, the case was passed to the courts. The court transferred the ownership of the factory to Masson Scott Company. Since Masson Scott was a manufacturer of papermaking machinery, they did not run the factory and let it stay inactive so as not to compete with their own paper-manufacturing customers. Thus, the factory could be run for only six months. The company put the factory up for sale in 1912, and it was sold to the Hamidiye Paper Factory Company. Experts were brought from England to reopen the factory, and the necessary operations started. The operations ceased with the outbreak of World War I, and the factory was abandoned. In 1915, the Germans took the machinery in the factory, stating that they needed the iron and steel. Thus, a factory that could have been a rival to their own paper industry in the future was dismantled.


Glassmaking in Istanbul in the Ottoman Period

During the Ottoman Period Istanbul was the center of glass-making. As glassmaking was not a prominent activity during the Seljuk period, it can be said that the glassmaking tradition in Istanbul was a continuation of Byzantine glasswork.11 The most appropriate, fine white sand for glassmaking was extracted from Kumboğazı, which was “seven stations” away from Yedikule. Glass and bottle artisans were organized as guilds, and the prices of their goods were regulated by the state. In addition to these guilds, there were some state-owned businesses that also directly fulfilled the glass requirements of the palace.

Glass products can be classified in four groups: 1) luxury items (e.g. vases, bowls, lamps, cups and sugar bowls), 2) products for daily life (bottles, water containers, lamps, mirrors, oil lamps and the like); 3) products for military purposes (glass bombs, navy torches and the like), and 4) architectural products (decorated or stained glass, window glass, bath domes and the like). Some measures were taken by the state to ameliorate the timber shortage which glassmakers experienced and to ensure that the sale of broken glass, known as maya (cullet), solely to business owners. As a precaution against fire, during the reign of Mustafa III (1757- 1774) all glassmaking businesses were gathered around Tekfur Palace and Eğrikapı.12 It is also known that in addition to the production of glass in Istanbul, a variety of glassware was imported from Venice to Istanbul in the sixteenth century.13

6- A jar and a bowl produced in Beykoz (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality City Museum)

7- Glasses produced at Beykoz glass factory (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality
    City Museum)

In Surname-i Humayun that depicts the royal circumcision ceremony organized in 1582 by Sultan Murad III (1578-1595) for his son Mehmed, there are two miniatures relating to the parade of the Camgerân (glass makers) and the guild of decorated glass makers. The depiction of the glass furnace in the first of these miniatures is the only official document relating to glass furnaces in the Ottoman period.

8- Walking sticks, Beykoz (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality City Museum)

The lower section of the glass furnace, which functioned as the melting end, was made a little wider, forming a working area around the furnace; this was not a feature found on the furnaces used in Europe at that period of time. Six apertures for putting wood in the furnace are depicted here. In the second section of the furnace, where the sand is melted, there are six furnace apertures with iron lids. The furnace aperture with an iron lid in Ottoman glassmaking furnaces was a superior feature, unparalleled by European furnace builders, who used bricks to close the furnaces. The domed section on top of the furnace (the crown), which was used for the annealing and cooling processes, was surrounded by six of these lidded apertures.14

Describing a parade of artisans, which took place during the reign of Murad IV, Evliya Çelebi recorded the names and details of glassmakers in Istanbul. In addition to these, the Miri Şîşehâne and Boyahane (State-Owned Bottle Factory and Dye Factory) and the Camcıbaşı Kârhanesi (Master Glassmaker’s Studio) also employed 70 workers.15

Table 1- Evliya Çelebi’s Account of Employees Involved in Glass-Making

Esnaf-ı şîşeciyân (Glassmakers)

kârhâne (studio)


neferât (staff)


Esnaf-ı tacirân-ı şîşe (Glass Sellers )



neferât (staff)


Esnaf-ı âyîneciyân (Mirror Makers)



neferât (staff)


Esnaf-ı camciyân (Glaziers)



neferât (staff)





Glass Prices in Istanbul in the 17th Century

The Es’âr Narh register, a document that states the officially fixed prices of certain goods prepared in the mid-seventeenth century, provides detailed information about the types and prices of glassware sold in Istanbul during that period. Here, crystal refers to flint glass and glass refers to ordinary glass. The main types of glassware that were on the market can be grouped into bottles, utensils, flower pots, lamps and lanterns, mirrors and window glass.16

9- Beykoz glasses (Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality City Museum)

The method developed for the production of window glass, which was rare among the Ottomans, as well as among the Europeans, due to the high cost, was based on inflating and shaping a large gob of molten glass, which was then put on the end of a blowing pipe; the bottom of the resulting balloon was cut out, and the remaining part flattened ​​by pressing it on a flat metal plate. In this way, a sheet of up to 120 cm in diameter could be obtained with a protrusion (bull’s eye) in the middle, caused by the blowing pipe. This sheet was then cut into rectangular pieces. This method was expensive, incurring a great deal of waste, but it did allow for the production of small glass sheets. Later, a casting method was developed to produce glass sheets; however, the date and inventor of this method is unknown. In this method, molten glass was poured onto a metal sheet and the upper surface was flattened with the aid of a metal cylinder. The sheet was then cooled in the annealing oven.17 Following the development of this method, in the eighteenth century large, flat, and colorless glass without air bubbles started to be produced; this superseded the older type of window glass. Although this method was much cheaper compared to the older method, the glass sheets obtained by this new method were still relatively expensive. Flat glass was embraced quickly in the Ottoman Empire, and in the eighteenth century buildings with large windows began to be built. As pointed out by Evliya Çelebi, the use of window glass in houses, just like roofs covered with tiles, was perceived as a sign of wealth.

Beykoz Work Glass

Although there is a rumor that the Mevlevi dervish Selim Mehmed Dede learned how to produce opal glass in Venice and that he started up a workshop in the İncir Village of Çubuklu, near Beykoz, producing Beykoz işi (Beykoz work) and çeşm-i bülbül (nightingale eye) glasswork here, there is no detailed information about such a place. However it is known that in 1843 a glass factory was located in this location. In 1846, towards the middle of the nineteenth century, Mustafa Nuri Pasha, the governor of Bursa, built the Cam ve Billûr Fabrika (Glass and Crystal Factory) in Paşabahçe and brought in craftsmen from Europe. This factory was then taken over by the state and the head of the Imperial Mint, Tahir Efendi, was appointed to oversee it. It can be understood from surviving documents that this factory functioned for at least ten years, but when it was closed down is unknown. In 1899, a Jewish businessman established a glass factory in Paşabahçe known as Fabrico Vetrani di D. Modiano Constantinopoli, which in 1902 employed 500 people.18 Attempts to start up glass-making enterprises in the nineteenth century resulted in failure and could not be maintained. Following the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, the tradition of glass factories on the Asian side of the Bosphorus was kept alive until recently by Türkiye Şişe ve Cam Fabrikaları A.Ş. (Bottle and Glass Factories Corporation), established on February 17, 1934.


1 Adnan Giz, “1719 Yılında İstanbul’da Bir Dokuma Fabrikasının Defteri”, Istanbul Chamber of Industry Journal, 1968, vol. 3, no. 30, pp. 17-19.

2 Adnan Giz, “1721 Yılında Bir İpekli Dokuma Fabrikasının Kuruluşu”, Istanbul Chamber of Industry Journal, 1968, vol. 3, no. 31, pp. 22-23.

3 Adnan Giz, “İstanbul’da İlk Sınaî Tesislerin Kuruluş Yılı: 1805”, Istanbul Chamber of Industry Journal, 1968, vol. 2, no. 23, pp. 25-26; Mübahat Kütükoğlu, “Asâkir-i Mansûre-i Muhammediyye Kıyâfeti ve Malzemesinin Temini Meselesi”, Doğumunun 100. Yılında Atatürk’e Armağan, Istanbul: İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi, 1981, pp. 545-548.

4 Nazif Öztürk, “XIX. Yüzyılda Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nda Sanayileşme ve 1827’de Kurulan Vakıf İplik Fabrikası”, VD, 1990, no. 21, pp. 23-80.

5 Ömer Alageyik, “Türkiye’de Mensucat Sanayiinin Tarihçesi”, Istanbul Chamber of Industry Journal, (1967), vol. 2, no. 16, pp. 9-11; K. Apak - C. Aydınelli and M. Akın, Türkiye’de Devlet Sanayi ve Maadin İşletmeleri, İzmit Selüloz Basımevi, 1952, pp. 175-176; Cumhuriyet’in 50. Yılında Sümerbank: 1933 – 1973, Ankara: Tisa Matbaacılık, 1973, pp. 113-117; Emre Dölen, Tekstil Tarihi, Istanbul: Marmara Üniversitesi Teknik Eğitim Fakültesi, 1992, pp. 404-412; H. Koray, “Feshane (Defterdar) mizin Kısa Bir Tarihçesi”, Feshane (Mensucat Meslek Dergisi), 1948, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 2-3; Kütükoğlu, “Asâkir-i Mansûre”, pp. 571-590; Önder Küçükerman, “Feshane” Defterdar Fabrikası, Istanbul: Sümerbank Kültür Yayınları, 1988.

6 Ömer Alageyik, “Bakırköy Bez Fabrikasının Kısa Tarihçesi”, Feshane (Mensucat Meslek Dergisi), 1948, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 18-19; Apak - Aydınelli and Akın, Türkiye’de Devlet Sanayi ve Maadin İşletmeleri, pp. 187-189; Cumhuriyet’in 50. Yılında Sümerbank, pp. 27-30; Dölen, Tekstil Tarihi, pp. 419-421.

7 Osman Ersoy, XVIII. ve XIX. Yüzyıllarda Türkiye’de Kâğıt, Ankara: Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih Coğrafya Fakültesi, 1963, pp. 28-30; İsmail Güleç, “Osmanlılarda Kâğıt ve Kâğıtçılık”, Müteferrika, 1994, no. 1, p. 86; Mehmed Ali Kâğıtçı, Kâğıtçılık Tarihçesi, Istanbul: Kader Matbaası, 1936, pp. 208-212.

8 Ersoy, Türkiye’de Kâğıt, pp. 30-36; Güleç, “Osmanlılarda Kâğıt ve Kâğıtçılık”, pp. 86-87; Kâğıtçı, Kâğıtçılık Tarihçesi, pp. 214-220.

9 Ersoy, Türkiye’de Kâğıt, pp. 36-48; Güleç, “Osmanlılarda Kâğıt ve Kâğıtçılık”, pp. 87-88; Kâğıtçı, Kâğıtçılık Tarihçesi, p. 220.

10 Ersoy, Türkiye’de Kâğıt, pp. 51-53; Güleç, “Osmanlılarda Kâğıt ve Kâğıtçılık”, p. 89; Kâğıtçı, Kâğıtçılık Tarihçesi, pp. 227-235.

11 Semavi Eyice, “La en Turquie à l’époque de l’époque byzantine anglaise”, Annales du 4me Congrés des Journées Internationales du Verre, Liége: International association for the history of glass 1969, pp.162-182; Gönül Öney, “12-13. Yüzyıl Anadolu’da Cam İşçiliğinde Kadeh”, I. Uluslararası Anadolu Cam Sanatı Sempozyumu, 26-27 Nisan 1988 = 1st International Anatolian Glass Art Symposium (April 26-27, 1988), Istanbul: TŞCFAŞ Belge ve Bilgi Merkezi, 1990, pp. 64-69.

12 W.E. S. Turner, “Glass Making in Turkey”, Journal of the Society of Glass Technology, 1950, vol. 34, pp. 91-95.

13 Nedret Bayraktar, Istanbul Cam ve Porselenleri, Istanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 1982, pp. 20-23.

14 Emre Dölen, “XVI. Yüzyılda Osmanlı Cam Fırınları”, II. Uluslararası Türk ve İslam Bilim ve Teknoloji Tarihi Kongresi, 28 Nisan-2 Mayıs 1986: bildiriler = 2nd International Congress of the Turkish-Islamic History of Science and Technology, April 28-May 2, 1986, Proceedings, Istanbul: İstanbul Teknik Üniversitesi İnşaat Fakültesi Matbaası, 1986, v. 1, pp. 239-249.

15 Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatname, ed. Orhan Saik Gokyay, Istanbul: Yapı ve Kredi Bankası, 1995, vol. 1, p. 288

16 S. Mübahat Kütükoğlu, Osmanlılarda Narh Müessesesi ve 1640 Tarihli Narh Defteri, İstanbul: Enderun Kitabevi, 1983, pp. 204-206.

17 T. K. Derry and Trevor Williams, A Short History of Technology, Oxford: Dover Publications, 1960, pp. 593-596.

18 Fuat Bayramoğlu, Türk Cam Sanatı ve Beykoz İşleri, Istanbul: İş Bankası Kültür Yayınları, 1974, pp. 19-24.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.

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