The printing press was first arose in Europe in the fifteenth century. Toward the end of the century, it was brought to Istanbul by Sephardic Jews who had sought refuge in the Ottoman state. Later, the Rum (Ottoman Greeks) and Armenians established their own presses in the city, and in 1727, the first Turkish printing press was opened.

In Europe, the printing press emerged on the scene as weapon in political and religious struggles and as a tool to project a terrifying Twilight Zone-style caricature of the Turkish threat. These two functions paved the way for the rapid prevalence and prominence of printing on the continent. In the case of Ottomans, however, the role of the press was purely educational. The early non-Muslim presses published works specifically about religion. The first product of the Jewish press in Istanbul was Jacob ben Asher’s Arba’ah Turim (Four Rows, December 13, 1493), a standard book of jurisprudence (a Halachic book) published by the brothers David and Samuel ben Nahmias; these brothers had emigrated from Spain and opened a press in Naples before coming to Istanbul. The typeface used in this work was the same as that used in the early books the Nahmias brothers had published in Spain and in Naples. The paper used in printing was from northern Italy. The second book to be published in Istanbul, Rosh Amanah (The Principles of Faith), was printed in 1505. Don Yehuda Gedalya, who emigrated from Lisbon as a refugee with his sons Yasef and Yaakov in 1492, opened a press in Salonika and published the city’s first printed book (the Torah) in 1504. The first Jewish press in Izmir was opened by Avraham ben Yedidya Gabay, and it was active until 1675. Within three hundred years, more than four hundred books, mostly on religion, were published by twelve presses in the city. Also, from 1838 onwards, 117 books in Ladino (Judaeo-Spanish) were published in Izmir. The largest press in the state was that founded by Yano ben Yaakov Eskanazi, who opened a press in Izmir as well. This was a branch of his press in Istanbul, which published 188 books between 1710 and 1778 and was the largest press in the empire. The typesetting for the first Turkish press, discussed below, was also made at Yaakov’s type foundry.1

Through printing was slow to take hold in the Ottoman state, Istanbul was one of the prominent centers of Jewish printing—along with Venice and Amsterdam—until the seventeenth century. Although the exact location of the first press is not known, Stephan Gerlach, who came to Istanbul in 1573, indicates that it was located on the road that led to the palace of Sokollu Mehmed Pasha in Kadırga.2 The Sabbatai Zevi movement had such an adverse effect on publication activities that between 1683 and 1710 no publications were made in Istanbul, nor were any made in Salonika between 1655 and 1695. Until the nineteenth century, Istanbul remained a center of Jewish printing, with some eight hundred titles published there. In later periods, it was eclipsed by Salonika, which became more a prestigious and important center of publishing.

The first Armenian press in Istanbul was opened in 1567; several presses were opened in a short time, placing Armenian printing activities on par with those of the Jewish community. Tokatlı Apkar, the founder of the first press, learned about printing in Italy; he returned to Istanbul with the necessary equipment and established the first press in the church of Surp Nigoğayos. He published five works there between 1567 and 1569, including calendar, grammar, and liturgical books. He later moved to Eçmiadzin, after which point the Armenian print ceased to function for many years.3 Although a new period began with the Eremya Çelebi Kömürcüyan Press, which was active between 1677 and 1678, only two books were published there, one on religion and the other on Jerusalem. Established in 1694, the Merzifonlu Kirkor Press was active in printing for forty years, publishing books mainly on religion. What came to be known as the Arapyan Press, founded by Asdvadzadur in 1700, also operated for many years and published many works. The Sarkis Tbir Press, which operated from 1703 to 1752, published thirteen works, mostly religious in nature. Among the various presses that were open in the final quarter of the eighteenth century, the largest and most prominent were the Hovhannes Asdvadzaduryan Press, which published more than twenty books, and the Mayr Tıpradun Press of Amira Miricanyan, which operated actively for twenty years. All these examples demonstrate the vibrancy of the Armenian press in the eighteenth century. The Armenian presses made great contributions in training various type-founders, including in Arabic. As a matter of fact, Arapoğlu Boğos, who was involved in the typesetting and restoration of the old printing machines used in the Mühendishane Press, worked with his four sons to successfully carry out naskh typing in 1814. He was also charged with founding types in ta’lik style in 1817.4 Armenian presses were also prevalent in Anatolia, and operated in a number of important centers of the Ottoman state in the nineteenth century.

The first Greek press in Istanbul was established as a result of interdenominational rivalry, and was opened in 1627 by Nikodemus Metaksas, who had begun his printing career in London. Metaksas came to Istanbul at the invitation of the reformist Patrick Kirillos Lukaris, and brought printing equipment and experts with him. He established a press in Beyoğlu, and its first book was A Treatise against the Jews (1627). The Jesuits had his press closed the following year. The Greek Patriarchate established a press that began operating after 1798. The important Greek-language publishing centers of the eighteenth century included Venice, Vienna, the Wallachian and Moldavian Principalities, and Moscopole (Voskopojë), the only such press in the Balkans. Twenty-one works were published at the press in Moscopole between the years 1731 and 1769.

1- <em>Vankulu Lügatı</em> published by Müteferrika Publishing House

It has been alleged that Muslims were banned from publishing works in the Arabic script at certain points during the reigns of Bayezid II (in 1485) and Selim I (in 1515), but such claims are unfounded. Such works, published in “Moorish” typeface in Europe, were brought to the Ottoman territory to be sold form very early on. The first known instance of such a work printed by the Ottomans themselves was Nasiruddin Tusi’s Tahrir-i Uqlidis fi ilm al-Handasa (Recension/Exposition of Euclid on the Science of Geometry), which was published in Arabic in Rome in 1494. Sultan Murad III himself issued an edict declaring that the book could be lawfully sold, thus demonstrating that there was no strict prejudice against printed books at that time. It is also known that in 1666, the first Turkish translation of the Bible in Arabic typeface was published.

2- <em>Tuhfat al-Kibar fi Asfar al-Bihar</em> published by Müteferrika Publishing House


Although there are records regarding various attempts by foreigners to start Turkish printing in Ottoman Istanbul before Müteferrika, it is not possible to verify their accuracy. On one account, a printing set with a handsome typeface was brought to Istanbul via Venice. In another, a similar attempt was made by an English entrepreneur. In both cases, the equipment was reportedly confiscated and thrown into the sea, but only the English businessman was compensated. In another account, a convert who wanted to bring a printing press to the city was executed. By the same token, an attempt made in the period of Mehmed IV (r. 1648–1687) failed after the ulama warned that the scribes would suffer financial difficulties, while another attempt was precluded by the grand vizier.5

The first Turkish press in was established in 1727. Some describe this date as having been delayed by certain elements within the Ottoman state—namely, the ulama—but such claims are groundless if one considers the limited literate audience of the time and the fact that madrasa students were provided with all necessary books. Moreover, the numerical data regarding the books published after the opening of the press and the amount of sales negate the assertion that the introduction of the printing press was in any way delayed. The claim that the introduction of the printing press was delayed by the resistance of the scribes, who earned their living by copying books, loses its validity when certain reactions in Europe, based on similar concerns, are taken into account. When six thousand scribes and illustrators in Paris revolted against the printing press, thinking that printing was a demonic art, they were driven to this out of worry that they would lose their jobs. The figures that state that in the eighteenth century, there were eighty thousand scribes in Ottoman lands,6 and six thousands of them worked in Istanbul. This demonstrates not only that books could be copied in a sufficient amount, but also that there was a significant population that opposed the printing press for economic reasons. This problem was solved by permitting the publication of works on matters other than religion. The assertion that in acting against printing press, the ulama became one of the reasons for the delay is not based on fact. In order to legitimize the printing press, the sheikh al-Islam issued a fatwa allowing books to be published, and the leaders of the ulama wrote to show their support. In addition to this, those who undertook the management of the printing press after Müteferrika were members of the ulama who had served as qadis. Moreover, the fact that they prepared books for printing and staffed the redaction committees seems to have been overlooked. Indeed, those who were responsible for revising and supervising the first books to be published in the press were İshak Efendi, the former qadi of Istanbul, Sahib Efendi, the former qadi of Salonika, Esad Efendi, the former qadi of Galata, and Musa Efendi, the sheikh of the Kasımpaşa Mevlevihane. It is known that a copy of the Kâmûs Tercümesi published in the Üsküdar Press between 1814 and 1817 was allotted to Mütercim (translator) Asım Efendi, one of the leading scholars of the time.7 Although the committees who were responsible for the work’s revision were composed of members of the ulama, it would be erroneous to deduce that such an identity, that is, being a member of the ulama, was a requirement for this task. Rather, it is clear that this group of people, who were the educated class of the time, were the only ones available who were capable of carrying out such duties. As a matter of fact, the books published in the non-Muslim presses were also being revised by clergymen for the same reason.

3- <em>Cihannüma</em> published by Müteferrika Publishing House

From the beginning, the works published in Europe in the Arabic script suffered from an inelegant, unsuccessful typeface, and did not appeal to the aesthetic sense of the Orient. They made people who were accustomed to the beauty of calligraphy uncomfortable. The adaptation to this situation took time, owing partly to developments in type founding. There are other examples that are analogous to this aesthetic and psychological impact. Records demonstrate that in Italy, manually replicated copies of musical notes were preferred for a long time and, despite the lower cost, printed versions were not favored.8

4- <em>Tarikh al-Hind al-Gharbi al-Musamma bi al-Hadith al-Naw</em> published by Müteferrika Publishing House

5- <em>Fuyuzat al-Mıqnatisiyya</em> published by Müteferrika Publishing House

There are a number of indications that some of the necessary equipment for the Müteferrika Press was brought from Europe. The first technical assistance for the press was provided by the non-Muslim presses that were actively operating in Istanbul, including a printing bench that was obtained from an Armenian press and a great deal of assistance for type foundry that was obtained from the Jews. Two printing benches were also imported from France. An early but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to cast type in the Arabic script was that of Said Efendi. Later, with the help of Kazgancızade Ömer Agha,9 who had been in Vienna between 1725 and 1732 as the Turkish şehbender (consul), six Turkish craftsmen were sent to the Netherlands via Vienna for training. There, approximately 200 to 250 kilograms of Arabic letters were cast and brought to Istanbul. Moreover, Ömer Agha ensured that printmakers and typesetters were employed in the press and had them sent to Istanbul. It is recorded that thirty-six apprentices and eight masters worked in the press.10

The fact that the total number of the works published in the Müteferrika Press remained low while those published in the non-Muslim presses were greater in number needs to be examined here. It would be misleading to attribute this discrepancy to a difference in the literacy rate and the demand for printed books in the two communities. Rather, what needs to be taken into consideration is that the books that were published in Turkish appealed only to the limited number of people who read Turkish within the borders of the Ottoman state, while the books in Greek, Hebrew, and Armenian could be offered for the benefit of those who lived outside the Ottoman Empire. These works could be shipped abroad and thus had a much broader market.

The Müteferrika Press escaped the 1730 Rebellion unharmed, and there was no reaction against the printing press. Though some have claimed that six thousand copyists in Istanbul participated in this rebellion and that the printing press and the paper factory in Kâğıthane were destroyed,11 these claims are false. Marsigli, who came to Istanbul in 1679, observed that the paper factory had long since ceased to function and had been replaced by a cloth factory.12 Although the press was indeed not active in the year 1731, this was probably because of the ongoing disorder in the aftermath of the 1730 Rebellion,13 and it is clear that the press was left untouched by the rebellious masses. The press did, however, become a target of opposition at a later date. In the period of coups and counter-coups that began with the termination of the era of Nizam-ı Cedid reforms in 1807, the press, as an indispensable part of the new system, was actively targeted. It had produced a great number of books on modern technical training and reform-era France. The press of that period, which had opened in Hasköy in 1797 and from 1802 onward carried out its activities in a detached building near the Selimiye Barracks in Üsküdar, was destroyed and plundered on 17 November 1808, sharing the fate of other military institutions like the Levent Farm and the Üsküdar and Selimiye Barracks, which were important symbols of the reformist period.14 Once again transferred to the European side of Istanbul in April 1824, the press started to operate again after 1826. The publishing business made great progress toward the end of the century with fifty-four major presses in Istanbul and hundreds throughout the provinces. The press in this period not only contributed to the modern educational and intellectual awakening among the peoples of the Ottoman realms, it was also the most influential tool in the political struggles that occurred during the end of the state.

The first Turkish press was founded in 1727 by İbrahim Müteferrika (d. 1745), a convert from Transylvania, and Said Efendi (d. 1761). It survived until the death of Müteferrika.15 Between 1729 and 1742, a total of 12,500 copies of seventeen works16 in twenty-two volumes were published here. Müteferrika’s probate inventory proves that his house, the lower floor of which was used as the press, was on Mismarcı Şüca Street in the Yavuzselim district of Istanbul; he also had a storeroom close to his house in a neighborhood known as Tophane.17

After the death of Müteferrika, operation of the press was transferred in 1747 to two former Rumelia qadis, İbrahim and Ahmet Efendi, at their own request. They were only able to publish a single work, a second edition of the Vankulu Lugatı (Vankulu Dictionary). Thus, the publication activities of the press were abandoned shortly thereafter and the press itself was closed down. Low sales of printed books and the inability to reach a sufficient number of readers accounted for the fate of the printing house. Latter attempts to revive Turkish printing activities were to encounter the same difficulties.


When the French Embassy wanted to buy the printing equipment that had belonged to Müteferrika at a price of four thousand kuruş from the female heir of İbrahim Efendi, the former Rumelia qadi, the idea of a Turkish printing press once again came onto the agenda. After having remained inactive for a long time, in AH 1196 (1781–1782), the equipment was purchased by Raşid Efendi, a beğlikçi (divan scribe). With the help of some old skilled workmen and with some trial and error, the damaged parts of the press were repaired; only with great difficulty, labor, and expense was it ultimately returned to operation. Between fifty and sixty purses of kuruş were spent to publish the chronicles of İzzî and Subhî and the work İ‘râbü’l-Kâfiye. But these works did not sell, and the effort thus led to a financial loss. As a result, the owners were reluctant to publish any other works. Between 1783 and 1785, they agreed to publish three more books only on the condition that the expenses be covered by the state. Known as the Vauban translations, this series was concerned with military technology, and comprised the 1792 Muhâsara-yı Kıla‘ (Art of fortification), 1793 Fenn-i Lağım (Science of sapping and mining), and 1794 Usûl-i Harbiyye (Art of warfare). After the publication of these works, the press stopped its activities.18 The precise location of the Raşid Efendi press in Istanbul is unknown.

6- <em>Raşid Tarihi</em> published by Müteferrika Publishing House

7- <em>Çelebizade Tarihi</em> published by Müteferrika Publishing House


The Mühendishane-i Berri (Military Engineering School) opened in 1795 in premises near the newly constructed Humbaracı and Lağımcı Barracks in Hasköy. Shortly after this, Raşid Efendi’s printing equipment was purchased by the state for 7,500 kuruş and was put to use on the ground floor of the Mühendishane building as an integral part of the education on engineering. In February 1797, the Mühendishane Abdurrahman Efendi was assigned to administer the press.19 Course books on engineering, logarithmic tables, and translated or original works in Turkish, Arabic, and French were published there. After the French attack on Egypt, proclamations20 in Turkish, Arabic, and French were printed along with the books. A total of nineteen titles were published at the Mühendishane press.21 The most valuable work published there was Mahmud Raif Efendi’s Tableau des Nouveaux Règlemens de l’Empire Ottoman (Table of the New Regulations in the Ottoman Empire), which included thirty-six engravings representing the Nizam-ı Cedid reform movement; two hundred copies were published.22

8- <em>Ahwal al-Ghazawat der Diyar al-Bosna</em> published by Müteferrika Publishing House

9- <em>Gülşen-i Hulefa published</em> by Müteferrika Publishing House

In 1802, due to a lack of space in the Mühendishane building, the press was transferred to another location. It was first moved to a place in the Kapalı Fırın neighborhood near the Mehmet Ağa Madrasa in Sultanahmet, but as this place also proved insufficiently spacious, it had to be transferred once again.


The new home of the press was a large detached building that was specifically built for the purpose behind the Harem port, near the Selimiye Barracks, Mosque, and Hammam. The sources of that period include valuable records regarding this building and the newly emerging Selimiye district. Seyyid Mustafa, one of the young engineers of the Mühendishane, describes this place as follows:

10- <em>Tuhfe-i Vehbi</em> published by Mühendishane Publishing House

11- <em>Kitab al-Lahjat al-Lughat</em> published by Mühendishane Publishing House

12- <em>Terceme-i Sıhah- Cevheri</em> (<em>Vankulu Lügatı</em>) published by Mühendishan Publishing House

Across from Topkapı Palace is the palace known as the Üsküdar Kavak Palace, which is near the remains of old Chalcedon [Kadıköy]. The position of this palace and the beautiful climate makes it a unique location, and it has been the favorite palace on the Anatolian side of the past sultans. The sultan has now built what amounts to a new city here, with a barracks perfectly conforming to the design and proportions of the scientific architecture, a large drilling field at its front, a mosque, and a public bath, as well as many shops and houses, among other necessary facilities. Moreover, he spent eight to ten purses of kuruş to establish a large press here in order to print various maps and books pertaining to the arts and sciences. He thus showed once again his enthusiasm for multiplying the number of men of learning as well as of trained and disciplined soldiers, and increased the might of the state to this sublime level.23

A contemporaneous record written by Behiç Efendi states that the separate building in which the press was housed was spectacular and lofty.24 In a similar vein, while describing the building, Aynî Efendi notes that it was as grand as the sultan’s personage: “He had a press built that was a reflection of his own lofty personage.”25 Câbî Ömer Efendi, who kept a private chronicle of this era, provides information about Selimiye Barracks, the press, and the works published there: “Next to the Kavak Palace and the Selimiye Barracks in Üsküdar were built a mosque, a public bath, and a complete library building to print various maps and history books.”26 What Câbî refers to as the library is actually the building that housed the press. Elsewhere he writes:

13- <em>Talhis al-Ashkal</em> published by Mühendishane Publishing House

A building for the press in which famous books, etc., were printed was constructed near the Selimiye mosque in Üsküdar, and typesetters and the necessary workers were assigned there. The press printed one thousand copies of Birgivi Risalesi and one thousand copies of Van Kulu Lügatı and Âmentü Şerhi—a commentary by the father of Küçük Tezkireci Muhib Efendi—under the sponsorship of Hadice Sultan. In addition, the Atlas-ı Cedid was printed and a stone pier was constructed at the Harem port.27

14- <em>Imtihan al-Muhandisin</em> published by Mühendishane Publishing House

There is some information that the building in which the press was housed was located on the site of the barns that were constructed in 1843 on the coast by the Selimiye Barracks, and that it was torn down during the construction of the barns.28

After the equipment of the Mühendishane Press to was transferred to Üsküdar, new regulations were introduced regarding its activities. According to these regulations, the management of the press ceased to be a state enterprise and was leased out to be run privately with certain conditions (maktû‘an idâresi). Accordingly, it was decided that the state should allocate funds to the press, which was to be transformed into an institution that operated at a profit or loss. For this purpose, 25,000 kuruş of capital was added to the press’s assets. As the press was housed on the grounds of the Imperial Selimiye Waqf, the building was considered to be in the possession of the waqf. Therefore, the management was to pay rent at the amount of 1,200 kuruş annually (at the monthly rate of 100 kuruş) to the waqf. The management of the press was given to the müderris (professor) Abdurrahman Efendi, who had performed the same duty at the Mühendishane Press, and he was given a license regarding this in December 1802. The management had to forward 66,425 kuruş to the treasury of the New Revenues Administration (İrad-ı Cedid) to cover the expenses of the administration in transferring the press equipment, books, printing benches, typeface, etc., to the new management of the printing house. Of this amount, 18,301 kuruş was ascertained as the value of the hardware and fixtures and declared as the pending debt of Abdurrahman Efendi. Likewise, out of this total amount, 25,000 kuruş was the capital stock, while the remaining 22,825 kuruş was the sum to be gradually paid to the New Revenues Administration after the business started to make a profit. The new management was to pay the salaries of the press staff and take care of the maintenance and preservation of the property it had received, although it was officially state property. Furthermore, it was to pay a regular rent to the foundation. If there was a large profit, after all costs and payments had been deducted, the remaining amount was to be given to New Revenues Administration. Thus, the license granted to the management equipped the Üsküdar Press with a new administrative structure and a “civil” identity without harming its characteristic as a public enterprise. Unlike when it had been operating as the Mühendishane Press, the Üsküdar Press was granted a new concession. According to this, it could publish some religious books, like Qur’anic commentaries (tefsir) and hadith books, the publication of which had not been possible until that time.29 The activities of other presses were also prohibited to secure its business. The press was allowed to accept printing orders from outside to meet the demand in the market. This included the religious books that the non-Muslim communities wanted to publish. Although there are accounts that such works were published,30 it has not been possible to find any evidence of these to date.

15- A page from <em>Atlas-ı Kebir Tercemesi</em> published by Üsküdar Publishing House

16- The binding cover of <em>Kitab al-Tibyan al-Nafi Tarjama al-Burhan al-Kati</em>‘ published by Mühendishane Publishing House

The Üsküdar Press operated on this basis for four or five years and, as will be seen in the list provided, it published some valuable works. But by 1807, the press had essentially shut down and its publication activities had come to a halt to a halt. This downturn was due to the internal and external conflicts that emerged at the end of Selim III’s reign. In a report on the situation of the Üsküdar Press, the former assistant defter emini (official responsible for registering property deeds) Salihzade Hüseyin Efendi requested to be put in charge of the press. He also stated that the reason the press had fallen into disuse was a lack of funds, and that although it ostensibly served the public welfare with the books and pamphlets it published, it should have undertaken the duty of spreading knowledge in Muslim realms. The situation was also discussed with Abdurrahman Efendi, who was in charge of the press. He also acknowledged that the press was on the verge of closure and attributed this to the financial crisis that had befallen it. He indicated that the reason for such an outcome was the fact that the published books could not be sold. The books could also not be marketed outside of Istanbul. He added that it would take years to sell off the books that had already been printed and to recoup the money invested. Thus, the activities of the press were indeed on the verge of coming to a close, as the expenses of publication and management could not be covered.

The matter was forwarded to Galib Efendi—then the reisülküttap (official responsible for foreign affairs among other duties)—for a final decision. He appointed as head of the press one Hüseyin Efendi, who was given an official charter in December 1807. He was to operate under the same conditions as his predecessor. Books and pamphlets in Turkish, Arabic, Persian, and Greek were not to be published by any other presses, and any attempts to do so would be prevented, thus, re-stressing the monopoly of the press. Hüseyin Efendi headed up the press for about a year, but the rising opposition against the Nizam-ı Cedid, the Kabakçı Mustafa Rebellion, the dethronement of Selim III, and the accession of Mustafa IV on May 29, 1807 forced him to leave his post shortly after his appointment.

In July 1808, the activities of the press were reassessed, and the management of the press was given to Maraşlı Ali Efendi—a palace scribe of the hoca (hodja) rank—under the same charter conditions. He would work together with Hafız Mehmed Emin Efendi, the imam of the Üsküdar Doğancılar Mosque. The value of the equipment, books, and maps they had inherited was estimated at 33,382 kuruş, which amount was to be paid over time to the treasury.31

17- The new building of Selimiye Barracks built by Sultan Mahmud II near which there were Üsküdar Publishing House and other New Order (Nizam-ı Cedid) facilities

In the meantime, there were important developments taking place in Istanbul. Mahmud II (r. 1808–1839) came to the throne after the military intervention of Alemdar Mustafa Pasha (July 6, 1808). Shortly thereafter, in November, a reaction against Alemdar emerged. The scale of the bloody uprising not only resulted in the death of Alemdar, but even threatened the court. The janissaries demonstrated their outrage against the Sekban-ı Cedid corps, which had been rapidly established in order to revive the Nizam-ı Cedid on 17 November 1808, by attacking and setting the Levent and Selimiye Barracks on fire. In the attack, the janissaries killed Major Arnavut Mustafa, who was defending the barracks with the Sekban soldiers under his command. They also burned down the officer residences there and plundered and set alight the houses of common citizens and shops in the vicinity. With the removal of Selim III from the throne and the abolition of the Nizam-ı Cedid corps, the barracks and the functioning buildings and businesses of the Selimiye Waqf were abandoned. Soon after, many of the weavers and other tradesmen (sandalcı) who had worked in the area sent a demand to the new sultan, Mustafa IV, for compensation in the amount of 61,000 kuruş. In response, it was decided that this amount was to be paid by the Selimiye Waqf in four installments. In order to cover this cost and to earn income, it was determined that the barracks were to be converted into a han (inn) and the rooms were to be rented out; a trustee was to be assigned to the building to take care of this. Upon the accession of Mahmud II, this decision was reversed, the state assumed responsibility for compensating the tradesmen for their losses, and the building was restored as a barracks for the recently established Sekban-ı Cedid corps. But on November 17, 1808, the barracks was burned to the ground by rebels, and remained in a derelict state until the abolition of the janissaries in 1826.

After the fire and plundering of the Selimiye Barracks and the surrounding buildings, nothing remained other than the Selimiye Mosque, which was damaged in the conflagration. It can be understood that the press, situated near the Harem port, also suffered its share in this calamity. According to an account by Mehmed Emin Efendi, the imam of the Doğancılar Mosque who was in charge of the press, many bound and unbound books, the equipment, and the printing press were plundered, damaged, or destroyed in the fire. Unlike the Müteferrika Press, which is known to have survived the devastation of the Patrona Revolt unharmed, this time the press, considered to be a prominent and integral part of the Nizam-ı Cedid order, suffered great damage—damage caused by other institutions that were also part of the Nizam-ı Cedid.

18- <em>Mahasin al-Asrar wa Haqaiq al-Ahbar</em> published by Üsküdar Publishing House

Mehmed Emin Efendi and Ali Efendi continued to operate the press in spite of these conditions. They tried to get the press back up and running while also striving to overcome the costs of the endeavor and pay the rent. In February 1809, they petitioned the qadis of Istanbul and the Bilâd-ı Selâse (the three regions of Üsküdar, Galata, and Pera) to secure the monopoly given to the press to prevent publications from any other presses. Though they were successful in this attempt, their partnership did not remain harmonious for long, likely because of the troubles that the press experienced and the financial difficulties they faced. As a result, Ali Efendi (d. 1814–1817) handed over his duties to his partner in return for an annual payment of five hundred kuruş. Yet Mehmed Emin Efendi proved unable to carry on alone, and the press never recovered from the damage it had suffered in 1807 and 1808. Though it managed to remain operational, it was unable to sell the books it published or turn a profit. It continued operating at a loss and fell deeper into debt. The true nature of the plight of the press came to light as a result of the decision to publish Asım Efendi’s (d. 1820) Kâmûs Tercümesi, when it emerged that the equipment of the press was inadequate and in poor condition and that the workers had deserted. In response, there was a proposal to move the press again to a site on the European side of the city. The site under consideration was the parade ground near Büyük Havuz in the Tersane (shipyard). However, the relocation of the press was ultimately called off because of the importance of the site to the Tersane, and it was decided that some other arrangement would have to be made for the publication of the Kâmûs Tercümesi.

19- The first page of <em>Natayij al-Afkar ‘ala Izhar al-Asrar</em> published by Üsküda Publishing House

20- <em>Faraid al-Fawaid fi Bayan al-Aqaid</em> (Amentü Şerhi) published by Üsküdar Publishing House

A Printer–Imam from Üsküdar

In 1817, there was a change in the administration of the press. The shares, half of which were owned by the heir of the former partner of the press Ali Efendi, and half by Mehmed Emin Efendi, were seized by the state. In November 1817, the management of the press was given to Abdurrahim Muhib Efendi (d. 1821), the first rûznâmçe (a leading scribe in the accounting department), in the form of a mukataa or tax farm. When the overall billing accounts were settled, it was seen that the business had been operating at a loss and that Mehmed Emin Efendi had incurred a total debt of 17,768 kuruş. Moreover, it was seen that some books and equipment entrusted to him no longer existed; the state sought to recover these items. When Mehmed Emin Efendi was called to account, he first objected to having to pay 17,768 kuruş for the missing equipment and books, claiming that some books and equipment that had been included within this amount had been stolen or destroyed in the events of November 1808, while others had been destroyed by fire. According to his own account, Mehmed Emin Efendi was over the age of eighty at that time and owned no property but a house, which was worth no more than a thousand kuruş; he offered to put this up for sale to pay the debts. He stated that under these circumstances, he had no other way to carry out his duty to pay the debt. Although he had been placed in charge of the press, it was evident that he would not be able to fulfill his duties. Thus, out of pity for his old age and poverty, it was decided that his debts should be written off and the responsibility of the press should be taken over by the state, as the press had served the public welfare (menâfi‘-i amme).

21- <em>Usul al-Handasa and Muthallathat</em> published by Üsküdar Publishing House

The management of the press remained under the charge of Abdurrahman Muhib Efendi until his death on August 18, 1821. Muhib Efendi’s interest in printing activities began in 1813, and this interest became more pronounced with the decision to publish Kâmûs Tercümesi in 1814. Although it was Mehmed Efendi who presided over the press at that time, the publication of Kâmûs was assigned to Muhib Efendi, likely because of Mehmed Efendi’s perceived failure. During the four years that Muhib Efendi was in charge of the press, the financial situation of the press did not improve. Like his predecessor, Muhib Efendi ended up making a loss. Moreover, he incurred an additional debt of 33,950 kuruş by the purchase of 1,200 typefaces, produced by Arapoğlu Bogos. Muhib Efendi ultimately died a pauper, burdened by his own debt and that of his predecessor. After his death, the 99,106 kuruş he owed was written off and paid by the state. Mahmud II complained that the available books could not be sold, even in ten years, and thus the expenses incurred for their publication could not be regained. According to the sultan, this was due to the incompetent administration of the press. But it is clear that the true reasons why the books remained unsold and the invested capital was not returned lay elsewhere.


After the death of Muhib Efendi, the management of the press was assigned to the superintendent of the Imperial Armory İbrahim Sâib Efendi, a senior scribe of the hodja rank, under the same charter conditions. The report he gave, dated September 1823, sheds light on the situation of the press: because of the Greek revolution, which started in 1821, Greeks from some prominent institutions were dismissed in accordance with the safety measures taken in Istanbul. In view of this situation, the dismissal of Greeks working in the press was unavoidable. Efforts were then made to replace them with Muslim workers. However, since most of the inhabitants of Üsküdar were working in vineyards and orchards, the necessary workers were not available. As Saib Efendi pointed out, there were trained workers, but their numbers would only suffice for the printing bench. Thus, as long as the press remained in Üsküdar, there would be difficulties in recruiting and training the most important staff, including proofreaders, typesetters, and other workers. It can be understood that another contributing factors was the fact that the press was in a remote location far from the city and difficult to access. In such circumstances, it was important to move the press to a more suitable location in the city. According to Saib Efendi, this location was the long-vacant site of the Kapudan İbrahim Paşa Bathhouse near Süleymaniye. The relocation of the press was referred to Mahmud II, who gave his approval. The Kapudan İbrahim Paşa Bathhouse was then purchased for 20,000 kuruş from the treasury on behalf of İbrahim Saib Efendi in September 1823, on the condition that it would be repaid in two installments over two years. It was agreed that the new place for the press would be ready in six months, that is, April 1824. The books and equipment previously located at the Üsküdar Press were itemized in December 1823. The equipment that was in good condition and that was to be moved to the new location was itemized separately and fixtures and equipment that were not worth transferring and that were of no use were identified. The relocation of the Üsküdar Press was completed by June 7, 1824.32

The first work that the Imperial Publishing House (Dârü’t-tıbâati’l-âmire) published in its new location was İbrahim Halebi’s (d. 1549) famous fiqh work Mecmau’l-enhur fî şerhi’l-Mülteka’l-ebhur, prepared by Şeyhizade Abdurrahman b. Şeyh Mehmed b. Süleymân. This work was published in two volumes in November 1824 and April 1825 (AH 1240–1242). The second work published here was from İmam Muhammed b. Hasan eş-Şeybânî’s (d. 805) Siyer-i Kebîr Tercümesi, which was translated between 1796 and 1798 by Ayntâbî es-Seyyid Mehmed Münib Efendi. One thousand copies of the two-volume work were published on September 15, 1825.

The new location of the press was a site that today serves as the School of Foreign Languages of Istanbul University. On August 15, 1831, the nearby mansion of Musa Agha, a former tax farmer of Bursa with the honorific title of “gatekeeper of the sublime court,” was purchased for 100,000 kuruş and converted into a newspaper office. On November 1, 1831, the first Turkish newspaper was published here under the title of Takvîm-i Vekâyi (Calendar of events).33 In 1832, the management of the press was assigned to the vakanüvis (court chronicler) Esad Efendi (d. 1848), who was given the title of “Superintendant of the Office of the Imperial Takvîm-i Vekâyi and the Prosperous Press.” Four days after the publication of the Turkish paper, a copy in French was also published under the title Le Moniteur Ottoman; this continued until June 1836. Greek, Armenian, Arabic, and Persian versions of the Takvîm-i Vekâyi were also published from 1832 onward.34 Within sixteen years, from 1824 to 1840, 117 works, a total of 143 volumes, were published in the Istanbul Press. They were mainly concerned with catechism, Islamic law, Islamic philosophy, the deeds and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, Islamic theology, language, rhetoric, diction, logic, mysticism, literature, the military sciences, the physical sciences, law codes, medicine, history, and geography.35

Publications in foreign languages continued even more regularly after the death of Mahmud II (1839); the setbacks encountered in earlier periods regarding the press and the publication of books and newspapers began to disappear. Such difficulties did not come to the fore in the new period that began with the Tanzimat.

An invention that would make the printing of books and typesetting easier—thus enabling precise publication of all kinds of images, pictures, and handwriting—heralded a new period of publication in Istanbul. The new technique was known as lithography, and this time it was brought to Istanbul very soon after its discovery. It was introduced by Henry Coral (d. 1865), who came to Istanbul in 1831 at the age of twenty-six and decided to take up residence in the city. Coral’s skills were acknowledged by the Ministry of War, and he started to work as a civil servant at a salary of five hundred kuruş. He opened a workshop in a location that had been allocated by the ministry and there, using the technique of lithography, he began to publish military works for the new army. Initially, books that were to be used in military training were published here, including Nuhbetü’t-ta‘lîm (1247/1831), Nefer Talimi (the troop drill) (1248/1832), Top Alayı Talimi (the regimental drill of the artillery) (1250/1834) Talim-i Asâkir-i Piyâdegân maa Topçuyân (the infantry and gunner drill) (1250/1835), Müzekkere-i Zâbitân (the warrant of officers) (1251/1836) and Top Bölüğü Talimi (the company drill of the artillery) (1252/1837). Various illustrations were also included in these books. In the prefaces, it is clearly stated that their preparation and publication had been assigned to Hüsrev Pasha, the powerful serasker of the era. However, whether Hüsrev Pasha was the writer of these works is questionable.36 In 1836, Henry Coral established his own press near the Galata Mevlevihanesi. There, he published dictionaries and linguistic books, particularly in French. He was given a concession for publishing manuscripts. His descendants expanded and sustained the press after Henry Coral died from cholera. But the press was no longer without a rival. From 1850 onwards, due to the efforts of many entrepreneurs, the number of the presses that used lithography in Istanbul exceeded thirty; very quickly, most of the provinces in Anatolia and Rumelia had similar presses.37

The Administrators of Üsküdar Press

Mudarris Abdurrahman Efendi—professor at the Imperial Engineering School, December 1802–December 1807

Salihzade Seyyid Hüseyin Efendi—deputy chief of Defteremini, December 2, 1807 – November 19, 1808

Maraşlı Ali—a senior palace scribe of the hodja rank, Hafız Mehmed Emin—imam of Doğancılar Mosque, November 19, 1808– November 26, 1817

Abdürrahim Muhib Efendi, November 26, 1817–August 18, 1821

İbrahim Sâib Efendi—a senior palace scribe of the hodja rank and superintendant of the Imperial Armory, 1821–1824/-1832


Adıvar, Abdülhak Adnan,Osmanlı Türklerinde İlim, Istanbul 1982, p. 159 ff.

Ersoy, Osman,Türkiye’ye Matbaanın Girişi ve İlk Basılan Eserler, Ankara 1959.

Hitzel, Frédéric, “Manuscrits, Livres et Culture Livresque á Istanbul”, Revue du Monde Musulman et de la Méditerranée, 1999, no. 87-88, pp. 19-37.

Kreiser, Klaus, Causes of the Decrease of Ignorance? Remarks on the Printing of Books in the Ottoman Empire”, The Beginnings of Printing in the Near and Middle East: Jews, Christians and Muslims, Wiesbaden 2001, pp. 13-16.

Layton, Evro, “Nikodemos Metaxas the First Greek printer in the Eastern word”, Harvard Library Bulletin, 1967, vol. 15. no. 2, pp. 140-168.

Peyfuss, M. D., “Die Druckerei von Moschopolis, 1731-1769”, Buchdruck und Heiligenverehrung im Erzbistum Achrida, Vienna 1966.

Selim Nüzhet,Türk Matbaacılığı, Istanbul 1928.

Strauss, Johann, “Le livre Français d’Istanbul (1730-1908)”, Revue du Monde Musulman et de la Méditerranée, 1999, no. 87-88, pp. 277-301.

Tamari, Ittai Joseph, “Jewish Printing and Publishing Activities in the Ottoman Cities of Constantinople and Saloniki at the Dawn of Early Modern Europa”, The Beginnings of Printing in the Near and Middle East: Jews, Christians and Muslims, Wiesbaden 2001, pp. 9-10.

Toderini, Giambattista, Letteratura Turchesca, Venice 1787, vol.1.

Tuğlacı, Pars,“Osmanlı Türkiyesi’nde Ermeni Matbaacılığı ve Ermenilerin Türk Matbaacılığına Katkısı”, (Armenian Printing in Ottoman Turkey and the Contributions of the Armenians to Turkish Printing) TT, 1991, vol. 15, no. 86, pp. 58-56.

Weil, Gotthold, “Die Ersten Drucke der Türkei”, Zentralblatt für Bibliothekswesen, 1907, vol. 24, pp. 49-61.

Yaari, Abraham, Hebrew Printing in Constantinople. Its History and Bibliography, Jerusalem 1967 (Hebrew).


1 Moshe Sevilla-Sharon, Türkiye Yahudileri Tarihsel Bakış. Jerusalem: The Hebrew University, 1982, p. 90.

2 Stephan Gerlach, Türkiye Günlüğü 1577-1578, ed. Kemal Beydilli, tr. T. Noyan, Istanbul: Kitap Yayınevi, 2007, vol. 2, p. 525.

3 Vağarşag Seropyan, “Ermeni Basımevleri”, Ist.A, III, 182.

4 Kemal Beydilli, Türk Bilim ve Matbaacılık Tarihinde Mühendishâne, Mühendishâne Matbaası ve Kütüphanesi (1770-1826), Istanbul: Eren Yayıncılık, 1995, p. 321.

5 Franz Babinger, Stambuler Buchwesen im 18. Jahrhundert. Leipzig: Deutscher Verein für Buchwesen und Schrifttum, 1919, p. 8.

6 Recounted from Marsigli (Stato Militare, 1732, I, 40) N. Jorga, Geschichte des Osmanischen Reiches, Gotha: Friedrich Andreas Perthes, 1911, vol. 4, p. 362. İsmail Hami Danişmend, who reports the number as being 90,000, also refers to Marsigli, İzahlı Osmanlı Tarihi Kronolojisi, Istanbul: Türkiye Yayınevi, 1972, vol. 4, p. 16. Jale Baysal is probably mistaken in quoting this number as the population of the scribes working in Istanbul: Müteferrika’dan Birinci Meşrutiyete Kadar Osmanlı Türklerinin Bastıkları Kitaplar, Istanbul: Edebiyat Fakültesi Matbaası, 1968, p. 9. See also: G. Oman, “Matbaa”, EI2, VI, 795.

7 See, Beydilli, Mühendishane, p. 213

8 Babinger, Buchwesen, p. 8.

9 For his activities in Vienna and afterward, see: Heidrun Wurm, “Entstehung und Aufhebung des osmanischen Generalkonsulat zu Wien, 1726-1732”, Mitteilungen des österreichischen Staatsarchives, 1992, no. 42, pp. 152-187.

10 Babinger, Buchwesen, p. 11.

11 François Baron de Tott, Mémoire sur les Turcs et les Tartares, Amsterdam 1784, p. 15.

12 Ferdinando Marsigli, Stato Militare dell’Impero Ottomano, Haag, Amsterdam: Appresso P. Gosse, & G. Neaulme [etc.]; 1732, p. 138.

13 Babinger, Buchwesen, p. 19.

14 See. Beydilli, Mühendishâne, pp. 139-140, 150.

15 The date of Müteferrika’s death is controversial. Although the commonly accepted date is 1745 (T. Halasi Kun, “İbrahim Müteferrika”, İA, vol. 5/2 p. 897), with reference to the date of the tereke after his death (20 RA. 1160/April 1, 1747), see Orlin Sabev, İbrahim Müteferrika ya da İlk Osmanlı Matbaa Serüveni: 1726-1746, Istanbul: Yeditepe Yayınevi, 2006, p. 75). For the record regarding the cancellation of his ulufe (salary) (25 Muharrem 1160/February 6, 1747), see: Erhan Afyoncu, “İbrahim Müteferrika”, DİA, vol. 21, pp. 324-327. It has been asserted that he must have died before this last date. Thus, although the dates of the tereke and the cancellation of the ulufe are certain, the accounts regarding the date of his death are based on assumption.

16 I treat Râşid’s chronicle and the Küçükçelebizâde chronicle, the chronological continuation of the former work, as separate titles.

17 Sabev, İbrahim Müteferrika, p. 350, 360.

18 See, Beydilli, Mühendishâne, p. 104.

19 For these developments, see Beydilli, Mühendishane, p. 99.

20 These propaganda leaflets were published for the first time in Kemal Beydilli, Mühendishâne ve Üsküdar Matbaalarında Basılan Kitapların Listesi ve Bir Katalog, Istanbul: Eren Yayıncılık, 1997, pp. 33-35.

21 See Beydilli, Mühendishâne, pp. 254-255; Beydilli, Katalog, pp. 15-17.

22 For the publication of the original text in Turkish and a facsimile, see: Kemal Beydilli and İlhan Şahin, Mahmud Raif Efendi ve Nizâm-ı Cedîd’e Dair Eseri, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 2001.

23 See Kemal Beydilli, “İlk Mühendislerimizden Seyyid Mustafa ve Nizâm-ı Cedîd’e Dair Risâlesi”, TED, 1987, vol. 12, pp. 436-437.

24 Mehmed Emin Behiç, Sevânihü’l-Levâyih, ed. Ali Osman Çınar, (MA dissertation), Marmara University, 1992, f. 70a.

25 Aynî Dîvanı, Istanbul: Arif Efendi Matbaası, 1258, p. 283.

26 Câbî Ömer Efendi, Târih, prepared by Mehmet Ali Beyhan, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 2003, vol. 1, p. 38.

27 Câbî, Târih, vol. 1, p. 90.

28 İsmail Hakkı Konyalı, Üsküdar Tarihi, Istanbul: Türkiye Yeşilay Cemiyeti, 1977, vol. 2, p. 528, 531.

29 One of the leading figures of the age, Behiç Efendi, argued that religious books should also be printed in the presses so that the Muslim population could be released from ignorance. He also asserted that books in printed form could be provided at a lower cost. In this way, the talebe-i ulum (students of higher religious education), who could barely afford daily subsistence, could purchase their books at a cost of 150 to 200 kuruş rather than the 500 kuruş they would otherwise cost. He stated that this would diminish the shortage of work at the press. See: Sevânihü’l-Levâyih, f. 126.

30 Beydilli, Mühendishâne, p. 137, 140.

31 Kemal Beydilli, “Nizâm-ı Cedîd Şehri Üsküdar’da Matbaacı Bir İmam: Doğancılar İmamı Hâfız Mehmed Efendi”, Üsküdar Sempozyumu IV: 3-5 Kasım 2006: Bildiriler, ed. Coşkun Yılmaz, Istanbul: Üsküdar Belediyesi, 2007, vol. 2, pp. 555-568.

32 For these developments, see: Beydilli, Mühendishâne, pp. 144-150.

33 Nesimi Yazıcı, Takvim-i Vekayi: Belgeler, Ankara: Gazi Üniversitesi Basın-Yayın Yüksekokulu, 1983, p. 18. The first Muslim paper to be published within the borders of the Ottoman Empire was the Vekâyiu’l-Mısriyye, which was first published in Arabic and Turkish on November 20, 1828, and was subsequently published only in Arabic.

34 For details, see: Yazıcı, Takvim-i Vekayi, pp. 56-57, 60-61, 64-65.

35 For the works published here, see: Necdet Öz, “Tabhane ile Takvimhane’nin Birleşmesi ve Basılan Eserler (1824-1840)” (MA dissertation), Marmara University, 2012.

36 Selim Nüzhet Gerçek, Türk Taş Basmacılığı, Istanbul: Maarif Vekaleti, 1939, p. 13; Yüksel Çelik, “Hüsrev Mehmet Paşa: Siyasi Hayatı ve Askeri Faaliyetleri (1756-1855)” (Phd Thesis), Istanbul University, 2005, pp. 355-357.

37 Âlim Kahraman, “Taş Basması”, DİA, XL, 144-145.

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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