An Overview of the History of Newspapers and Journals

It is interesting that the first newspapers were published in İzmir rather than Istanbul, even though the latter was the capital. The first newspapers Istanbul became familiar with were brochures which looked like mercantile newsletters. Some examples are Le Bulletin de Nouvelles (September 1795-March 1796) and La Gazette Française de Constantinople (September 1796-May 1797) and Mercure Oriental (May-July 1797); these were all published by the French embassy in Pera.1 The main purpose of these French newspapers was to introduce the French Revolution to French citizens living in Istanbul and help them embrace the revolutionary ideas. They were not interested in the Ottoman territory, nor did the Ottoman Empire take an interest in them. However, the fact that the embassy stopped publishing the papers when France attacked Egypt demonstrates their real intentions.

The French journalism which started in Istanbul lost its power and effectiveness from time to time, but maintained its existence until the formation of the Turkish Republic. Journal de Constantinople et des intérêts Orientaux (1843), Le Courrier de Constantinople (1845), Journal de Constantinople Echo de l’Orient (1861), The Levant Herald and Eastern Express (1856), published in both French and English, Courrier d’Orient (1861), La Turquie (1866), Le Phare du Bosphore (1866), The Levant Time and Shipping (1868), the political and literary newspaper Stamboul (1875), the satirical newspaper l’Événement (1876), Journal de Constantinople and La Revue Orientale (1885) were the main French periodicals of a certain period. The fact that they were all created after the 1838 Ticaret Antlaşması (commercial treaty) shows that foreign citizens gave importance to publications which would defend and protect their rights as their interests in the Ottoman territory grew. Lloyd Ottoman (1908), Aurore (1908), Le Bosphore, Le Destour, Jeune Turc (1909), La Patrie, La Constitution and La Liberté, as well as many other journals were published after the Second Constitution (İkinci Meşrutiyet). In addition, even periodicals such as Kalem and Cem published by Turks were printed in a mixed format of Turkish and French.

1- Newspaper of <em>Takvim-i Vekayi</em> in bound form

The first local group to publish a newspaper in the Ottoman State was the Armenians. The first Armenian newspaper was Lirakir, issued in early 1832, and it was the Armenian translation of Takvîm-i Vekâyi (Calendar of Events), which is discussed below. It has been estimated that there were 414 Armenian periodicals published in Istanbul until the proclamation of the Turkish Republic. Even though there were newspapers published in Anatolia long before this time, the first Greek periodical published in Istanbul was the magazine İ Melisa tu Vosporu (The Bee of the Bosphorus) in 1833. In 1843, ten years after the city saw its first magazine, Konstantin Adosidis published the first Greek newspaper, Tilegrafos tu Vosporu (The Bosphorus Telegraph).2 After publishing Vekâyi-i Mısriyye and Takvîm-i Vekâyi and becoming the head of Arabic publications at the Ottoman printing house, Ahmed Faris Efendi3 (d. 1887) published el-Cevâib in Arabic, thus becoming the interpreter of the Arab world in Istanbul. Faris Efendi published the novel Taaşşuk-ı Tal’at ve Fıtnat, written by Sami Bey (d. 1904), thus introducing a copyrighted novel to the masses. Afterwards, Sami Bey would thank him in an article entitled Faris eş-Şidyâk, included in his work Kâmûsü’l-a‘lâm. Published in Persian, Ahter would be the voice of intellectuals who had escaped the Qajar despots. It did not take long for English, German, Arabic, Bulgarian, and Ladino periodical publications to emerge.

2- Newspaper of <em>Tasvir-i Efkar</em>

3- Newspaper of <em>Tercüman-ı Ahval</em>

The realization that there was a need for the state to publish a newspaper that would act as the official mouthpiece for the government led to the publication of Takvîm-i Vekâyi on November 1, 1831. The French version, called Le Moniteur Ottoman, was published on November 5, the Greek version on January 5, 1832, the Armenian version on January 13 and the Arabic and Persian versions in April of the same year; all these newspapers expressed the interests of the state. Edward Blacque was called to Istanbul to work on the publication of Le Moniteur Ottoman while working at Le Spectateur Oriental and Le Courrier de Smyrne in İzmir. Blacque was sincere in his attempts to introduce the Ottoman State to the Western world, and the fact that he was chosen illustrates that the government was serious about the publication of the official newspaper. The versions of the paper that were translated into foreign languages were not exact translations from the Turkish edition, rather they were arranged according to the interests of readers of that particular language.4 In this way, it was rendered possible to strengthen the relationship between the state and minorities in Istanbul and to have them informed by the former itself.

Kavalalı Mehmed Ali Pasha forced people in Cairo that earned more than 1,000 kuruş to subscribe to Vekâyi-i Mısriyye. Following that 3,000 people were forced to subscribe to Takvîm-i Vekâyi. However there is no record indicating that Takvîm-i Vekâyi was overtly sold in Istanbul. Nonetheless it stands out that there were many articles directly concerned with people living in Istanbul in the umûr-ı dâhiliyye (internal affairs), mâlûmât-ı mütenevvia (useful information) and personal advertisement sections of the paper. However, the paper was unable to meet the needs of those living in Istanbul, not only because it was not printed regularly, but also because it consisted of official announcements, notices and advertisements rather than newspaper reporting. In contrast, Cerîde-i Havâdis (The Paper of News), the second newspaper to be printed in Turkish in Istanbul, was published by William Churchill on August 1, 1840; after overcoming a number of obstacles, this paper managed to reach readers. It became the sole source of news for people who wanted to learn immediately about what was happening during the Crimean War. As the newspaper wanted to pass the news “fresh” it began to publish a supplementary, called Rûznâme-i Cerîde-i Havâdis, to its twice or three times per week issues. Even though the name Rûzname suggests that the supplemtary came out daily, it was printed only on the days the main paper was not published. It was not issued on Fridays either. Those who wanted to follow events in Europe preferred Churchill’s paper because of his connections with England.

A strong rival to Cerîde-i Havâdis was created by Şinasi Efendi (d. 1871), a member of the Meclis-i Maarif (educational council), and Çapanzade Âgâh Efendi (d. 1887) on October 21 1860, named Tercümân-ı Ahvâl. This newspaper was not the first private paper from the Ottoman press; private printing had started long before among non-Muslim citizens. Nor was it the first private newspaper for Ottoman Muslims; since the first periodical that fits this criterion was Mir’âtü’l-ahvâl, published by the Syrian poet Rızkullah Hasun in 1855. However, the publication of this journal was banned by the state a year after it started being published. Therefore, it would be more accurate to assert that Tercümân-ı Ahvâl was the first private newspaper printed by the Ottoman Turks. Even though the paper was published using a small hand-press in Bahçekapısı and was at first printed only on Sundays, it managed to create new publishing ideas that changed the whole understanding of journalism at that time. Şinasi left Tercümân-ı Ahvâl after the 24th issue, and he set up a new paper, Tasvîr-i Efkâr, which adopted the same approach as Şinasi’s earlier paper. The number of letters on the case rack was dropped to 120 blocks by Ohannes Mühendisyan, who used as template the nesih calligraphy style letters prepared by the famous calligrapher Mustafa İzzet Efendi (d.1864). This helped the paper to be printed faster; other newspapers would follow in employing this useful and practical method.5 Even though it was sold at the high price of 60 liras, the first edition, consisting of 1,500 copies, sold out on its initial publication; the fact that the number of copies rose to 10,000 during the times Namık Kemal managed the paper proves that this publication set a record under the contemporary conditions.6

It can be noted that many Turkish publications written in the Armenian and Greek alphabets have been overlooked in references to the first Turkish periodicals. Yet, there are many publications written in Karamanlides Turkish that await our attention; the first of these is the newspaper Anatoli, published by Evangelinos Misailidis in İzmir. This paper was relocated to Istanbul in 1851 and Evangelions Misailidis continued to manage it for another 40 years, until his death in 1890. At the same time, many Turkish periodicals written in the Armenian alphabet, including Mecmûa-i Havâdis and Cerîde-i Şarkıyye, belonging to Vartan Pasha (d. 1879), need to be examined. Furthermore, the efforts of many Greek and Armenian entrepreneurs in the development of Turkish alphabet periodicals should not be overlooked. Non-Muslims who were the owners, managers or journalists for Turkish periodicals set an example not only in the development of the Turkish press, but also that of Turkish authors as well. Just to trace the services of Theodor Kasap (Theodoros Kasapis, d. 1905) or Filip Efendi alone gives an idea about the role of minorities in the training of many important names in our journalistic history.

These first newspapers were followed by many other papers published in succession. When the Meşrutiyet (constitutional monarchy) was declared in 1876, forty-seven newspapers were being issued in Istanbul, thirteen in Turkish. Of the remaining, nine were in Greek, nine in Armenian, seven in French, three in Bulgarian, two in Ladino, two in English, one in Arabic and one in German. Looking at these figures, one should be mistaken to presume only 13 Turkish papers were published over 45 years. Some papers were shut down due to lack of funds, while others were banned or censored; these facts should also be taken into account. While there was a flourishing in journalism under the conditions of the constitutional period, it did not last long. By the time of the Second Constitution, 1908, there was only four daily newspapers that managed to survive. However, this would, after all, become the golden age of periodicals.

It is possible to consider the start of Turkish periodicals as having begun with the publication of the first issue of Mecmûa-i Havâdis, whose first issue was published in October, 1852 by Vartan Pasha. The journal used the Armenian alphabet. However, the first magazine published in the Turkish alphabet was published 10 years later, in July 1862. It was called Mecmûa-i Fünûn.7 If the expensive task of gluing photographs of Çemberlitaş and the Abyssinian king, Teodor II, implemented in the 34th and 35th issues of the magazine, is not taken into account, the periodical Mir’ât can be considered to be the first magazine to contain engravings. Oddly, the first newspaper with photos came after that of journals. The first person to publish such a paper, Âyîne-i Vatan, was Eğribozlu Ârif Bey in 1866. Even though the first journals were issued more like periodical books and they focused largely on scientific and technical topics, in a very short time they started to specialize and concentrate on topics like humor, children, women or literature. Publishing magazines quickly became popular because there were certain advantages; for instance, magazines were easier and cheaper to publish, a certain readership was available, and not much effort was required to obtain a license from the Ministry of Education. Moreover, finding loyal readers was easy.

It can be said that magazines dominated the market and literature dominated the magazines, especially in the era of Abdulhamid II. For this reason, this period is referred to as the “Era of Periodicals”.8 It is clear that this was a productive and booming period for literature, in spite of complaints about the despotism of the era. Many papers began to include kısm-ı nisâ (women’s sections), such as Muhedderât in Terakkî and Mürebbî-i Muhadderât in Vakit, as well as other supplements that were addressed to the interests of women, like İnsâniyyet (1882) by Mahmûd Celâleddîn Bey and Şükûfezâr (1886) by our first female publisher, Afife Hanım. The publication of Mürüvvet for women was supported by the sultan. The paper Hanımlara Mahsûs Gazete was printed on August 1, 1895 and continued for 580 issues; this magazine received a stipend of thirty liras from the palace.9 Children’s magazines also started to appear. The children’s magazine Mümeyyiz (1869), published by Sidkî Efendi, succeeded in attracting children’s attention by using a language suited for young readers. Each issue was printed on different colored paper. After this, amateur productions continued. For example Hazîne-i Etfâl (1873), or Etfâl, which first appeared as a supplement of the newspaper Sadâkat, but then went independent (1875), and the weekly supplement that appeared with Tercüman-ı Hakîkat printed in 1879 aimed at mekâtib-i rüşdiyye şâkirdân (secondary school students). These amateur publications were gradually replaced by more mature and attractive publications.

The first magazine to focus specifically on music, Mûsikî-i Osmânî, was not published until 1863 and only lasted for 10 issues. It would be many years before similar magazines were published again. Cerîde-i Askeriyye,10 published on January 16, 1864, could be considered the first formal magazine to be printed. Even though its printing had interruptions, it is the predecessor of Silahlı Kuvvetler Dergisi (Armed Forces Magazine). The magazine Takvîm-i Ticâret, printed in 1865 in Istanbul by Hasan Fehmi Pasha, was the first Turkish publication that discussed economic and commercial topics. Diyojen (1869), by Teodor Kasap, was the first satirical magazine. There are many other examples of satirical magazines, including the humor supplement Letâif-i Âsâr, which was the satirical supplement of Terakkî, as well as Hayal (1873), Tiyatro (1874), Lâtîfe (1874), Kahkaha (1875) or Çaylak (1876) by Çopur Tevfik. Sultan Hamid was disturbed by the nature of satire, which could easily be turned into a weapon. After the Second Meşrutiyet period came to an end, satirical magazines once again became popular; such magazines, in particular, Karagöz, Kalem and Cem, were introduced to readers.

As the proclamation of the Meşrutiyet was announced on July 23, 1908 by the palace in a telegram sent to the ministry, the press in Istanbul did not receive news of this event. However, the next day, the announcement was confirmed and an issue concerning the will of the sultan was distributed to newspapers via the Matbuat Umum Müdürlüğü (General Press Directorate). İkdâm sent a telegram of thanks to Yıldız Palace, saying that they were “..expressing gratitude on behalf of the Ottoman press along with the praises of the people.” All periodicals repeated the prayer in their subheading: “Long live the Sultan!” After overcoming the first shock, the Istanbul press seemed infected by a frantic excitement. Almost everyone who had things to say, but kept it silent until then began to spend all their money on bunches of paper in order to issue a newspaper.

4 - Newspaper of <em>Serbesti</em>

5- Newspaper of <em>Sada-yı Millet</em>

In the early days of 1908, there were only 52 periodicals and four daily newspapers. However, in the frantic period after the proclamation of the Meşrutiyet, the number of publications rose to 377.11 This is also the number of publications that obtained a license from the state. If publications by people that thought there was no need for a license, because “freedom” had been introduced, are also taken into account, then the number would be even higher. However, most of the periodicals that came out in the first months of this flourishing period of publications did not last long enough to see a second or third issue. In 1913, the number of periodical publications in Istanbul was 389.12 Yet, according to official records obtained from the 1330 Senesi İstanbul Beldesi İhsâiyat Mecmûası (statistical report for the Istanbul region, 1330), in 1914 there were only 149 publishers who were working legally. Of those, 45 were Turks, 10 were Jewish, 49 Armenian, 38 Greek and the remaining 7 were foreigners. Of the total publications, 43 were in Turkish, one was in Persian, 3 in Arabic, 4 in Ladino, 6 in Armenian, 5 in Greek, 4 in French and one in English.13

During the Meşrutiyet period, the number of publications specifically concerned with one area, for example women, children, agriculture, military, satire, science, entertainment or the arts, increased; at the same time, publication of different political groups such as İttihatçı (Unionists), İtilafçı (those who supported the entente), Turkish nationalists, Kurdish nationalists, Islamism or Socialist emerged. Publications like Tanîn for the İttihatçı, Serbestî for Fedâkârân-ı Millet, Osmanlı for the Liberals and Türk Yurdu for the nationalists managed to exist due to the strong opinions of these publications and because they appealed to a solid group; yet more personal publications tended to disappear quickly. During World War I, readers desired current news and, as a result, papers sold more than journals. However, during the armistice years, journals sold more than newspapers.

Mustafa Kemal Pasha (Atatürk) wrote articles for a school paper that was hand printed while he was a student at the Harbiye (military academy). He became a partner in Minber Gazetesi, which was published in 1918 in Istanbul and thus, was familiar with the power of the press. When Mustafa Kemal Pasha went to Anatolia, he supported Albayrak and ensured the publication of İrâde-i Milliyye and, after that, Hâkimiyyet-i Milliyye; due to these efforts, the power of the press was behind him.

Difference of Style

It is possible to explain the difference in the style of reporting and conveying information to readers in Takvîm-i Vekâyi’ and Cerîde-i Havâdis by clarifying their attitude towards formal writing. The former thought, no matter what was printed in the official newspaper, that it should preserve its formality and even in its reports of ordinary events by police records, the paper deployed a formal language sounding like a judge announcing its verdict. The latter was friendlier, more Istanbulite, and of an insider.

A boatman named Topal Salih was sentenced to 3 years of penal servitude under Article 220 of the criminal code for entering the house of Züleyha Hanım, close to his own house in Çavuşdere. He entered through the attic and broke through the wall in her room to steal her belongings.

Recidivist Edhem, who stole clothes and money from the pockets of Kıbtî Mehmed in the Edirnekapı baths is to be imprisoned for a period of 9 months under Article 230 of the criminal code and will have to find a guarantor after the period of imprisonment.
(Takvîm-i Vekâyi’, no. 843, 18 Zilhicce 1282)

Monday, after this coming Saturday, will be the tenth of the month and coincides with the Feast of the Sacrifice; thus, after the beginning of the month, herds of sheep will be on sale in every corner of Istanbul. Fortunately, the sheep are fat and well-fed due to the relatively warm weather conditions experienced this winter. Also, all subjects of the sultan praise him gratefully because he has proclaimed that the price of the sacrificial meat should be 2 kuruş per oka, that is, cheaper than the price of fresh, fat meat; this is because there is an excess of sheep this year as compared to last year.
(Cerîde-i Havâdis, no. 161, 8 Zilhicce 1259)

News on the Cıty

The fact that İbrahim Şinasi Efendi printed local news in his newspaper is of strategic importance. As his paper was being printed only in Istanbul he recognized the significance of reporting news about Istanbul and in these coverages he chose a language style different than formal news. The language İbrahim Şinasi Efendi deployed was informal and sincere, narrating rather than informing, and the tone resembles a person speaking to a family member.

The starch salesman Ömer, a resident of Silivrikapı, bought sleeping powder from Osman Dede, who resides in Kocamustafapaşa, for his 3-month-old son Mehmed. The desperate child ingested the powder, became ill and died a day later. The father, Ömer, submitted a petition requesting a doctor, who came immediately to examine the body. The doctor examined the child and decided that there was not sufficient evidence of poisoning. Because the father did not give permission for an autopsy, the child’s body was buried.
(Tercümân-ı Ahvâl, no. 18, 2 Şaban 1277)

A black man named Abdurrahman called a Hungarian woman named Çançifine and her friend Kalite into his store; Çançifine was looking for a healer for her sick child in the sales stand area in Sultanmehmet. He took twenty kuruş for applying his healing powers on her child. Later, he told her that “her destiny was knotted” and that she had an enemy. To resolve this problem, he told the woman to bring an egg; he told her that the odd things, like hair and tufts that came out of the egg – which were in fact deceptive tricks - belonged to her husband. He told her that she had many enemies and that she needed to untie her destiny. For this, he requested a set of sticks worth 50 kuruş, two diamond rings worth 400 kuruş and a Hungarian gold piece to be put inside of a pouch. He told her that she must not look at the pouch, but only open it a week later. He also told her to buy 7 chickens, each costing seven kuruş and bring them to him; he slaughtered one of them and wrote on her forehead in its blood to untie her destiny. He took 300 kuruş, having been talked down from 500 kuruş, from the woman named Kalite, claiming that he had healed her and that she could then start having babies. The woman left her wristwatch, worth 300 kuruş as a deposit. He also took 50 kuruş more for the costs of candles and the chicken; he wrote her an amulet in return and gave it to her, recommending her that she should keep it under her pillow while sleeping. Even though they acted in accordance with the instructions of the healer, when the woman named Çançifine opened her pouch and saw nothing in it, she went straight to the healer and explained the situation. He started muttering about things like, “the devils have been stealing” and “we will take care of the problem”. She then realized that the devil was this man and called the police. The man was taken and interrogated. At first, he denied the claims and then confessed that he himself and replaced the egg and pouch with sleight of hand. Therefore, it was understood that this healing was neither magic, nor a miracle, it was just deception. The affecting power of that man’s breath was seen on the affection of wretched women. According to the information provided, the man received necessary punishment according to law.
(Tasvîr-i Efkâr, no. 159, 24 Recep 1280)


Every government sees the press as an enemy and tries to restrain this power that can direct the masses. Trying to impose limitations on the French press in 1809 and rewarding the “partisan press” in the Ottoman State demonstrates that Sultan Mahmud II was aware of the power of the press early on in his reign.14 During the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid, it was planned that non-Turkish newspapers would be controlled by the Takvîm-i Vekâyi Nezareti, but because the minority press was reliant on capitulations, the implementation of the plan was not possible. The allocation of salaries to some newspapers did not bear any fruits either,.With the Islahat Fermanı (reform edict) their immunities were guaranteed and it was thought that the funds given to some newspaper patrons that had began to act even more outrageous could be taken away or that the papers could be shut down for good. However, the meetings held in the Hey’et-i Vükela (council of ministers) revealed that it was not a possibility.15 The main impetus behind the Matbuat Nizamnâmesi (press regulation) that was issued on February 15, 1857 was the Crimean War; however, it also aimed at controlling the minority press. The regulation that came out in 1864 was prepared regarding the issue of the “veraset-i saltanat” (heir to the sultanate) that emerged in Egypt and for the New Ottomans that carried it to the newspapers. While some small amendments were applied, the regulation remained in force until 1909. The reason for the declaration of Kararnâme-i Âlî in 1867 was to control the news about Crete. In brief, when looked from the government’s point of view, it can be understood that these restrictive regulations on the press were not undertaken out of a love for despotism, but rather were applied for “the greater good of the government”.

The first Turkish periodical to be banned according to the Matbuat Kanunu was Mecmûa-i Havâdis. The first one to be closed down by the courts of the First Constitution was Hayâl, published by Teodor Kasap. The procedure of recalling a periodical with detrimental elements in the aftermath of its publication and distribution and proceeding with it in the face of several objections raised by the author was not perceived to be a practical one at all. Therefore, it was considered more apt to have the drafts controlled before they were printed. Encümen-i Teftiş-i Maarif (Commission for Inspection of Education) was established with the unification of Telif ve Tercüme Cemiyeti (the Writing and Translation Society) and Matbaalar İdaresi (Press Administration) in 1888. Its main task was to grant license to those that wanted to print a publication and to control if there were any detrimental elements in the proposed publications. In time, the inspection committee branched out, with three to four separate departments inspecting different publication areas. Yet, the first thing that comes to many people’s minds when they hear the term “censorship committee” is the Encümen-i Teftiş-i Maarif.

The sight of empty lines, or even at times an entire column, in a newspaper proclaimed to the readers of Istanbul that the Encümen-i Teftiş-i Maarif had been at work censoring the text. The censoring of words found to be harmful soon led to the establishment of a code between the publisher and the readers. For example, the word murâd was banned from being used because it reminded people of sultan-ı mahlû, meaning the overthrowing of the sultan; however, publishers came with the solution to use the word mir’ât instead. As for the readers, they felt a deep pleasure in still understanding what was implied and perceived themselves as part of a secret partnership. They found it entertaining to refer to the censors as “weasels”, (by playing with the similar rhyme of the two words in Turkish, that is sansör and sansar respectively for censor and weasel), implying they were stupid and not educated well enough to understand the cryptic implications. Nonetheless it is hard to grasp the fact that today some press historians take such allegations seriously and trust them as historic data. Even a bit of research discloses that most of the censors were well-educated, responsible and fair people. For example, Mehmed Zihnî Efendi (d. 1913), the famous writer of Meşâhîrü’n-nisâ and a lecturer at the Faculty of Administration (Mekteb-i Mülkiye), was the president of the commission for a period. Naim Fraşeri Bey, the brother of Şemseddin Sami, and Hilmi from Thessaloniki were two sophisticated members of the commission to the extent that they could translate the Iliad from the original. Mîrza Habib Isfahanî Efendi, who became a legend in modern Persian literature after translating Hajji Baba of Ispahan by James Justinian Morier, was the Persian censor of the commission. The person we know as “Löbel Efendi” was the inspector of Ladino texts and the author of Elemente Turceştĭ: Arăbeşti şi Persane in Limba Romănă, Theophil Loebel. The censors of Bulgarian texts were Nikola Mihailovski and Dragan Tsankov, both important names in Bulgarian literature. The Greek inspector was the famous Avram (Vaporides) Efendi. The Armenian inspectors were Minas Efendi and Mehmed Süreyya Bey, the latter being a graduate of the Faculty of Administration. The censor for Persian and Turkish texts was the famous Turkologist, Veled Çelebi. The Turkish and Arabic inspector, Hayret Efendi, was a famous poet, who was also Turkish literature teacher at Galatasaray High School and served as the president of the Department of Religion and Literature at Darülfünun. It is possible to expand upon these examples…

It would be wrong to identify censorship with “despotism” and the Sultan Abdülhamid II. It is because throughout history and across different countries censorship has existed since censorship was considered a basic principle of statehood to stand against any harm that can emerge from publications. It would be unfair to blame everything on Sultan Abdülhamid II since there are many examples of limitations applied to the press from the era of Sultan Mahmud II to that of Abdülaziz.16 In fact, there were gullible people who thought that if the sultan were to be overthrown, the bans would be lifted; yet they only tasted freedom for a year after the proclamation of the Second Constitution in 1908. They were to face censorship again, even though they thought it had been left behind in the past; after the 31 March Incident, on July 16, 1909 a new law was introduced that consisted of 37 articles. The press was under the martial law of the Unionists (İttihatçı) who set very restrictive limitations, which were much worse than those in the past. Even the spokes-piece of the Unionist party, the periodical Tanin, was shut down a number of times and its editor-in-chief, Hüseyin Cahid, was put on a military trial. The conditions during the Balkan War in 1913 and the First World War in 1914 rendered the censorship implementations more severe. With the Sansür Talimatnâmesi (censorship bylaw) which was put into force in 1914, the press came under the complete control of the government. During the occupation years, the strict British censorship silenced almost the entire press.17

It is not known to what extent the inhabitants of Istanbul were aware that these limitations on the press were blocking their right to receive information, but it can be asserted that the majority was not much uncomforted by the situation. One of the requirements of being an Istanbul inhabitant is that one controls what one says, should keep in mind that walls have ears, and live much more precautious than those living in provinces regarding what one utters. The adage, “The prohibition of the sultan lasts for 3 days” is valid only for the provinces; since when one is further away from the center, authority weakens. In this sense, Istanbul was probably the only Ottoman land in which censorship was applied as demanded. For the residents of Istanbul that always very closely felt the power of the state, censorship was a natural aspect of life for centuries. Even though there were many people in Istanbul who were upset by censorship for intellectual reasons, in general for the broad masses, censorship was not a major issue and they continued reading their papers.

6- Newspaper of <em>Şehrah</em>


A reader that gets a newspaper in his/her hand is used to the distribution of subjects on the first and last pages of the paper and thinks that arrangement is made in accordance with a ranking of importance. In conventional Ottoman newspapers, ilân-ı resmî (formal announcements) were found in the first column on the first page. The tevcîhât (promotions) and havadis (news) sections followed. The tevcîhât was separated into two sections: haricî (foreign) and dâhilî (domestic). In domestic news provincial news (havâdis-i vilâyât) was followed by those of the city. The latter was directly about Istanbul or related to Istanbul. The number of columns from editors and famous writers increased over time; after the Meşrutiyet these writers wanted to publish their articles under their own names. Literary columns and scientific and literary series were found on the following pages with the stock market news and announcements coming at the end.


In general, the edicts proclaimed by the town criers in the squares, the rulings given by preachers from their pulpits, stories related to the epics of lovers, rumors spread by peddlers from house to house, commentaries made in coffee shops and the propaganda of sheikhs and prayer leaders were now carried in the news section of the papers.18 The first pages of the news usually consisted of articles about the events in Istanbul; these were written by a staff of one or two journalists. In order to follow the news from the provinces, it was requested that “vilâyât-ı celîlede vuku‘ bulan havâdis ile mâlûmât-ı nâfianın ashâb-ı hamiyyet tarafından”(zealous companions report news or useful information from the provinces),19 thus ensuring that readers also had a role in making the news. Expressions like “it has been reported” or “according to the warning of one of our honest friends” reflect these news sources.

The sole option for publishers who wanted to have access to news before it was outdated was to have articles translated from newspapers published in Beyoğlu. Later, as journalism developed, it was possible to obtain fresh news. The development of postal services led to an increase in news coming from the provinces. After the telegraph system was implemented, it was easier to obtain news from nearby cities. After the Meşrutiyet, it was a matter of prestige for a newspaper to declare that they had obtained news over the telephone.

Istanbul inhabitants eagerly followed, old or new, the events that happened on the streets of the neighborhoods that they walked every day. Because the person in the article was recognized by the public and mentioned in detail, and because everyone knew each other in the small districts of Istanbul, many comments would be made on the article. The type of journalism that Takvîm-i Vekâyi employed, that is printing only imperial news about influential people from the government, does not allow this precious medium to turn an ordinary person into a newspaper subject. Yet, the period that began after the initiation of private newspapers was one through which Istanbul inhabitants attained political equality. The nobleman and the ordinary person appeared on the pages of the same newspaper. Likewise the equality between Muslim and non-Muslim citizens began at the newspaper level, with underlining “being subjects of the Ottoman nationality”.


7- The newspapers and journals of <em>Tercüman-ı Hakikat, Sabah, Mecmua-i Funun</em>, and <em>La Turquie</em>

8- <em>İkdam</em> Newspaper. It was published under the title <em>İktiham</em> between 26 February 1912 and 10 August 1912.

Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws, written in 1748, refers to the press as the fourth estate, following the legislative, executive and judicial branches; the people who were aware of this were at odds with the government and a power struggle began that would last for two centuries. The press takes power from commentary journalism and from the possibility that those people who read the commentaries would take action. Commentary journalism started in the Ottoman Empire with Tasvîr-i Efkâr. Şinasi was well known for his timid and wary style of journalism, and his comments never touched political issues; but because he was actually a financier, Şinasi managed to form public opinion about economic issues. After this, commentary journalism developed rapidly; in this sense, the best examples appeared in İbret. It was read more for its comments than its news. Due to the government repression, which emerged from the government’s fear that efkâr-ı umûmiyye (general ideas, public opinion) could lead to a rebellion, the journalists that could no longer write political comments because of the heightened censorship would either be exiled or sent out of Istanbul with the assignment of a civil service task, or they would themselves run away to foreign countries. In their place came journalists who described Istanbul and the events there in a more sincere and friendly language.

During the flourishing of periodicals in the Constitutional period, every person who could hold a pen became a political commenter for a periodical. The philosophical and political opinion of a periodical indicated its character, and the defense and presentation of that stance was in the hands of the authors. Each periodical attained it own readership and it became further clear which reader followed which periodicals and commentators. In most cases those that stood on a gas-oil tin at a street corner and lectured the public were periodical commentators and being a journalist columnist-commentator was almost like a prerequisite to be a parliament deputy. The relationship between the media and politics generated a rapid politicization of readers. One of the innovations Şinasi brought to his paper was to include letters from the readers. In this way, the readers, who for the most part lived in Istanbul, knew that they could express their opinions via the papers they read, could see their names in print and ensure that their ideas were taken seriously. Printing readers’ views continued into later years, but, after the Meşrutiyet, as readers became politicized almost each had an idea on how to save the nation, a target to direct his/her hatred, and an important saying to utter. In this way, periodicals published more readers’ views and comments. In the end, every literate person in Istanbul became a self-confident commentator. However, the consecutive Balkan Wars and World War I changed the character of readers’ comments. The medium, that is the press, was polluted with political games and interest conflicts, and as a result, readers were alienated. The Armistice years’ conditions promoted almost a complete elimination of the people’s comments.

9- <em>Servet-i Fünun</em>


Istanbul was the center of literature for the Ottoman Empire; here literature was viewed not just as an art form, but also as a channel for information and enlightenment. The rise of periodicals meant that they could carry on this function of literature. Since Takvîm-i Vekâyi’s transfer to poet Esad Efendi this proximity was always protected. As a result, there is no sense in asking why chronograms recording the ascension of the sultan, the opening of a school or the construction of a bridge were first published in newspapers. In the same way, it is also unnecessary to ask why, from the first generation of newspapers to those in the 1970s, there were so many literary names who owned, wrote and published newspapers. In periodicals, literature was privileged over communication, and by making a traditional preference, they believed in the significance of providing communication through literature. It is hard to tell whether a literary person publishes an excellent newspaper, or whether one can issue a newspaper perfectly is also the one who can produce a great literary work; however, it is certain that the similarities between a literary person and an author in terms of ideas, inspiration, themes, expressions and language are a product of the periodicals. In this way, while on the one hand, papers became more literary, on the other a literary understanding merged with a journalistic mind. This literary-journalist author type penned many artistic and literary pieces, as well as wrote introductory and critical essays on other works and issued serialized publications and translations.

10- Journal of <em>Mecmua-i Fünun</em> in bound form

11- Journal of <em>Sebilürreşad</em>

While censorship affected the political news and comment sections of the papers, authors made their political opinions clear in their literary preferences and accordingly the most roaring discussions were disputes about politics under the guise of a literature piece. The reader was also aware of this and joined the literary arguments, taking a side. The confrontation between the two periodicals Rûznâme-i Cerîde-i Havâdis and Tasvîr-i Efkâr, called mebhûsetün anhâ, which is taken as the first literary polemic, was not merely a debate about language and literature. It reflects an ideological and political issue. The following are other similar cases: The dispute between Vakit and Tercümân-ı Hakîkat that emerged as a language issue but transformed into an eloquence competition; Saadet carried the conflict between Ekrem and Naci, classics polemics or the mutual argumentation between Servet-i Fünun and Mâlûmât. They all carry similar features which can simply be defined as “the new and old issue”. The government was not afraid of shutting down papers or ending these disputes with an order; it was aware that behind these disputes was a political polemic. Because of the fear of censorship, papers altered their main functions and became closer to being publishers of literary pieces. For example, it is not surprising to read; “Our pages are always open for literature and pieces that are for the greater good” under the logo of Vakit when published in 1875. Kemal Paşazade Said Bey managed the literary columns of Vakit. The literary pages managed by Muallim Naci in Tercümân-ı Hakîkat also promoted the rise of Mutavassıtîn and Edebiyyât-ı Cedîde. The first literary experiences of Istanbul’s readers across generations were printed in the papers, and with the courage they took from these earlier examples many new names emerged. While newspapers nestled under the notion of literature, periodicals that had been popular since the beginning of the 1880s had the motto of “is about everything except politics”, leading the reader to see periodicals as a literary piece. This situation weakened in the post-Meşrutiyet period with the publication of periodicals dedicated only to literature, but continued until the 1970s.

12- Journal of <em>Zeka</em>


In France in 1830’s an interest developed in publishing works as series across different issues of a periodical, at the end of which that work was completed. Such serialized publications were called feuilleton. A British author who wrote anonymously a piece in British Quarterly Review in order to chastise the French press, expressed often that the feuilleton style was odd and stated the following: “The French innovated this cursed method first in literature which they turned into a prostitute and a quacking duck that eats the most disgusting bait.”20 As a matter of fact, the British did not think highly of pieces that were printed as serials. The philosopher Henry L. Mansel might be considered the first person to coin the term newspaper novel for serialized novels printed in newspapers;21 and indeed the British waited for more than 30 years to give a name to such style of publishing. Still, it is interesting to note that the first serial text that we can confirm in Turkey, was printed in a British owned newspaper, Cerîde-i Havâdis, and relative at an early date, 1840.

We know that it was Şinasi who referred to the publishing of a work in installments as tefrika. Appearing in the first issue of Tercümân-ı Ahvâl (6 Rabi al-Akhir1277) and in an article that “should not be doubted to have been written personally by Şinasi”, the term tefrika was used instead of the French feuilleton. “As such this term, tefrika, which is used today in our newspapers and periodicals, is a reminiscent of Şinasi.”22

Şinasi did not only coin the term tefrika for such publications but also penned, even if not the first tefrika, the first literary copyrighted serial that appeared in a Turkish periodical, namely his play Şair Evlenmesi. Other literary serialized publications did not appear in the periodical and since Şinasi quitted the paper early, this idea of printing serials was not implemented again. Later on, Tasvîr-i Efkâr was published with similar inclinations; such that for instance Hikmet-i Târîh by Ahmed Vefik Pasha was published as a serial (beginning: no.70, 8 Ramadan 1279) or Şecere-i Türkî (beginning: no. 131, 14 Rabi al-Akhir 1280) in the same vein. Such serialized publications were outlined with a scissors mark ““……” to indicate where the reader should cut the article out to collect and bind together, which created convenient book formats for printers as well. There were some publishers who kept the blocks used to print the serial in the newspapers so that they could be printed as a book in the future. For this reason, when one finds one of the publications, even in library catalogues, it is difficult to understand if it is a work collected from the newspaper, or a book version printed on its own.

13- Newspaper of <em>Tanin</em>

Later on, Ahmet Midhat through applying the same method published the serialized texts in his newspaper as books. That is why C-i Evvel (the populist enlightener) Ahmet Mithat’s all copyright and translation novels were published in the Tercümân-ı Hakîkat printing house; and the book would usually be printed not long after the serial ended. These novels were easily set up in a book format by using the blocks arranged in accordance with the serialized newspaper format. Because of this, the novels published at the Tercümân-ı Hakîkat printing house were like a newspaper printed on two columns per page. Also, the printing of a book needed to be completed fast since the printing house, using thousands of its letters in the arrangement of a serial, had to ensure they were returned to the typesetter’s case. Keeping the blocks would reduce the type stocks, whereas disarranging the blocks would cause extra labor and money for the subsequent rearrangement of blocks for book format In short, the serialized version and the independent print of a novel are more closely linked than we generally think.

14- Journal of <em>Vazife</em>

The first translated serial novel was Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. A summary version of Les Misérables was printed without the translator’s signature in Rûznâme-i Cerîde-i Havâdis,23 dated May 5, 1862 with the subtitle; “From the Novel of the Famous French Writer Victor Hugo.” Between October 8 and November 8, an expanded abridged serial version of the novel was printed in the same paper, this time called Mağdûrîn Hikâyesi (The Victim’s Story), again without the name of the translator. This series appeared over 24 issues (no. 480-503, 12 Rabi al-Akhir 1279 – 15 Jumada al-Awwal 1279). Later research concluded that these translations belonged to Mehmed Tahir Münif Efendi.24

It is striking to note that the novel Les Misérables that was published in the early days of 1862 in Paris was read in Istanbul and printed as a serial in October. This unbelievable speed does not stand for how closely the Turkish press followed Western publications. It rather indicates the fact that Western publishers were trying to make their way into the weak Ottoman press and publishing world and to create a market for themselves. The publisher of Hugo, Pierre-Jules Hetzel, mailed chapter by chapter the copies of the novel to foreign countries, even before the novel itself was published, to have it translated quickly. In this way, the novel was published in Portugese in Rio two months after it was printed in Paris.25 It was printed during Christmas in England in 1862, coming onto the market in America while the country was in the throes of the Civil War in the month of June; some time later it was published in the magazine Himera in Trieste in Greek, and then the serial was published in Rûznâme-i Cerîde-i Havâdis. It was a great innovation and success in publication realm, carried out by the expert hands of Hetzel in Paris. It seems a draft of the novel was sent to the Ottoman Empire; however, either a skilled translator was not found or it was considered unnecessary to translate it line by line; accordingly, it sufficed to publish the summary of the novel in a serialized form. Even from this one example, one can read our translation history whose fate did not change for an entire century.

In the same year, there was a Turkish edition of the novel Mağdûrîn Hikâyesi, this time printed in the Armenian alphabet, which makes us rethink about translated serials. Following Turgut Kut who draws attention to the commonalities between the translation and the serial in the newspaper,26 one can claim that the Turkish edition of the novel in Armenian alphabet appeared even before the serialized version of the novel in the newspaper. Indeed, Münîf Efendi probably benefited from the former. A cursory search brings to light similar examples of such claims during the same period. For example, if the Turkish translation written in the Armenian script of Robinson Crusoe had not been carried out in 1853, the translation carried out by Ahmed Lutfî Efendi, which he claimed to have done from the Arabic, would have appeared much later. Mikromega - Hikâye-i Feylesofiyye, which Karabet Panosyan translated from Voltaire’s work in 1869 in the Armenian alphabet, was the source of both the serial Diyojen (no. 62-68, 15 Teşrinievvel-6 Teşrinisani) by Director Âlî Bey and the translation of Hikâye-i Hikemiyye-i Mikromega by Ahmed Vefik Pasa in 1871. Likewise, even though it seems that Kadri Bey translated Lesage’s The Devil on Two Sticks in 1871, the actual translator was Vartan Pasha in 1853, translating the work into Turkish with the Armenian alphabet. We can see examples of translators who printed the novel first with the Armenian alphabet and then in the Ottoman alphabet, thus avoiding the Turkish plagiarizing translators; one such translator was Istepan Efendi, who translated Gil Blas by Lesage. If Kirkor Çilingiryan had not translated Atala in 1860 by Chateaubriand, Recaizade Ekrem would have had a hard time translating the same work in 1872. Ahmed Ihsan succeeded in translating the novel Le Porteuse de Pain by Xavier de Montépin into Turkish with the Ottoman alphabet in 1889 because M. Ilias Emmanuilidis had translated the novel, as Etmekçi Hatun, into Karaman Turkish in 1885 and Hovhannes Tolayan had translated it into Turkish in the Armenian alphabet in the following year. There are many more examples, but this relationship should not be thought as one-way. Felâtûn Bey İle Râkım Efendi was translated by Aramyan Efendi into Turkish written in the Armenian alphabet in 1879 and Misailidis translated Yeniçeriler into Karaman Turkish for the paper Anatoli as a series; Ahmed Midhat started the publication of Merdud Kız in 1883 after he noticed that the serials by Emile Richebourg in Greek and Armenian papers were popular.

It is necessary to digress here. While the Westerners used the term polyglot empire for the Ottoman State from time to time, this term is actually more appropriate for Istanbul. The residents of Istanbul consisted of 72 nationalities; they learned each other’s languages because they had lived together for centuries. Turks came across Armenians quite often in their daily lives and some learned enough of the language to understand it. Many wise ladies living in large houses learned Armenian or Greek from their maids who were from these minorities. Almost everyone in the Ottoman intelligentsia could read Turkish texts written in the Armenian alphabet and there were many in the public who read Armenian script before they learned the Ottoman alphabet. Those who had read Turkish publications in the Armenian script since Mecmûa-i Havâdis and those who had been writing comments on them and those who had written articles for Armenian periodicals made up quite a large number of people. Thus, it should be noted that, even if a small proportion, some of the readers of the Armenian script Turkish publications were Turks. Also, women read novels in these scripts for the first time. Even though Teodor Kasap’s sentence below seems sarcastic, it is also realistic.27

It is announced that those who know no language other than Turkish and yet are used to reading newspaper but cannot find any paper to read these days, if they can come to our printing house we will teach them in 24 hours how to read a Turkish newspaper written in the Armenian script.

It really is easy and effortless to read Turkish in the Armenian alphabet. Kraelitz-Greifenhorst28 says that the reason Armenians insisted on using their own script instead of the Ottoman alphabet is that their alphabet was “more suitable to the Turkish language, which has multiple sounds, more so than even the Arabic alphabet;” they are right in this assessment. Turkish people could learn this alphabet easily and most of them could read texts in the Turkish language while a small proportion could also read texts in Armenian.29

When a serial started, the owner of the periodical knew, the number of readers would not fall off– at least for a while- and, in fact, hoped even for more readers. As for reader, in a medium where the daily was reported piece by piece, he or she was happy with seeing the periodical becoming similar to a book and with the sense of continuity promoted by the expression “there is a next one,”—appearing at the end of each issue of the serial. The reader received what the periodical offered in terms of news, scientific and technical information, arts or magazine. However, when a serial started, the periodical gave the reader what he or she desired. It was the readers’ demands that shaped most of the serialized texts as novel; and likewise, its language, technique and basic content were all in keeping with the wishes of the readers.

There is no doubt that in the Ottoman public the most promising potential for readers was in Istanbul. Since books had shaped and directed the reading habits and culture of this large group, the only way to make sure periodicals existed was to have them resemble books. The fact that newspapers considered serials important as well as that the first magazines took on the proportional size of books reflects this effort to increase the resemblance between periodicals and books. Mustafa Nihat Özön criticized the translation of Mağdûrîn in Rûznâme-i Cerîde-i Havâdis, mainly regarding the language. First, he complained that the first 34 lines would actually make only two sentences,30 then, he found the translation too simple and did not like it.31

On the other hand, the first novel serial in the newspapers published in the Ottoman alphabet was carried out by Şemseddin Sami Bey; this was the first time that the interest of the reader in the language and content of the literary serial was taken into account.

Until Sami Bey serialized the novel Şeytanın Yadigarları by Frédérick Soulier in 1878, the circulation of Sabah newspaper was low, and it was struggling to stay open.32 The start of the serial became the precursor of a reader-periodical relationship that would last until the 1970s, and proved the importance of novel for Sabah. Many works were eliminated because some were too complicated for a translator to cope with, some were too elite for the ordinary reader, while others were not suitable to be serialized or were banned. The rest were second or third class French novels which were serialized over many years.

As a newspaper owner and a serialized novel writer, Ahmed Midhat is a phenomenon that preserved his fame even after the Meşrutiyet. Indeed, even the claim that he is “the symbol of capitalism in the Ottoman press” is relatively true.33 There can be no doubt that his ability to create a loyal group of readers, which supported his long and successful publication life, was through his publication of serialized novels and not through his success in journalism. Reading and listening to folk stories, such as Hamza-nâme, Hazret-i Ali Cenkleri, Hançerli Hanım, Letâif-nâme, Şâpur Çelebi, was an important event in many homes in Istanbul. These books had a historical basis, yet people were tired of reading them over and over, which is why the serials came to the rescue. The translated serials taking place in a foreign character and with character names that can hardly be pronounced satisfied the curiosity of the household, if not their need for stories. When the copyrighted serials began, the first name to be recognized was Ahmed Midhat Efendi. The facts that he published serials most of which took place in current lived times and familiar places and which hint at current issues and well-known people as well as his “storyteller” narrative style helped him be quickly embraced. Ahmed Midhat managed to mix the real and the not-so-real so well when narrating Istanbul that while serializing the novel Esrâr-ı Cinâyât some people believed that the events which took place in the novel were real; protests demanding the apprehension of the culprits were held in front of the newspaper building. As people could not even wait for the subsequent installment to find out what would happen next they would stop Ahmed Midhat on the street to try to find out what was going to happen to the hero; they would ask the author to bring the dead back to life or to unite the lovers. All this was part of the author’s daily life.

15- Newspaper of <em>Sabah</em>

16- Newspaper of <em>İntihâb-ı Efkâr</em>

Beginning with Hüseyin Rahmi and many serial novel writers of the next generations will continue to follow in the footsteps of Hâce-i Evvel, and even after the proclamation of the Republic will narrate to the Istanbulite current incidents taking place in Istanbul. Serials in this way on the one hand helped readers to visualize newspaper reports or adapt them to daily life on the other acted as another incident of selling single-page legends for 5 piastre in literary tradition. From now on for the traditional person who was since the mythic age used to learning news from literature and rhymed works such as epic stories, folk songs or gazavatname (war related poetry), the serial novel has become the means to communicate with the current news. An ill-omened love story which happened in a corner of Istanbul; the Greek War whose end was awaited with anxiety and grief; the outbreak of a rabies or cholera epidemic destroying a city; the notorious coquettes of a certain residence; the exemplary fate of a member of the Onikiler gang were all just two dry lines of news reporting on on the first page of the paper. Yet their details and explanations were offered to readers through serials.34 In short, when it was thought that the Halley Comet was about to hit the Earth, Hüseyin Rahmi who was eager to record the contemporary began a serial called Kuyruklu Yıldız Altında Bir İzdivaç (Marriage under a Comet) (first issue: Sabah, no. 7397, April 12 1910).

In case a contemporary modern Istanbulite finds it hard to understand the influence of the serials novels on his/her ancestors, one could point out to him/ her the readers of the photonovel readers of the past days, or the viewers of TV serials, which can be considered as the serialized novels of our day. The answer to the question of who constitutes the target watchers of contemporary TV serials and what these viewers find in these serials encompasses the readers of the serials novels back in 100-150 years. Above all, it can be first asserted that a readers follows a serialized novel in order to find reflections of the city he/she lives in; the store he/she shops at; the bridge he/she walks over; the ferry he/she rides on; the districts like Çamlıca, Beyoğlu or Princes Islands he/she goes to sightseeing; the faces he/she says hi, or an event that he/she heard about. Then, secondly it needs to be pointed out that most of the readers of serial novels were women. Women that found it hard to have an open gate to the age, to life, and to Istanbul realized that the newspaper brought the city and all of its opportunities into her house. Just as most women today are not interested in the sports section of newspapers, the women of that era paid little attention to the first page, focusing rather on city news and serials. In this way, serials provided the greatest support to women to meet the city and life. Thus, a “new” woman started to appear with newspapers and serials.

Magazines (Magazine or miscellaneous items in periodicals)

To refer to the columns or pages known as Mevâdd-ı müteferrika (miscellaneous items) in periodicals as magazine limit their meaning. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it was through these magazine articles that people were able to become truly acquainted with the world and learn at the encyclopedic level the basic values, qualifications and tendencies of the West. Trivial information, like the construction of the first skyscraper in New York, instructions on how to waltz, the anatomy of the “strange animal” called the “kangaroo”, how to sit on a chair, the customs of African natives, how to learn how to swim on a footstool, a translated version of Pasteur’s work, correct and wrong ways of clapping or the kissing of a lady’s hand, ways to remove a stain, the last performance of Sarah Bernhardt, how to use a microscope, hair bun styles, the Dreyfus trial, implications of how someone holds a fan in hand, the last invention of Edison, embroidery patterns, how to drive a car or the benefits of gymnastics are just some examples of thousands of unrelated information conveyed to readers via these pages.

If one were to conduct research on Westernization efforts and the effect of the press on reshaping the Istanbulite reader, the columns of the magazine sections are far more important than the other pages of the periodical. Just as the role of the cinema is taken into account when investigating the personal and social identity formation after the 1950s, a similar role must be given to the magazine sections of newspapers and journals during the last quarter of the 19th century and the first quarter of the twentieth century. An Istanbulite reader learned and adopted the European mindset, lifestyle and behavior from the magazine sections.

Announcements (ilan)

The era during which Istanbul people learned about the city and proper city life manners through hearsay or experience came to an end with the advent of newspapers. A new era began in which one could learn about a variety of information from newspapers every day; these included the schedule of the ferry rides (vapörs of the Şirket-i Hayriyye), the state of the Ottoman currency (akçe), set service and commodity prices, those among the acquaintances who married or who passed away, house accommodations, the best doctor, theater and cinema play schedules, or the cream to be used to have a baby-like soft skin. There was a dramatic change in life dynamics in Istanbul particularly after the appearance of the announcement sections of the newspapers. The first announcement in Takvîm-i Vekâyi was on the eleventh issue and book advertisements were eagerly published in order to lead the reader. However these announcements were not advertisements that were published in the newspaper in return of a paid amount of money. Yet the commercial agreements after 1838 were reflected in the newspapers first through advertisements. With such agreements, Western merchants posed a serious threat to local merchants and the efforts to turn Istanbul into a consumer society finally began to pay off. Now came days when a variety of European goods were in high demand in the Ottoman market. As Ahmed Lutfî Efendi, the official historian of the government, complained: Now a new era began in which “everything, from brooms to wooden spoons and combs” had a European alternative and these were introduced with page-by-page advertisements on newspapers. The local merchants would be able to understand the power of newspaper advertisements only after some bad experiences and very belatedly. Nonetheless in the long span of time that passed consumers admired the imported goods and had become used to them. As revealed in the expression, “if one were to be hung, let it be done with a British rope,” people became more and more reluctant to purchase local goods.35

The consumer economy first targets women as consumers. It is for this reason that women constituted the primary target group of periodical advertisements too. Advertisements about cosmetics, underwear, children’s clothes, toys, kitchen appliances or fabrics were addressing first and foremost women. Furthermore, it was a time that a woman was considered modern, if she followed European fashion.36 Fashion pages in periodicals increased rapidly and the places one could find the printed clothing items were shown in the advertisements on the last page. One could learn from another advertisement in her newspaper that if one were to go to a tailor in Pera, under her arm the newspaper that printed her favorite dress model, one could choose the imported fabric of her choice and could get the same dress made for herself just as it appears in the magazine.37 The newspaper would also tell one what to do, how to purchase the item from an imported outfit retail store, if one lacked enough time and patience. It would not be inaccurate to say that a consumption frenzy spread in Istanbul via the women, fashion and periodical advertisements. Instead of local production in line with the cultural codes of individuals, the press was now used to get people accustomed to the Western culture.38


When discussing the world of the press it would be insufficient if we focused only on the relationship between the periodical and the reader. Everyone who worked behind the scenes and helped guide the paper through the publication process should be involved in the discussion. From the owner of the paper to the editor-in-chief, the head writer, authors and journalists and, finally, the newspaper sellers, all those involved represent the human side of the periodical. Taking a closer look at these will complete the relationship between the Istanbul reader and the periodical.

Newspaper Owners

The first periodicals were published by foreigners and non-Muslim minorities. The owners of the Turkish publications in the Greek and Armenian alphabet established a model for future Turkish employers. In addition, many periodicals that we recognize as being Turkish were owned by either Armenian or Greek financiers; it was the latter that chose and employed their writers according to their own understanding of the press. Thus, the principles of the Turkish press were established by these financiers. For example, Theodoros Kasapis (Teodor Kasap) Efendi published Hayâl (Kheyal in the Armenian alphabet), as well as Diyojen and Çıngıraklı Tatar and in this way taught how to make politics through humor. Agop (Baronyan) Efendi owned Tiyatro, Aleksan (Sarrafyan) Efendi owned İbret, Antuan Efendi owned Hulâsatü’l-efkâr, Filip (Şâhinyan) Efendi owned Muhbir, Vakit and Tarîk and Dimitraki (Nikolaides) Efendi owned Servet. The periodical Sabah was published first by Papadapulos Efendi and then by Mihran (Nakkaşyan) Efendi. The owner of the Turkish-French periodical Marifet was a woman, Teodosya (Sofroniades) Hanım. After 1908 many other non-Muslim newspaper and periodical owners joined to their pre-Meşrutiyet counterparts. There are two reasons behind the fact that there were so many Greek and Armenian entrepreneurs in the Turkish press. First, they had good relations with the Beyoğlu and the European press, and had easier access to these sources. Second, due to the immunity that accompanied the capitulations, the probability of their publications being shut down by the government was much less than their Turkish counterparts.

The era that started after Şinasi with Basîret of Ali Efendi, Tercümân-ı Hakîkat of Ahmed Midhat and Ahmed Cevdet Bey’s İkdâm can be seen to be an indication that the Turkish financial assets had become active in journalism. The minority press was supported by the funds of Galata as well as the embassies in Pera, as for the Turkish newspaper owners, they had to seek the protection of the palace, which led to bribery. The situation became sullied when those who had managed to become close to the sultan started to abuse their patronage, and when those who were unable to get close to the sultan sought alternative means to do so.

The patron of a periodical was, first and foremost, a businessman, no matter how idealist he/she was; that is he/she wanted a profit in return for his/her investment of time and money. The lion’s share of this profit came from sales, while a lesser sum was obtained from advertisements; however, the real guarantee against loss was the sultan. The practice to allocate funds to owners of newspapers from the private treasury of the sultan started during the reign of Sultan Mahmud II, and became a more established tradition during the reigns of Sultan Abdülaziz and Sultan Abdülhamid II. Except for the Beyoğlu newspapers, many periodicals, such as Saâdet, Tercümân-ı Hakîkat, Mecmûa-i Ebüzziyâ, Servet-i Fünûn, and Hanımlara Mahsûs Gazete, received monthly allowances much in the way of a salary. The publications that supported the government received additional awards. For example, Tarik was given a 2,250 kuruş allowance, with this being raised to 8,000 kuruş on October 8, 1898.

Even though some readers in Istanbul looked askance at the funded partisan press, many did feel closer to a periodical that “gratified the Sultan”. In fact, the newspaper patrons usually perceived such a situation as a positive thing, and every time the palace rewarded them, instead of trying to hide it, they would rather announce the event to their readers with large, fancy thank-you notices in their newspapers.

The newspaper financers did not consider it necessary to use the funds given to them by the palace to keep up with new printing technologies, rather, they would use the money for their own purposes. The majority of them preferred to do a shoddy job as they feared being shut down at any time and did not want to tie their money up in a business that might not have a long future. The printing press was wreckage, and their typefaces were broken or eroded. For this reason, the newspapers were usually late in being printed and strong eyes and nerves were necessary to read them. The publication of Tercümân-ı Ahvâl was carried out with a small hand operated press in Bahçekapısı; from this time until the Meşrutiyet, only a few owners renewed their printing technology. Bismarck gave a printing machine to Basîretçi Ali Efendi, Ahmed Cevdet bought İkdâm a revolving press machine, and Baba Tahir purchased a machine for his periodicals for a huge sum of money; he included its picture in his papers to remind readers about it. There was also the motorized printing machine that Ahmed Midhat brought from Europe. But this was all…

For the rise of press ethics in Istanbul, the publication of periodicals had to have a history and culture. Press ethic could not emerge in fifty years or even three-quarters of a century; the press owners always acted as if they were running a business. They had a very strong power which could manipulate public opinion and this power could be easily abused. Mihran, the owner of Sabah, sent reports to the palace about other papers, Ahmed Samîm acted as a spy and Ali Kemal was a hypocrite. Many of the newspaper owners started up other businesses and were occupied with these enterprises; their publications were used to advertise their own firms and the goods they were selling, while discrediting their rivals and creating an unfair competition. Ahmed Midhat, owner of Tercümân-ı Hakîkat, stated that the articles against Midhat Pasha, the paper’s original protector that also named it, were due to bribes received from the palace and explained this saying, “I could not resist a thousand lira banknote.”39 Baba Tahir pressured the director of the Kadiköy Üsküdar Water Company first with a cartoon,40 and then circulated a fake news article which stated: “there is a rumor that a pig fell in the Terkos Reservoir and drowned.” Istanbul residents stopped consuming water coming from this reservoir which supposedly contained a dead pig and thereby the company’s sales immediately stopped. The director gave into the blackmail of Tahir Bey and paid 600 liras; in return, the paper published an explanation that there had been some sort of mistake.41

Ârif Efendi, also known as “Arifaki”, the owner of the first illustrated paper, failed to receive advertisement from the Tetis company selling diamonds, and then he penned an essay stating his doubts about the quality of their goods. In order to clear its name the company had to scatter money to the press for two months. In a different case, a magazine owner who published advertisements for one company in every issue of its paper asked the company owner to pay 1,000 liras. The company owner refused to pay it since the advertisements had been published without his knowledge; yet the magazine owner went to court. In court, two witnesses were to be called; the wife and mistress of the company’s owner. The company owner received notification of the case and paid the invoice when he saw who the witnesses were to be.42

17- The newspapers and journals of <em>Tarik, Mecmua-i Ebuzziya, Oriental Advertiser<em>, and Saadet

There are hundreds of examples like this in Turkish press history; they go to prove that corruption, including political corruption, arrived early on. Money and nepotism allowed for many press patrons to become included in the small number of wealthy Istanbul residents. Istanbul inhabitants knew who was who, and bought their papers according to the owner.

18- Journal of <em>Şehbal</em>


The writing staff of both Takvîm-i Vekâyi‘ and Cerîde-i Havâdis consisted mostly of state officials and young clerks. During the many years he stayed in Istanbul, Churchill never even tried to learn Turkish and mandated the staff at his newspaper to learn English. First generation writers like Âli Efendi and Müşfik Efendi not only learned about journalism but also gained serious political awareness. Moreover, Müşfik Efendi invited any scholar who could write to join the newspaper and he managed Cerîde-i Havâdis as a type of encümen-i üdebâ (writers’ council) or “home for the men who would call themselves Young Turks”.43 Mehmed Said Efendi, who was referred to as İngiliz (English) when he became Grand Vizier Said Pasha in later years because he felt close to the politics of Britain, was a regular contributor to Rûznâme. Tahir Münif Efendi, who later became Münif Pasha, started translating İngiltere Tarihi (History of England) and he was probably the first person to translate a poem from English. It seems in this regard that Churchill’s demand from them to learn English proved correct or fruitful. The actual success of Churchill’s newspaper can be credited to his efforts to create a new type of journalist intellectual.

19- Journal of <em>Malûmât</em>

The editors-in-chief symbolized the face of the periodicals for the readers. The task of guiding the “general principles” was their first responsibility and, thus, the government closely followed who they were. This sensitivity came to the fore when the government demanded that it be officially informed the name of the editor-in-chief; indeed, there were good reasons why the government was sensitive on this matter. For example, from its beginning to the end, the raid at the Çırağan Palace by Ali Suavi, the editor-in-chief of Basîret, took place in the vicinity of the newspaper. It was to the extent that Ali Suavi did not even hesitate to write about his intentions in the issue (no. 2444, 17 Cemaziyelevvel 1295) that was published a day before the incident. Derviş Vahdeti, editor-in-chief of Volkan, was responsible for the 31 March incident; Hasan Fehmi Bey, editor-in-chief of Serbestî was killed on a bridge; Ahmed Samîm Bey, editor-in-chief of Sadâ-yı Millet was shot in Bahçekapısı; Süleyman Nazif Bey, editor-in-chief of Hâdisât, started the Turkish War of Independence with an article entitled Kara Bir Gün; while Ali Kemal Bey, editor-in-chief of Peyâm-ı Sabâh, was lynched in İzmit. Even with the history of the Turkish press it is difficult to understand how many leading writers were sent into exile or sent to the provinces. It can be seen that the positive and negative effects of periodicals were directed at their editor-in-chiefs rather than their owners or managing directors.

The idea of a full-time journalist working under the management of an editor-in-chief was a new one. Most of the journalists were Ottoman officials working in government offices and they wrote for the papers whenever they wanted and received copyright for their texts. It was a much recent development that writers that devoted their lives to a paper and were paid a salary in return emerged. Instead of specializing a particular periodical authors were willing to write a text for which they could charge extra. They could write a text about protecting oneself from tuberculosis today, a poem the next day, an article about getting a financial loan the next day and a part of a serial novel the next… As a result of the official persistence in raising polytechnic individuals a new type of journalist was born, ones that thought that they could write on any subject; these journalists fed off the press for a long time. A kind of journalist that because they did not specialize in a specific topic, their writings bogged the reader down with encyclopedic information; ones that wrote with a popular shallowness and remained unaware to the fact that they were wasting the time and money of readers. When the history of the Turkish press is examined, it can be seen that journalists branched out into economics, arts and culture, sports, criticism and politics over the last thirty – forty years; nonetheless, these efforts have not yet fully yielded results. In our mindset, a writer could write anything.

Even though it is typical to affiliate this unproductiveness and inefficiency with censorship, it should be kept in mind that censorship indeed had also a positive effect on training journalists. Censorship, on one hand, prevented dangerous thoughts and, at least for some journalists, created healthy conditions for writing, while on the other hand, it educated them “as an institute in which they learned how to write according to certain standards of decency, loyalty, religion and zeal.”44 In the first years of the Meşrutiyet, journalists that thought writing with an absolutely insane freedom was freedom emerged; this situation demonstrated the tragic circumstance of the journalists who were unable to develop auto-control without a censorship mechanism. These journalists confused “keeping a finger on the pulse of the public” with “keeping a foot in both camps”, that is, they were unable to professionally maintain a balance between leading readers and being in touch with them. In spite of this, many journalists attracted the readers of Istanbul, becoming stars; these readers continued to read them even when the journalist started to write for another paper. It is still possible to find newspaper articles that had been cut from old newspapers a century ago, being placed in the bottom of trunks by loyal readers.


The people working in printing houses were separated into two groups; typesetters and printers. Typesetters were usually people who knew how to read and write and who were from Istanbul. Those who rotated the handle of the printing machine are strong young men from Anatolia. Typesetters had a huge responsibility of flawlessly arranging the letters of the text; since many periodicals were shut down due to a mistake being made in the alignment of the letters or for forgetting dots in certain letters. Some typesetters were aware of this power and sometimes they abused it. For example, a typesetter at Tercümân-ı Hakîkat purposefully set the letters incorrectly when the text mentioned the Friday parade of the sultan in the weekly column entitled “Selâmlık Resm-i Âlîsi”, which was in the first column of the paper’s Saturday issues. They purposefully set a word incorrectly in the honorific clause of “Halîfe-i rûy-ı zemîn ve hâdim-i dîn-i mübîn efendimiz hazretleri” (Our lord, Caliph of the world and servant of the manifest religion), and wrote “ha” instead of “kh”, making khadim (servant) hadim (destructor). When the paper came out, a number of complaints were made to the palace, the printing house was raided and Ahmed Midhat was arrested. It was later understood that the typesetter had been paid twenty liras by someone from a rival newspaper. The typesetter was exiled to Tripolitania and never heard of again.

Typesetters sometimes tried to pull more innocent tricks. For example, an advertisement praising the Regie company was put on the advertisement page and in this way the arrival of boxes of cigarettes made of pure tobacco to the printing house was guaranteed, or a few lines would be added praising wine or rakı from a certain ligquor store; in return they would receive bottles of wine or rakı.

These types of tricks by typesetters were usually tolerated, mainly because the job required many sacrifices. They had to pick and locate each letter from the case rack and make a proof sheet when they had completed binding the pages. They had to take the copy to the inspectors and redo the layout according to the corrections made. The typesetters had to breathe the smell of lead in the printing house for hours while waiting, and had to complete without mistake an immense workload.


The distribution of the periodical was far more important and difficult than publishing it. Because Takvîm-i Vekâyi‘ was not given permission to be sold in the market, it was distributed by the state. Even though Cerîde-i Havâdis had no rival for nine years, the paper had a rough time as it had serious problems with distribution. At first, it was not sold at all and the first three issues had to be given away for free to promote the paper. During the subsequent three years after its first print, the number of its subscribers never rose above fifty. For this reason the publication was stopped and managed to survive only after receiving a fund of 2,500 kuruş from the palace. The edition of Mecmûa-i Fünûn in the provinces was made possible when a document called “the grand vizier’s orders” was sent to civil chiefs of those areas. In this way, the paper had five to six hundred readers and state officials all purchased the magazine to show their support. The method for selling Tercümân-ı Ahvâl was to leave multiple issues of the paper in stores in various districts. The stores, considered to be primitive “paper kiosks,” were as follows: the çubukçu Store of Kapıçuhadarı Hasan Efendi in Şehzadebaşı and Direklerarası, petitioners’ office of Laz Osman Efendi in Üsküdar in front of the muvakkithane (clock room) close to the big police station, the attar (apothecary) of Hacı Nazif Agha under the mosque in Beşiktaş, the fez store of Ahmed Efendi in Salıpazarı opposite the Damat Mahmud Paşa Palace, the barbershop next to the Hamidiye Shrine in Bahçekapısı and the attar of Mehmed Agha opposite of the big Hamam in Kasımpaşa. As can be seen, newspapers were sought to be sold by having their copies left in stores. The ones that could not be sold were placed in the storage room and later sold by the kilogram as paper.

Over time a new tradition was born and it managed to survive even after the Meşrutiyet. Periodical owners sent the issues they published to state officials and important people as a “sample.” If the periodical was not returned back, it was presumed that, they liked the paper and thus could be counted as subscribers. Then, they would try to get payments from these “subscribers.” If the publication was sent back, payment was still demanded, claiming the journal had been “worn out.” This Eastern trick usually did not work and, as a result, most periodicals went bankrupt due to unreturned and unpaid papers.

Then there were the coffee houses. Public readings of books such as Battalnâme or Muhammediyye in traditional cafes and the tradition of poets “demonstrating their talents” date back to much older times.45 However, the naming of coffeehouse as “readinghouses” (kıraathane) to emphasize the desire to read goes back to a place opened in Çiçek Pazarı by Cemiyet-i İlmiye-i Osmaniye. It is likely that more than thirty foreign and Turkish books were being read in this coffeehouse that was opened in March 1864.46 Therefore, “it could be said that the concept of modern coffeehouses (Salle de Lecture)” was first formed here.”47

Even though the claim48 that the “first person to open up a scholarly coffeehouse in Turkey was Sarafim Efendi, who translated Chaspal Grameri has often been made, the coffeehouse Sarafim opened in Okçularbaşı was opened up after others. Here, daily newspapers and newly published books were left on the tables for customers to read.49 “For example, 40 liras were charged for coffee in return for this service.”50 The reader would take the paper or book he wanted and pay the fee to Sarafim. Later on, the coffeehouse of Alyanak Mehmed Efendi in Direklerarası provided a service that was similar to that served by newspaper kiosks.

Coffeehouses could be shut down when the government found it disturbing that people reading periodicals made immediate comments in these places and made political deductions. For example, Stambolyski’s Avtobiografia narrates that policemen raided a coffeehouse in Şehzadebaşı on February 27, 1875, looking for a banned newspaper; they shut the coffeehouse down with a censorship order.51 The services of the coffeehouses to the publications slowly faded when clubs were opened after the Meşrutiyet; these became reading halls.

Ziyad Ebüzziya may have been correct in his claim that Şinasi “introduced the words ‘tefrika’ (serialized publication) and ‘abone’ (subscriber) to the Turkish language and press.”52 He defined the word “subscriber” as “people who want to be customers for a certain period of time” and this definition was placed immediately under the headline of every newspaper he published. But, it should be noted that subscription was available since the inception of both Takvîm-i Vekâyi‘ and Cerîde-i Havâdis. Subscribing to a newspaper meant that one received one’s paper at a specified location. Therefore, an intermediary was needed to deliver the paper to the subscriber, and there were people specifically hired for this purpose, called “paper footmen” in daily language. When papers became popular and the number of subscribers increased, the paper footmen, finding it hard to keep up with the distribution, started to find young men to do the distribution, giving them a small percentage of their sales; thus, the first newsagent employers emerged. These were known as “head distributor” or “lead distributor”.

Papers like İkdâm and Sabah competed with each other to employ the best distributors in Istanbul and they tried to keep their percentages high in order not to lose them to their rivals. For example, the most notable distributor of İkdâm was Digo Hüseyin from the fire brigade of the Üsküdar Municipality. Digo worked on the Anatolian side and distributed papers from Üsküdar to Beykoz one day and Haydarpaşa to Pendik the next. Çerkez Reyhan was the famous distributor of Sabah; he was also part of the fire brigade in Defterdar, and was responsible from selling it in citywalls (suriçi) as well as Haliç. He sold Sabah on a route that stretched from Beyazıt to Eyupsultan via Unkapanı. Şimendifer Kenan was the distributor of all newspapers, but made sure that Mâlûmât Mecmûası reached its readers. His nicknames include tırıl, “rattle” and velospit; his route was from around the Marmara Bay to Kumkapı and Ayastefanos. As the Republican period approached, a new type of distributor that lives side by side with the old ones appears, represented by Akbaba Suad from Kadıköy.53 Some distributers became as famous as the periodicals they were selling; yet some of them were just children and youth whose names we do not know; they walked every inch of Istanbul, yelling: “Yazıyor, cayır cayır yazıyoor! (It writes, it writes, Read all about it!) Read about the world of a lady who ate mussels from a person from Tokat and got typhoid!” They were just trying to decrease the weight they were carrying by selling the papers under their arms.

The distributors not only sold papers, they had two more important tasks. One of those was being the first Ottoman “mobile city reporters.” They ran to their newspapers as fast as they could to report what they had seen and heard throughout the day while wandering through the city, even if these were “random events.” This made them feel as if they had been promoted from being a distributer to the post of a journalist for a short period of time.

The second side task of the distributors was to collect the subscriptions. They showed samples of the papers and magazines they carried, explained the prices for subscription for a period of 6 months or a year, and forwarded the names of those who wanted to subscribe to the printing house. The ones who were fast enough to get out of the city could collect subscribers from the provinces, find stores and distributors to sell the periodicals coming from Istanbul, and be “mobile provincial reporters.” The ones who sent them out of Istanbul reported somewhere in their papers the situation to the provinces, asking for help. Texts like the one below were frequently seen in the advertisement section:

As Yaver Efendi, one of our mobile subscription collectors, has gone to Kastamonu, we request from the cultured people of that place to provide him needed facilitations and aids in case of his application.54

The notices we see in news articles in every paper with notes like “as reported by our mobile reporter in Kadıköy”, “according to the notice telegrammed by our mobile reporter in Konya”, “according to the paper we received from a friend in the provinces” indicate stories provided by the distributors. The ddistributors can be considered as the nameless heroes in the history of Turkish press, unrewarded for their great effort and services.


The press operates on the principle of Pascal. The trio of the value of the government, the press and the reader rise and fall together. The government creates the press, the press creates the reader and the reader creates “public opinion”, which tries to influence the government. In the Ottoman case the only reader who had the ability to complete this vicious circle was in Istanbul. Just as we easily understand why most movies were shot in Istanbul we need to figure out why most literary pieces selected Istanbul as their setting. It should be noted that writers usually chose Istanbul as the setting not because they were not aware of the provinces, but because the people who read and purchased newspapers resided in Istanbul. The same is true for periodicals. Most were published in Istanbul and, because these could not be distributed to the provinces, these periodicals were sold to the Istanbul residents. In other words, the term “the Ottoman press” actually consists of Istanbul city press. Similar to each city periodical, Istanbul periodicals were local in their interests and the only reader whose opinion they cared about were Istanbul residents. Therefore, it was in the hands of Istanbul residents to complete this vicious circle. This means that the press took the public of Istanbul as the mediator between the state and the people. It viewed them as the main interlocutor when reporting, informing, altering, transforming and creating public opinion.

A change in the profile of Istanbul readers could not be expected, taking into account the low number of periodicals and the fact that their readers were more or less exposed to the same information. The scale of the readers changed as the periodicals diversified; this could be according to political opinion, to the understanding of the publication or the target audience. The four Turkish periodicals that came out in Istanbul between 1830 and 1860 had a daily circulation of two to three hundred copies, whereas starting in 1850 there were 130 periodicals for the French or French reading minorities, with a daily circulation of 10,000.55 In an article titled “Newspapers in Constantinople” printed in The New York Times on September 1, 1867, it is stated that there were twenty-eight newspapers in Turkish, French, Greek, Arabic, English, Sephardic, Armenian, Bulgarian and Serbian being published in Istanbul with a daily circulation of 85,000 copies. It is not possible to understand these figures without understanding the nature of readers in Istanbul.

The Bulgarian, French and Arabic residents of Istanbul preferred to read periodicals printed in their own languages. However, the Turkish reader tried to read minority periodicals with the Persian they had learned in school, the Arabic they had learned at the madrasah and the Armenian they learned from neighbors. The French newspapers were research texts for clerks, a source of news for the Turkish papers, an enlightenment tool for intellectuals and the channel for awareness for politicians. Many of these papers were sold to a group of “posers” because many European snobs, like Bihrûz in Araba Sevdası, just held the French paper in their hands – to show off – to look like a “reader”. If the number of people in a coffeehouse reading the same paper is taken into account, it can be seen that there was a great difference between readers and buyers. Therefore, from the numbers mentioned above, it cannot be deduced that Turkish people bought 200-300 copies of papers daily. During the Meşrutiyet era, the number of French periodicals published in the Ottoman State fell to 94;56 because now readers could find the news and comments in Turkish periodicals.

The number of publications which was continuously on the rise but then began to drop after 1881 cannot be simply explained with the censorship of Sultan Abdülhamid II. It is rather better to explain it with the change in reader profiles. Journalism was set back while the reader advanced; the media was unable to meet the needs of the reader either in journalism or in comments. The rapid increase in the circulation of magazines after that date cannot be explained by censorship; rather the impetus was the need of the reader who wanted to be satisfied intellectually. A more distinguished group of readers and a better journalism emerged while the number of papers published decreased. The new readers improved the papers with their support and loyalty.

The new readers could recognize a good publication immediately. The fact that first children’s magazine, Mümeyyiz, issued three prints proves it.57 What rendered İkdâm to break circulation records in Ottoman press was the way it connected to the soul and mind of its readers, rather than its strong staff or modern printing machines. Its emphasis on being a “Turkish newspaper”, its services to being Turkish, Turcology, and its trustworthiness made this connection stronger. Even though it was sold at the high price of 10 kuruş, the circulation did not fall under 40,000 daily for many years. During the rough years of World War I, the circulation was 25,000 per day, though the war caused the decrease in its circulation.

Sultan Abdülhamid II knew his people well and, as a reader and statesman, he appreciated the power of the press. He thought about “the effects of the free publication of newspapers on the people”58 for many years and his long reign on the throne facilitated his making new observations. The most important observation of the sultan for the readers of the periodicals is perhaps this: The newspaper reader that did not yet complete the cultural evolution believed in everything written with a child’s innocence and accordingly was very vulnerable to be manipulated or deceived. Censorship is needed to protect them from incorrect and false news.”59 Many events that took place while readers’ reflex to grasp the ones that were untrue, to recognize the ones that were biased, and to eliminate the ones with sneaky ambitions proved the sultan correct. The Meşrutiyet, the 31 March incident, forced elections, the social repercussions of the Balkan Wars and World War I, rallies, strikes, rebellions and the Turkish War of Independence were achieved with the help of the press. On the other hand, the intelligentsia, despite their naiveté, were aware of the importance of periodicals as a tool for gaining conscious and making others gain conscious or informed. They knew that periodicals were the only conveyer of information for many topics, including politics, economics, science, arts, health, history, sports and diplomacy.

A Weird Incident

With the publication of Sabah under the management of Şemseddin Sami it became necessary to redefine the word “news”. It was now necessary to ask once again what was considered newsworthy and to review the criteria for assessing the difference between what readers should be told and what they should not. When one examines the periodical’s understanding of newsreporting, it becomes manifest that it was managed by a novelist and any ordinary event shared among the Istanbulite was treated as news. In other words, it was possible that the various incidents which people living in Istanbul learned about in the traditional ways could now also be learned through a newspaper. This, in turn, would narrow the gap between the paper and the reader. Here is an event that occurred in Istanbul which one can debate whether it can be regarded as a newspaper news or not:

A Weird Incident

The other day, when Mad Mustafa was wandering around Beyoğlu naked, he came across Madame Opala, also known as the mad woman. Madame Opala, who was wearing all the dresses and hats she could find, spat in Mad Mustafa’s face because she could not contain herself when she saw him naked. Mad Mustafa was unable to bear this insult and pulled her hair, dragging her to the ground. In return, Madame Opala bit Mad Mustafa’s calf. Fortunately, the people who gathered to watch them realized they had to interfere and pulled them apart.


From the articles printed in the papers it is possible to understand that the coffeehouses were viewed as a source of culture and acted as a reading club. Because the newspapers perceived the coffeehouses as a kiosk, promoter and an assistant who received the names of subscribers, they were happy about every place that was opened and wrote their praises. To give an example:

It has been heard that a new coffeehouse is opened around Yeniceşme in Üsküdar with all kinds of newspapers, magazines and journals. Moreover, the owner welcomed the people coming to the opening with respect and kindness.

The central government expected that the opening of a café in a district like Üsküdar would be supported and it is known that such a location was needed; thus important people were expected to attend the opening. However, this failed to materialize due to the fact that the state did not demonstrate the right attitude. This situation made people search for information complaint about üsküdar. The residents of Istanbul feel immense gratitude because they believe that the owner of the newly opened coffeehouse mentioned above was trying to please the customers at the opening and a satisfactory service was being provided to this land of heaven.

It could be possible that if we become familiar with the phenomena and developments which are exemplary in other countries we could secure the development of education in this country and give a civilizing affect on education. In the same way, in large and small cities and towns in Europe, coffeeshops, educational centers and similar classrooms were opened for the benefit of the people as well as for nature related events. The people went to these places with great desire to increase their knowledge and due to their curiosity. It cannot be denied that these were the result of the people’s desire to examine works and to learn about phenomena. There can be no doubt that the superior intelligence and talent that our people have from birth should not be wasted on useless things, but rather, similar to Europeans, should purse knowledge and ways of improving themselves.
(Basîret, no. 6 Şevval 1286)


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1 L. Lagarde, “Note Sur Les Journaux Français de Constantinople à l’époque Révolutionnaire”, Journal Asiatique, vol. 136, no.1-2 (1948), pp. 272-276.

2 For detailed information, see: Ali Arslan, Osmanlı’dan Cumhuriyet’e Rum Basını, Istanbul: Truva Yayınları, 2005.

3 For Faris, see: Atillâ Çetin, “XIX. Yüzyıl Arap Kültür Dünyasında Önemli Bir Basın Organı: El-Cevaip Gazetesi”, Mélanges Prof. Robert Mantran, ed. A. Temimi, Zaghouan/Tunisie:Centre dmi, Zaghouant 1988, pp. 83-92; H. Gazi Topdemir, İbrahim E. Polat, “Türk Matbaacılığının Gelişmesinde Bir Sayfa: Cevâib Matbaası”, Nüsha: Şarkiyat Araştırmaları Dergisi, vol. 4, no. 14 (2004), pp. 79-102.

4 Orhan Koloğlu, Takvim-i Vekayi: Türk Basınında 150 Yıl (1831-1981), Ankara: Çağdaş Gazeteciler Derneği, 1981, p. 34.

5 Tasvîr-i Efkâr, no. 448, 24 Şaban 1283.

6 Ebuzziyâ Tevfik, Yeni Osmanlılar Tarihi, Istanbul: Kervan Kitapçılık, 1972, p. 460.

7 M. Kayahan Özgül, XIX. Asrın Benzersiz Bir Politekniği: Münif Paşa, Ankara: Elips Kitap, 2005, pp. 48-73. It should also be specified that the Sublime Porte translated the term Périodique as risâle-i muvakkate, but Ahmed Cevdet Pasha offered the term risâle-i mevkute, based on the 134th verse of Surah Nisa (for the objections of the pasha, see: Tezâkir, prepared by C. Baysun, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1967, vol. 4, p. 110). In time, the term introduced by Vartan Pasha was used.

8 Orhan Okay, Servet-i Fünun Şiiri, Erzurum: Atatürk Üniversitesi Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi, 1988, pp. 3-4.

9 Vahdettin Engin, Sultan Abdülhamid ve İstanbul’u, Istanbul: Simurg, 2001, p. 44.

10 Alper Yıldırım, “Askeri Bir Süreli Yayın: Ceride-i Askeriye” (post graduate thesis), Aydın Adnan Menderes University, 2008, p. 6.

11 Orhan Koloğlu, Osmanlı’dan 21. Yüzyıla Basın Tarihi, Istanbul: Pozitif Yayınları, 2006, p. 87.

12 Kemal H. Karpat, “The Mass Media”, Political Modernization in Japan and Turkey, ed. R. E. Ward and D. A. Rustow, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1964, pp. 268-269.

13 For the decline of the number of publications from 1911 to 1912, see: Ahmed Emin (Yalman), The Development of Modern Turkey as Measured by its Press, New York: Columbia University, 1914, pp. 113-117.

14 Nesimi Yazıcı, “Osmanlı Basınının Başlangıcı Üzerine Bazı Düşünceler”, Osmanlı Basın Yaşamı Sempozyumu (6-7 Aralık 1999), Ankara: Gazi Üniversitesi İletişim Fakültesi, 1999, pp. 8-11.

15 Alpay Kabacalı, Başlangıçtan Günümüze Türkiye’de Basın Sansürü, Istanbul: Gazeteciler Cemiyeti, 1990, pp. 20-21.

16 M. Kayahan Özgül, “Devr-i Hamîdî Matbûatına Tersten Bakmak”, II. Abdülhamid-Modernleşme Sürecinde İstanbul = II. Abdülhamid- Istanbul during the Modernization Process, ed. C. Yılmaz, Istanbul: İstanbul 2010 Avrupa Kültür Başkenti, 2010, pp. 379-399.

17 Hasan R. Ertuğ, “Türkiye’de Basın ve Yayın Mevzuatının Doğuşu ve Gelişimi”, Yüzüncü Yıl Armağanı, Ankara: Ankara Üniversitesi Siyasal Bilgiler Fakültesi, 1959, pp. 37-48.

18 Metin Kazancı, “Osmanlı’da Halkla İlişkiler”, Selçuk Üniversitesi Dergisi, vol. 4, no. 3 (2006), p. 16.

19 Vakit, no. 2, 21 Rebîülâhir 1292.

20 1846, p. 392.

21 1863, pp. 482-514.

22 Ahmed Râsim, İlk Büyük Muharrirlerden Şinâsi, Istanbul: Yeni Matbaa, 1927, p. 139.

23 N. 376, 6 Zilkade 1278.

24 For details, see: Özgül, Münif Paşa, pp. 109-110.

25 Umberto Eco, Jean-Claude Carrière, Kitaplardan Kurtulabileceğinizi Sanmayın, tr. Sosi Dolanoğlu, Istanbul: Can Yayınları, 2010, pp. 49-50.

26 Turgut Kut, “Ermeni Harfli Türkçe Telif ve Tercüme Konuları”, Beşinci Milletler Arası Türkoloji Kongresi: Tebliğler, İstanbul 1985, vol. 2, pp. 197-198; also, see: Saliha Paker, “Tanzimat Döneminde Avrupa Edebiyatından Çeviriler”, tr. A. Tükel, Metis Çeviri, issue 1 (1987), p. 37, note 5.

27 Çıngıraklı Tatar, no. 13, 9 May 1289.

28 Friedrich von Kraelitz-Greifenhorst, “Ermeni Harfleriyle Türkçe Hakkında Araştırmalar”, tr. H. T. Karateke, Kebikeç, issue 4 (1996), p. 15.

29 Mehmed Süreyya Bey, the government inspector, learned this language at the Faculty of Political Science in Ankara University from his friends. (Ali Çankaya, Yeni Mülkiye Târihi ve Mülkiyeliler, Ankara: Mars Matbaası, 1969, vol. 2, p.843). Ahmed Ihsan Bey learned the alphabet from Armenians in “three to five lessons” while he was at the university and he started reading Turkish periodicals published in Armenian alphabet fluently, as well as novels and the textbooks (Ahmet İhsan Tokgöz, Matbuat Hatıralarım (1888-1923), II vol., Istanbul 1930-31, vol. 1, p. 35, 43). There are more such examples. In 1913, Abdullah Cevdet, who wrote a foreword to Ermeni Edebiyâtı Nümûneleri prepared by Sarkis Srents, included the names of Halid Ziya, Süleyman Nazif, Şehabeddin Süleyman and, in the same place, demonstrated that Mehmed Emin (Yurdakul) knew enough Armenian to act as a translator, thus proving this claim.

30 Mustafa Nihat Özön, “Türkçede İlk Tercümeler”, Oluş, 1939, issue. 22, pp. 340-341.

31 Mustafa Nihat Özön, Türkçede Roman Hakkında Bir Deneme, Istanbul: Remzi Kitabevi, 1936, p.. 1, 156.

32 Server İskit, “Gazetelerimizde Tefrika ve Mecmuacılık”, Ülkü, new series: vol. 1 (1941), issue. 6, p. 15.

33 Carter V. Findley, Ahmed Midhat Efendi Avrupa’da, tr. A. Anadol, Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yurt Yayınları, 1999, p. 7.

34 For the differences between writing a newspaper article and a novel, see: Gülseren Şendur Atabek, Türk Romanında Gazeteciler, Ankara: Gazi Üniversitesi İletişim Fakültesi Yayınları, 2008.

35 Hamza Çakır, “Türkçe Basında İlk ‘Marka’ Rekabeti”, Erciyes Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Dergisi, 2004, no. 16, p. 28. See page 28. He says that the first pictured advertisement in the Turkish press was on June 22, 1863 in Cerîde-i Havâdis, but it seems that this conclusion was reached without checking the paper. In the 1147th issue of the paper printed on Muharrem 5, 1280, the prices of British agricultural tools included in the Ottoman Public Exhibition were given; there were no pictures. Those who are curious can see pictures of the plow in Mir’ât Mecmûası.

36 Palmira J. Brummett, İkinci Meşrutiyet Basınında İmge ve Emperyalizm-1908-1911, Istanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2003, pp. 366-377.

37 Fanny Davis, The Ottoman Lady: A Social History from 1718 to 1918, Westport: Greenwood Press, 1986, p. 191.

38 Nazife Güngör (ed.), Popüler Kültür ve İktidar, Ankara: Vadi Yayınları, 1999, pp. 29-30.

39 A. Hamdi Tanpınar, XIX. Asır Türk Edebiyatı Tarihi, Istanbul: İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi, 1956, p. 446.

40 Mâlûmât, no. 203, 16 Eylül 1315, p. 216.

41 For his life see. Hatice Aynur, “II. Abdülhamîd Dönemi Basın ve Yayın Dünyasının Kötü Adamı: Mâlûmâtcı Tâhir Bey”, Toplumsal Tarih, no.128 (2004), pp. 62-65.

42 For other examples, see: Münir Süleyman Çapanoğlu, Basın Tarihimizde Parazitler, Istanbul: Gazeteciler Cemiyeti, 1967.

43 M. Kayahan Özgül, XIX. Asrın Özel Bir Edebiyat Mahfeli Olarak Encümen-i Şuarâ, Ankara: Kurgan Edebiyat, 2012, p. 164.

44 Niyazı Berkes, Türkiye’de Çağdaşlaşma, Istanbul: Yapı Kredi Yayınları, 2004, p. 348.

45 Peçuylu İbrâhim, Târih, Istanbul: Matbaa-i Âmire, 1281, vol. 1, p. 363.

46 Özgül, Münif Paşa, pp. 75-76.

47 Abdülhak Adnan Adıvar, “Kahve ve Okuma”, Akşam, no. 9332, 11 Teşrînievvel 1944.

48 M. Cevdet, “Ermeni Mesâî-i İlmiyyesi”, Muallimler Mecmuası, no. 23, 1924, p. 777.

49 A. Süheyl Ünver, “Yayın Hayatımızda Önemli Yeri Olan Sarafim Kıraathanesi”, TTK Belleten, vol. 43, issue. 170, 1979, pp. 486-488.

50 Ahmed Râsim, Muharrir, Şair, Edib, Istanbul: Kanaat Kütübhanesi, 1342, p. 182.

51 Johann Strauss, “Les livres et l’imprimerie à Istanbul (1800-1908)”, Turquie: Livres D’hire, Livres D’aujourd’hui, ed. P. Dumont, Strasbourg, Istanbul: Les Editions Isis, 1992, pp. 5-24.

52 Ziyad Ebüzziyâ, Şinasi, prepared by H. Çelik, Istanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 1997, p. 178.

53 Arkadaş, no. 11, 5 Eylül 1928.

54 İlâve-i Mâlûmât, no. 125, 5 Mart 1313.

55 Seza Sinanlar Uslu, “Apparition et développement de la Presse Francophone D’Istanbul dans la Seconde Moitié du XIXe Siècle”, Synergies, 2010, vol. 3, p. 150.

56 Gérard Groc, “Türkiye’de Fransızca Basın”, Türkiye’de Yabancı Dilde Basın (16-18 May 1984) = La presse de langue etrangere en Turquie, Istanbul: İstanbul Üniversitesi Basın Yayın Yüksekokulu, 1985, p. 57-59.

57 Server İskit, Türkiye’de Matbuat İdareleri ve Politikaları, Istanbul: Başbakanlık Basın ve Yayın Genel Müdürlüğü, 1943, p. 95.

58 Tahsin Pasha, Abdülhamit ve Yıldız Hatıraları, Istanbul: Muallim Ahmed Halit Kütüphanesi, 1931, p. 117.

59 Ali Vehbi, Siyasî Hatıratım, Istanbul: Hareket, 1974, pp. 104-105.

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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