The First Library in Ottoman Istanbul and the Emergence of Book Collections

With the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman state began to transform into an empire. Sultan Mehmed II wanted to turn Istanbul, the administrative center of the state, into a cultural center as well, and he set about the construction of a city; he described this process as a “great jihad” in the waqfiya (endowment deed) of his institutions, which was drawn up shortly after the conquest.1 The foundations of the earliest cultural institutions of Ottoman Istanbul were laid during this period. First, in order to provide educational services, the Zeyrek Madrasa was established in the priests’ rooms on the upper level of the Pantokratoros Monastery, and then another madrasa was established in Hagia Sophia. Until the establishment of the Semaniye Madrasas, educational services in the city were conducted in churches that had been transformed into mosques and schools. The Old Palace in Beyazıt, one of the first buildings constructed after the conquest, also housed the first library established for the new residents of the city. Its books had first been relocated from Manisa to the palace in Edirne, and were moved to the Old Palace after its completion. This library was later moved to Topkapı Palace.

We do not have information about how many books were in the palace library during Mehmed II’s reign. However, when we consider the 7,200 works in 5,700 manuscript volumes mentioned in this library’s catalogue, prepared in 908 (1502) during Bayezid II’s reign,2 it can be concluded that the palace library was quite rich during Mehmed II’s time. In addition to Islamic manuscripts, the library also held manuscripts in Greek, Latin, Armenian, Syriac, Italian, and Hebrew. A list prepared in the sixteenth century states that the palace library contained 120 non-Islamic manuscripts, most of which were in Greek.3 Assuming that the manuscripts inherited from the Byzantine period were transferred to the palace library, Western researchers have attempted to gain access to this library in the hopes of discovering some missing books from the early Renaissance era from the second half of the seventeenth century.4

Researchers have different views about which library was the first endowed library of Istanbul. Süheyl Ünver argues that it was the library that was part of the Mahmud Pasha Madrasa, while Selim Nüzhet Gerçek is of the opinion that the library established within the Eyüp Complex (külliye) (1459) was older. If the construction date of the Mahmut Pasha Complex is taken into consideration, then it is not possible to accept Süheyl Ünver’s statement. It seems that the library in the Eyüp Complex had been established earlier than the one in the Mahmud Pasha Madrasa. In the waqfiya of the Eyüp Complex, which was copied in Arabic in 990 (1582), it is stipulated that a hafiz al-kutub (librarian, protector of the books)5 be employed to preserve the manuscripts in the madrasa, and that he be paid one dirham a day. According to the accounting records of the Eyüp library, prepared thirty years after the construction of this complex in 893–895 (1488–1490), a man named Fakih worked as the librarian in the mosque on a salary of one akçe a day.

1a- The entrance of Fatih Library and its view from the side of covered graveyard

1b- The entrance of Fatih Library and its view from the side of covered graveyard

Even though the library in the Eyüp Complex is older than the one in the Mahmud Pasha Madrasa, it was not the first library established in Istanbul after the conquest. An endowment deed found in the Archives of the Directorate General of Foundations informs us that Sheikh Muhammed b. Sheikh Hasan Geylani, also known as Visali, established a small library in his dervish lodge located near the city walls (at At İskelesi, today’s Bahçekapı) in Istanbul in 858 (1454).6 There was no librarian appointed to preserve and maintain this small collection, which consisted of about twenty books on Sufism that were probably made available to the dervishes.

Researchers agree that Mehmed II established a library in the section of Hagia Sophia that was turned into a madrasa after the conquest. However, because this place was used only temporarily for education until the foundation of the Semaniye Madrasas, its collection likely consisted of no more than a few textbooks. The Zeyrek Madrasa Library was also a similar type of library, and there are some books known to have been granted to this madrasa. One of these was donated by someone called Fatih, another by someone called Mahbub Çelebi, and two others by people whose names were not recorded. From the records written on the books, it can be understood that these four books were later moved to the library of the Fatih Complex.

After the Semaniye Madrasas were opened, the educational activities in the Zeyrek Madrasa were halted and the madrasa was transformed into a mosque. Though some books were donated to the Zeyrek Madrasa, which was used as a temporary place of education in order to meet the needs of professors and students, there does not seem to have been an attempt to establish an endowed library as had been done for Hagia Sophia. If Mehmed II had established a library there, it would most likely have contained between one hundred and two hundred books, based on the size of a normal library at the time. Since only two or three books survive from this collection, and given the lack of any records related to this library, it is safe to assume that no library was established in the Zeyrek Madrasa.

The examples of Hagia Sophia and Zeyrek indicate that Mehmed II planned to found a large complex in Istanbul immediately after the conquest, and tried to deal with education by temporary measures until its foundation. The complex that Sultan Mehmed had wanted to build in Istanbul, including the Semaniye Madrasas, was completed in December 1470, eight years after the start of its construction. In addition to a mosque, eight madrasas, and an imarethane (soup kitchen), the complex also included four libraries, each attached to a different madrasa. These libraries were later combined and moved into the mosque.

Statesmen of the period followed Mehmed II and established educational institutions in Istanbul. In keeping with the order of Mehmed II, Mahmud Pasha established charitable institutions in other Ottoman cities, a complex in Istanbul, and two libraries in his madrasas in Istanbul and Hasköy. It is known from the endowment deed, which is dated Receb 919 (September 1513) and preserved in the İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri (Register of Istanbul Foundations), and from a hujjah (title deed)7 that there was a library in the complex built in the name of Muslihuddin Mustafa, also known as Sheikh Vefa (d. 1490), who had lived during Mehmed II’s reign.8

Bayezid II enriched the library in Topkapı Palace, which had been established during Sultan Mehmed II’s time, by donating the books that had been dedicated to him or given to him as gifts. There was a worker employed in this library who had the title hafız-ı kütüb-i hassa (librarian of imperial books).9 Vaiz Atûfi, a scholar from Bayezid II’s reign, prepared a catalogue for this library. This palace library catalogue, which was prepared in 908 (1502) and referred to as Kitabü’l-kütüb or Defterü’l-kütüb, is the oldest catalogue to have been separately prepared that has survived until today.10 At the beginning of this 340-page catalogue, there is a Turkish prologue dealing with the rules of cataloguing and classification and a separate Arabic prologue explaining that the catalogue was prepared upon the orders of Sultan Bayezid II. It is also possible that this sultan established a library the Galatasaray School, which he founded.

There is no document indicating that there was a library at the time of the foundation of Bayezid II’s mosque complex, work on which began in 906 (1500/1501) and ended several years later in the month of Rabi‘ al-Akhir (September 1505). The oldest records we have about the library in this complex belong to the end of the seventeenth century. The accounts of the complex’s waqf from 991 (1583) and 1006 (1597–1598), state that a three-akçe salary was allocated for the librarian of the mosque and the madrasa.11

During Bayezid II’s reign, some statesmen, scholars, and sheikhs established libraries within the charitable institutions they founded in Istanbul. Endowment deeds recorded in the İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri indicate that there were four libraries established in Istanbul during this period. It is known that Mevlana Muhyiddin, known as Alaiyeli Muhyiddin, donated seventy-one manuscripts in 907 (1501/02), and that these were later moved to the Fatih Complex. We learn from the sources that the madrasa library established by Atik Ali Pasha in Çemberlitaş had a collection of 119 books and that a librarian was appointed to this library on a salary of three akçes. Efdalzade Ahmed Çelebi, one of the sheikh al-Islams (chief jurist) of the period, appointed a librarian to care for the two books he kept in his madrasa near the Fatih Mosque and paid this person one akçe a day. A report of Taşköprizade indicates that Ahi Yusuf b. Cüneyd el-Tokadi donated several books to the prayer house he had established near his home in Istanbul for the use of scholars.12

2- Millet Library

As a result of scholarly and cultural developments under Bayezid II, there emerged some private libraries that became the seed for later endowed libraries. It is recorded that Sinan Pasha owned a rich library13 and that Müeyyedzade had a library of seven thousand volumes, quite a large number at that time.14

During Bayezid II’s reign, Mehmed II’s endowments were augmented and a new waqfiya was drawn up for them.15 The records of Muhammed b. Ali Fenari show that most of the books in the library of Mehmed II’s complex were inventoried. According to the prologue of a catalogue prepared for this library during Süleyman’s reign by Hacı Hasanzade, another catalogue of the library’s books had been prepared by Muhammed b. Ali Fenari.16

The Increase in the Number of Madrasas and the Spread of Libraries to the Corners of Istanbul During the Sixteenth Century

Although the brevity of his reign and the time he spent on military expeditions did not give Yavuz Sultan Selim the opportunity to establish libraries of his own, great book collections were augmented with books from17 newly conquered lands like Egypt and Syria, both through war booty18 and through books obtained from private libraries that had effectively ceased to function after their owners’ deaths.19 In this way, the foundations were laid for many of the endowed libraries that were to be established in the following periods. One of the three libraries established during this period was the one in the mosque constructed by Mevlana Bali, one of the scholars of the time, within the borders of the Sheikh Süleyman district.20 With the endowment deed that he prepared in 925 (1519), Mevlana Bali reserved the rooms around the mosque for the residence of “the scholars and the righteous.” He appointed the mosque’s imam to the task of protecting his collection of 620 books and required him not to bar access to anybody who wanted to benefit from these books.

3- Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Paşa Library

As had been the case during Sultan Selim I’s reign, a state of stagnation can be observed in the development of the libraries in the early years of Sultan Süleyman I’s reign. Perhaps this was a result of the problems in the social structure stemming from the two large military expeditions of Sultan Selim I in only a few years. In the early years of Sultan Süleyman I’s reign, there were no significant activities related to library construction other than a few libraries that opened in Edirne. On the other hand, it can be seen that a library was considered to be a necessary component for most of the madrasas founded in the second and third quarter of the sixteenth century. During this period, there were libraries in the madrasas established by Hayreddin Pasha, Kasım Pasha, Rüstem Pasha, İbrahim Pasha, Mihrimah Sultan, Sekban Kara Ali, Şehzade Mehmed, and Semiz Ali Pasha. It is also known that a number of other figures established their own private libraries in the same period: Tercüman Yunus established a private library in Draman, Istanbul;21 Ferruh Kethüda in Balat;22 Cihan Bey near Hagia Sophia;23 Çadırcı Hayreddin in the Bezzaz-ı Cedid Mosque in Mercan;24 and Mevlana Alaeddin b. Hacı Sinan in Haseki.25 It is also known that there was a librarian appointed in the last two places. Additionally, the qadi Alaeddin b. Abdurrahman founded a library in Balat,26 and Sheikh İshak b. Abdürrezzak endowed another one containing books related to medicine, mathematics, and astronomy.27

Despite the spread of libraries deep into the districts of Istanbul and the establishment of libraries by Sultan Süleyman I in the madrasas founded in the names of Şehzade Mehmed and Mihrimah Sultan, there was originally no library in his own mosque complex, the Süleymaniye Complex, which was the most significant scholarly institution of the time. However, the Süleymaniye endowment deed prepared in Receb 964 (May 1557) contained plans for the addition of a library at a later date.28 It is not known when the library in the Süleymaniye Complex was established or when its first employees were appointed. Most probably, some books from the palace library started to be sent to the Süleymaniye Mosque a few years after it had been opened for worship, and the basis of the Süleymaniye Library would have been laid in those years.

In addition to the establishment of new libraries in this period, we can observe efforts to reorganize and review existing libraries. One of the oldest catalogues belonging to the Fatih Library, which has survived till this day, was prepared in this period.29 Muhammed b. Hızır b. el-Hac Hasan, a professor at the Semaniye Madrasas, mentioned in the prologue of the catalogue he prepared that he went to the Fatih Library upon the sultan’s orders, examined the chapters and even the sections of the books, learned as much as he could about their titles and authors, and made any revisions he deemed necessary. As understood from this catalogue, after the sultan died, some of the scholars of the period donated their books to the library that Sultan Mehmed II established in his mosque. Similar donations continued in later periods. In fact, according to a record from the Balat court registers, Kasım b. Habil, a professor from Sultan Süleyman I’s period, granted sixty-five of his books to this library and noted in his endowment deed that the books could be loaned to whoever wanted them in return for a deposit.30

4- Sultan Ahmed III Library in the third yard of Topkapı Palace (Pardoe)

In the endowment deed that İsmihan Sultan, the wife of Sokullu Mehmed Pasha and the daughter of Sultan Selim II, had prepared for the madrasa she built in Eyüp in Rajab 976 (December 1568), she noted that the books she donated for the use of professors, tutors (muid), and other learned men (danişmend) had been placed in a cabinet in her tomb near the madrasa.31 The catalogue of İsmihan Sultan’s library was carefully prepared in this period and is a valuable catalogue that gives detailed information about the features of the books in the library.

We learn from two endowment deeds that Grand Vizier Sokullu Mehmed Pasha (d. 1579) had prepared in 981–982 (1574–1575) that he established two libraries, one in the madrasa and khanqah (dervish lodge) that he built in Istanbul, and the other in the madrasa he built in Bergos.32 Like his wife İsmihan Sultan’s endowment deed, Sokullu’s endowment deeds contain a meticulously prepared catalogue of the books donated to each establishment.33 Sokullu’s deeds also dealt specifically with measures to be taken to prevent alterations to the books, as well as directions for buying and registering a new copy of any books that became too worn out or were lost.

The accounting records of the mosque complex that Nurbanu Sultan, Sultan Selim II’s favorite consort and Murad III’s mother, had built in Üsküdar Toptaşı show that a library was established there to serve the needs of the students of the complex’s madrasa and darülhadis (school for the study of Hadith).34 According to these records, there was a librarian working in the mosque for a daily wage of three akçes.

Koca Sinan Pasha, who became famous as “the conqueror of Yemen,” used part of his wealth for endowments and charitable activities. According to an endowment deed dated 994 (1586) found in the Presidential archive (Süleymaniye section), this pasha donated some books to his madrasa in Istanbul’s İshak Pasha District and to the sheikh of his dervish lodge in the Kulaksız district. He also appointed the head (şeyhülkurra) of the madrasa as the librarian for an akçe a day. Koca Sinan Pasha had another library in his tomb on Yeniçeriler Street, and its librarian was paid eight akçe a day.35 The books in Sinan Pasha’s private library were probably moved to this library after his death.

5- Sultan Ahmed III Library

We learn from various endowment deeds that there were libraries in the madrasas established at the end of sixteenth century, such as those of Sheikh al-Islam Zekeriyya Efendi, the Darüssaade agha Gazanfer Agha, and Grand Vizier Hadım Hafız Ahmed Pasha. The books in the madrasa of Zekeriyya Efendi, as in some previous examples, were placed in the tomb of its founder. It is understood from the endowment deed dated 1047 (1637–1638) that his son Yahya Efendi reserved a three-akçe wage for the librarian of this place.36 As is understood from the endowment deed prepared by the founder of the endowment in 992 (1584), the library the kazasker (chief judge) of Anatolia Mehmed Efendi b. Abdullah Molla Çelebi established within the Fındıklı Mosque was going to serve the professors and students of the darülhadis that was to be built nearby.37 The library established by Mehmet Agha as part of his mosque in the district of Çarşamba was only open to the professors of the madrasa and darülhadis.38

The collection of the library established in the Cihangir Mosque by the peremeciler kethüdası (boatmen’s warden) Mahmud Bey b. Abdullah in 1002 (1593–1594) was compiled with attention to the needs of the district residents and mosque congregation. It also had a very practical system for loaning out books. Because of these two features, it had the characteristics of a public library.39 It is striking to find a mosque library with such examples of folk literature as Muhammed Hanefi, Destan-ı Kurubaş, Mihr ü Vefa, Firakname-i Vefa, Ahval-i Kıyamet, Kıssa-i Temimü’d-Dari, Hikaye-i Kesikbaş, Maktel-i Hüseyin, Seyyid Battal Gazi, Cariyename, Ta‘bir-i Rüya, Mansûrname, Yûsuf u Züleyha, and the story of Hızır İlyas, some of which were related to non-religious topics. The library built by Cerrah Mehmed Pasha in 1002 (1593–1594) in the Cerrahpaşa Mosque was probably intended to provide for the book needs of the students of the Haseki Madrasa and the students of the madrasa established by Selim II’s daughter Gevher Sultan in 1587.

In addition to these libraries, there are two more specialty libraries known to have existed during the reign of Sultan Murad II. A list is mentioned in a document found in the archives of Topkapı Palace about the books related to medicine given to the hekimbaşı (chief physician) Molla Kasım in 983 (1575–1576).40 According to this document, such books were protected by the hekimbaşı. In fact, when Molla Kasım retired in 988 (1580), he left the books to the newly appointed hekimbaşı İsa Çelebi.41 Takiyyuddin, the müneccimbaşı (head astronomer), established an observatory during Murad III’s reign. It is also known that a library was established consisting of books related to astronomy.42 In an edict written to the judge of Istanbul in Safer 986 (April 1578), the books related to the science of astronomy bequeathed by a certain late Lütfullah were ordered to be taken from the imam and muezzin of the Mimar Sinan district and given to Mevlana Takiyyüddin at the observatory.43 In another edict, Saruhan Bey and the judge of Manisa were commanded to gather the books of the Kurdish müneccim (astronomer) who had passed away in Manisa and to send them immediately to Istanbul.44

6- The warrant dated 29 July 1773 about giving Sayd-ı Mahi and Geçidha farming (<em>muqata‘a</em>) in Belgrade which were part of the farming of Sultan Mahmud I’s Endowment of Istanbul Libraries as fief to private owners (<em>malikane</em>) (BOA, MF,  no. 124)

7- Sultan Mahmud I’s edict consisting of the regulations that the tradesmen in the printing establishment of the Endowment of Sultan Ahmed III Library had to   follow (BOA, MF, no. 602)

Another characteristic feature of the sixteenth century was that in addition to establishing new libraries, efforts were made to enrich previously established libraries and educational institutions through book donations. A partial list of such donations follows: donations made by Hacı Mustafa Agha and Abdülmennan to the Akbıyık Mosque in the district of Sultanahmet;45 Seyyid İsmail Efendi’s donations to the library of the dervish lodge near the Gül Mosque;46 the donations of Ali Efendi, chief judge of Rumelia, to the library of Şehzade Sultan Mehmed’s madrasa;47 Sami Efendi el-Kırımi’s donations to the dervish lodge of İsmail Agha;48 Mehmed Agha b. Yusuf’s donations to the Şehzade Mosque;49 and the Darüssade agha (chief black eunuch of the sultan’s palace) Yakub Agha’s donations to the Üsküdar Atik Valide Mosque.50 It is also seen that some benefactors donated their books without preparing an endowment deed, instead just printing a stamp on the book or writing a short note within it to show that it was a donation.

The Emergence of Separate Library Buildings in Istanbul during the Seventeenth Century

According to the records of endowments and archives, from the beginning of the seventeenth century until 1678 when the first independent library was founded in Istanbul, each large madrasa had a library, including the madrasas of Murad Pasha, Sultan Ahmed, Kazasker Hasan Efendi, Sheikh al-Islam Abdürrahim Efendi, and Özdemiroğlu Osman Pasha, this last of which was reorganized by Murad IV’s mother Mahpeyker Sultan. Libraries were also opened in the New Mosque Complex completed by Turhan Valide Sultan in 1073 (1662–1663), in Mimarbaşı (chief architect) Kasım Agha’s darülhadis in the district of Şehzadebaşı, and in the darülkurra (school for the study of the variant readings of the Qur’an) built by Abbas Agha b. Abdüsselam in 1080 (1669–1670). As a result of two endowment deeds created in 1087–1088 (1676–1677),51 Reisülküttab Mustafa Efendi opened two additional libraries in Balat, one in a madrasa and the other in a darülhadis. Finally, the library established by Bayram Pasha in 1045 (1635–1636) as part of his tomb in Haseki should be considered as falling under the category of libraries established in madrasas, because it was meant for the students of the madrasa he founded.

Towards the end of the seventeenth century, a new type of library arose that was different from the existing madrasa and tomb libraries that were open to the scholars and students of madrasas and from the mosque and tekke libraries that were open to the general public. These new libraries were not very different from other libraries in their method of operation; what distinguished them was that they had their own buildings, with personnel who were devoted specifically to the library and who were paid higher salaries than those working in other libraries. Another distinctive feature was that they came to serve various purposes not seen in other libraries, such as being used for education and worship.

It is possible that the Köprülü Library, the first example of this new type of stand-alone library, owed its novelty to the early death of its founder Köprülü Mehmed Pasha, who had been planning to make it part of a building complex but died before the complex’s completion. At his death in 1661, Köprülü Mehmed Pasha had only finished the madrasa, bathhouse, and tomb sections of his complex. His son Fazıl Ahmed Pasha tried to complete the complex in line with his father’s will, combining the books left by his father with his own books and constructing a separate library building close to his father’s tomb to house this rich collection. However, Fazıl Ahmed Pasha, too, died at a very young age (3 November 1676), and the Köprülü Library was formally opened only in 1678.52

Two of the three madrasa libraries established in Istanbul at the end of the seventeenth century were established by the members of the Köprülü family. The first was part of a complex that consisted of a prayer house, madrasa, library, primary school, fountain, and tomb. Work on this complex had begun before Köprülü Mehmed Pasha’s son-in-law Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha’s military expedition to Vienna, and was completed by his son Ali Bey in 1690. Kara Mustafa Pasha indicated some conditions in the endowment deed that he had prepared three years before his death in 1092 (1681). The second was part of a complex established in the Mimar Ayaş district of Saraçhane by Amcazade Hüseyin Pasha, the son of Hasan Agha and the brother of Köprülü Mehmed Pasha. The complex’s 1112 (1700) endowment deed gives information about the operations of the Amcazade Hüseyin Pasha Library, which was built at a separate location within the complex.53 There was a bookbinder employed for eight akçe per day at the library, whose collection of four to five hundred books was similar in size to those of other libraries of the era.

From the endowment deed prepared by Sheikh al-Islam Feyzullah Efendi in 1111 (1699), we see that the library founded right next to the madrasa was notable for its rich collection.54 According to the statements of his son Sheikh al-Islam Mustafa Efendi recorded in a library inventory carried out in 1149 (1736-37), there were 1965 books recorded in Feyzullah Efendi’s endowment-deed register.55 Çorlulu Ali Pasha, the grand vizier of the period, stated in the endowment deed prepared a year prior to the completion of his darülhadis on Divanyolu in Istanbul in 1121 (1709) that a librarian was going to be employed for fifteen akçe a day in order to protect the books kept in one of the classrooms of the school.56

8- Şehit Ali Paşa Library

The Eighteenth Century: The Golden Age of the Books and the Libraries in Istanbul

The library founded in a separately constructed building in Vefa, Istanbul by Şehid Ali Pasha, one of the viziers of Sultan Ahmed III, also attracts attention due to its rich book collection. Şehid Ali Pasha placed books on various subjects in this library and then had a catalogue of them prepared. According to the endowment deed he prepared in Safer 1127 (February 1715), he actually founded his first library in his mansion located in the Üskübi district of Istanbul.57 The second library he established was in one of the rooms of his waterside residence in the Istavroz district, near Kuzguncuk. Şehid Ali Pasha, however, failed to move these two rich collections to his library before his untimely death.

Following the death of Ali Pasha, Nevşehirli Damad İbrahim Pasha, who first was the rikab-ı hümayun kaymakamı (deputy ruler of Istanbul in the sultan’s absence) and subsequently was appointed as grand vizier, did not set out on new military expeditions to regain the lands lost as a result of the Treaty of Passarowitz (1718). Instead, he convinced Sultan Ahmed III to focus on building up the country and addressing its social and economic problems. Ahmed III oversaw a number of important undertakings in the field of culture, including the setting up of a commission to translate certain books into Turkish and the establishment of a printing press to publish them. There were also some considerable achievements in the field of library science.

9a- A librarian’s (Mehmed Emin Efendi’s) invocations in his own calligraphy: Ya Hâfiz

9b- A librarian’s (Mehmed Emin Efendi’s) invocations in his own calligraphy: Fiha Kutubun Qayyima

9c- A librarian’s (Mehmed Emin Efendi’s) invocations in his own calligraphy: Mashaallah

9d- A librarian’s (Mehmed Emin Efendi’s) invocations in his own calligraphy: Ya Hafîz

By the time of Ahmed III’s sultanate, thousands of books coming from various sources had accumulated in the palace. Collected in different sections of the palace and in the treasury, these books served as the core of the collections of many of the libraries established by the sultans and their relatives. Because Sultan Ahmed III found the regulations for the use and protection of these books to be inadequate, he tried to collect most of these books in a new library building he constructed within Topkapı Palace.58 In addition to the library building in the palace, Ahmed III also built another library next to Turhan Valide Sultan’s tomb in the New Mosque. Küçük Çelebizade İsmail Asım Efendi reported that Sultan Ahmed III donated many books to Turhan Valide Sultan’s tomb, but he had a new library constructed when he saw that the use of these books remained limited because of the difficulty in entering and exiting the tomb.59 The construction of this library was completed in 1137 (1724–1725).

Despite the negative conditions and the turbulent environment of his time, Mahmud I, who became sultan after the Patrona Halil Rebellion, carried out some significant cultural activities, such as founding the Yalova Paper Factory and recommencing the operation of the printing press.60 He also gained a distinguished place in the history of libraries for successfully opening three large libraries in Istanbul—the Hagia Sophia, Fatih, and Galatasaray libraries—and even attempting to establish libraries in castles located in the furthest parts of the country.61 Among the libraries established by Sultan Mahmud I in Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia Library attracts attention not only for its rich collection but also for its large staff. The endowment deed of the library was prepared in Shawwal 1152 (January 1740),62 and even though some of the books were obtained in the month of November of the same year, the opening ceremony was not held until April 21, 1740. Meanwhile, statesmen, scholars, and people from other classes in Istanbul and other cities also established many libraries. The same year that the Hagia Sophia Library was officially opened, two other important libraries were founded by members of the administrative class and later developed by the sons of the intellectual class. These were the libraries of Aşir Efendi and Defterdar Atıf Efendi, the latter of which contained a rich rare-books collection. Both libraries developed along lines similar to the Hagia Sophia Library in respect to the size of their staff and the educational and other types of activities held in them.63

Mahmud I established his second library in Istanbul adjacent to the wall of the Fatih Mosque in the direction of Mecca. Mahmud I moved the library established by Sultan Mehmed II and the books donated in later periods to this new building. He not only enriched the library by donating new books, but also considerably expanded its personnel in the endowment deed.

10- Ali Efendi Library

Mahmud I and his grand vizier Köse Mustafa Bahir Pasha reorganized the Süleymaniye Mosque in a similar way to what had been done at the Fatih Mosque. Because there was no endowment deed for the library, which was established by separating a section on the right side of the mosque with iron bars in 1165 (1751–1752), we do not have precise information about its collection and organization. However, we do learn some of the conditions of the endowment deed from the service records of personnel who worked at the endowments of Süleymaniye between the years 1761 and 1840. According to these records, the library was open from morning until late afternoon five days a week, and the books were not to be taken outside the library. The same register also states that there were five librarians and five ferraş (library sweepers) appointed to the library.64

Mahmud I established a library in the Galatasaray Mekteb-i Sultanisi (Galatasaray Imperial School). The school, which was first established by Bayezid II in Galatasaray, had closed and re-opened several times before its revival during Sultan Ahmed III’s reign.65

Hekimoğlu Ali Pasha, one of the grand viziers of Sultan Mahmud I, also established a library next to his mosque in the Davutpaşa district of Istanbul, the construction of which had been completed in 1147 (1734–1735). According to its endowment deed prepared in 1151 (1738), the mosque and library had a large staff.66 The dersiam (madrasa instructor) who was included in the library staff was also put in charge of supervising the operation of the library, and thus carried out the task of nazır (superintendent). This role shows that education was one of the functions of the library during Mahmud I’s reign, something for which there had been only two examples in the past. Sheikh Mehmed Rıza Efendi donated a very rich collection to this library in September 1740, and appointed some additional personnel for the care of the books.67

11- Nuruosmaniye Library

A library was also established by Carullah Veliyyüddin, the judge of Edirne, in 1147 (1734–1735) next to the Ayak Madrasa, one of the Fatih Madrasas, and its gate opened out into the yard of the Fatih Mosque. As can be inferred from the books in its collection and the location of its construction, this library was established to serve the needs of the students of the Fatih Madrasas. Another library established for the benefit of the nearby madrasa students was the one established by Sheikh al-Islam Damadzade Ebülhayr Ahmed Efendi under the mahfil (a raised place for callers to prayer inside the mosque) of the Sultan Selim Mosque. We do not have information about the contents of the library collection because we do not have the endowment deed; however, it is known that a salaried librarian worked there.68

Hacı Beşir Agha, who worked as the Darüssaade agha (chief eunuch) during the reigns of Ahmed III and Mahmud I, established libraries in his complex in the Cağaloğlu district and his darülhadis in the Eyüp district of Istanbul; he also established libraries in many regions of the empire. In 1743, Rabia Hatun, who had previously endowed her books to the Hagia Sophia Mosque, moved them to Hacı Beşir Agha’s library in Eyüp and enriched that library’s existing collection. The reason for this move was that there was no librarian or superintendent working at the Hagia Sophia Library, thus making it difficult to benefit from the books.69 In addition to the endowed libraries he established, Hacı Beşir Agha had a very rich private library. When he passed away, approximately 150 very valuable books, including a manuscript copy of Katib Çelebi’s Cihannüma, were found in his treasury rooms in the town of Karaağaç.70

12- Sultan Abdülhamid I Library (d’Ohsson)

In addition to these large libraries established in Istanbul, book donations to scholarly institutions and the establishment of small madrasa libraries, commonly seen in the earlier periods, continued during Mahmud I’s reign. According to a registration record found in the Üsküdar Court dated Rabi‘ al-Akhir 1147 (September 1734), Mehmed Efendi b. Sheikh Mustafa, the second doctor at the Atik Valide Darüşşifa (Hospital), donated his fifteen books to the Sheikh Mosque in Üsküdar.71 According to a deed registered at the Ahi Çelebi Court in Şaban 1150 (November 1737), Ahmed Çelebi b. Süleyman established an endowment consisting of 132 books, which he stipulated would be reserved for his own use for the remainder of his lifetime, after which point they “were to be given to qualified, knowledge-seeking poor people”; however, he did not mention any particular location for the books to be sent after his death.72

The former defterdar (minister of finance) Sadullah Efendi ordered that his books be put in a cabinet in the Hagia Sophia Mosque (in 1151/1738 and again in 1158/1745), and appointed two librarians to take care of them.73 Halil Efendi b. Abdurrahman bequeathed his sixty books to the Feyzullah Efendi Madrasa Library in Dhu al-Hijja 1157 (January 1745).74 Apart from these, it is known that Kasapbaşı Mustafa Agha established a library in the Servili Madrasa in Fatih; Osman Efendi established a library in the madrasa he had built near the Fethiye Mosque in Athens (1740);75 Saliha Hanım, the daughter of Sheikh al-Islam Ebezade Abdullah Efendi, established a library in her school in the district of Mesih Hasan Pasha in Karagümrük (1753);76 the judge of Galata, Hıfzı İbrahim Efendi, established a library in the İskender Pasha Mosque;77 and the grand vizier’s servant Şerif Halil Efendi established two libraries in the mosque and madrasa that he had constructed in 1744.78

13- Ragıp Ağa Library

Mahmud I established the Revan Köşkü Library in Topkapı Palace, but also planned to build a large library in his own mosque complex, work on which started in the last years of his sultanate. He prepared some books from the Revan Köşkü collection to be placed in the library of his new complex. However, he died in 1754 before the complex was finished. His brother Osman III took the throne after him and completed work on the complex, which took his name. Because the complex was known as Nûr-ı Osmani, the library became known by the same name.

Ragıb Mehmed Pasha, a grand vizier during the reigns of Osman III and Mustafa III, was renowned as a poet and for his books on various subjects, as well as for his statesmanship. In his mansion, he had a rich library with its own librarian in charge of taking care of the books.79 Similarly, the library located next to the school and the fountain that he had started to build a year before his death was completed and opened for service in March 1763.80

After Osman III, Mustafa III came to the throne; in addition to attempts at military and administrative reforms, Mustafa III was also famous for his patronage of intellectuals and for the scholarly gatherings he organized at the palace. He established a library in the bostancı (imperial guards) barracks, and also built a complex in the Laleli district consisting of a mosque, madrasa, soup kitchen, and fountain. The construction of the complex started on 27 Muharram 1174 (8 September 1760), and was completed on the second day of Ramadan 1177 (5 March 1764), with an opening ceremony that was attended by the sultan.81 The sultan established a library within the madrasa of this complex.

An endowment deed and accounting registers contain information on the library Mustafa III established in the imperial guards’ barracks. The British envoys Hunt and Carlyle, who came to Istanbul in 1800 in order to study manuscripts from the Byzantine period, talked about this library in detail in a letter they wrote to the bishop of Lincoln on 20 November 1800.82 Even though this library’s endowment deed83 and the catalogue found in Topkapı Palace84 were dated 1188 (1774), the records in Mustafa III’s treasury registers establish that this library was already active in 1181 (1767–1768).85 Probably basing his information on the inscriptions on the library building, Carlyle mentions 1767 as the date it was established. The library’s staff included a dersiam (professor), a şeyhülkurra (recitation instructor), a meşk hocası (calligraphy instructor), and assistant instructors, which shows that the library was also used as an educational institution. From the endowment deed, it can be understood that the working conditions of the personnel, as in the case at the library of Ahmed III, were different from those at other libraries. In the hatt-ı hümayun (imperial decree) at the beginning of the catalogue, there is information about the manner in which this library operated. In 1831, this library was moved to the Laleli Madrasa upon the order of Mahmud II; at that point, it had been closed for a very long time. It is not known how long the library operated after its foundation date. In the above-mentioned letter by Carlyle, it is stated that the doors of the library were locked and sealed when he was there.86 It seems that the library in the imperial guards’ barracks stopped its operation a short time after its establishment, but the reason for this is unknown.

After being dismissed from the office of sheikh al-Islam, Veliyyüddin Efendi, who was appointed to this post twice during Sultan Mustafa III’s reign, donated 150 books to the Atıf Efendi Library in an endowment deed dated 3 Rebiülevvel 1175 (2 October 1761);87 he also raised the wages of the librarians working there. Later, however, he changed his mind and rescinded his endowment after being appointed to the office for a second time. He had a new endowment deed prepared in 1182 (1768–1769) that left his books, including those he had previously endowed to the Atıf Efendi Library, to a new library he had built to the right of the Beyazıt Mosque.88

14- The inscription over the gate of Ragıp Ağa Library

Some of the scholars during Mustafa III’s reign donated their books to mosques and madrasas that did not have libraries. It is known that Sheikh Abdüllatif Efendi donated his books to the Cami-i Kebir in the Kasımpaşa district (1758–1759);89 Sheikh Abdülkerim b. Ahmed donated his books to the madrasa founded by Sheikh al-Islam Mustafa Efendi in Eyüp (April 1765);90 the Friday preacher at the Hagia Sophia Mosque, İbrahim Efendi, donated his books to the Cami-i Kebir in Eyüp (June 1771);91 Mehmed Efendi donated his books to the Haseki Sultan Mosque (1771).92

Cevdet Pasha reports that Abdulhamid I, following his predecessors’ footsteps, wanted to establish a mosque and a soup kitchen a few years after ascending to the throne; however, he later decided to establish a complex without a mosque, as there were already several mosques in the region. The foundations of the complex in Bahçekapı was laid in Sha‘ban 1191 (September 1777) with a ceremony attended by the grand vizier and sheikh al-Islam;93 some of the sections of the building were completed in Dhu al-Qa‘da (December) of the same year. The construction of the madrasa and the library was finished in 1194 (1780).

15- Ragıp Ağa Library

There were a few other libraries established in Istanbul during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid I. Damadzade Mehmed Murad Efendi constructed the Murad Molla Library in 1775 in the district of Çarşamba.94 The small library established earlier by Murad Molla in the Naqshbandi dervish lodge in the same district was the basis of this new library. Because there is no endowment deed for Murad Molla, it is not possible to determine how many books were present at the time this library was established. From a record dated Dhu al-Qa‘da 1194 (November 1780), it can be understood that the founder’s son, Mehmed Arif Molla Efendi, was the trustee of the library at the time, and that five librarians were appointed to the library.95

In the library established in Üsküdar by Selim Agha—the superintendent of the Imperial Shipyard (Tersane-i Amire)—with an endowment deed dated Muharram 1197 (December 1782), education was regarded as the most significant activity; two of the three librarians there were required to teach in addition to carrying out tasks concerned with the library.96 Moreover, the supervision of the library was left to the sheikh al-Islam, who was also required to determine whether those who were to be appointed as librarians were qualified for the job.97 The influence of endowment deeds belonging to the Atıf Efendi and Ragıb Pasha libraries can easily be seen in the endowment deed of the Selim Agha Library.

On 5 Jumada al-Akhir 1199 (15 April 1785) Medeni Mehmed Efendi, a professor, donated 226 books to the library in the Süleymaniye Mosque. According to an endowment deed prepared in Jumada al-Awwal 1203 (February 1789), Çelebi Mehmed Efendi, the kethüda (steward) to Esma Sultan, placed 697 volume books in “his newly constructed stone library building” and appointed four librarians.98 According to what can be learned from the endowment deed, there were wooden rooms near the library that were reserved for the librarians.

By making new book donations and appointing more employees to the library that his father, Mustafa III, had had built in the madrasa in Laleli, Sultan Selim III organized and established another library on the same parcel of land.99 According to the accounting registers of this endowment, there were three librarians, two guards (mustahfız), one sweeper (ferraş), and a bookbinder (mücellit) working in this library. Selim III also appointed three librarians, three guards, and a bookbinder to his father’s library, which was located in the madrasa. There is no information available about the contents of the collections in either library.

It can be observed that most of the independently housed libraries in Istanbul were enriched by endowments from other members of the founder’s family; in addition, the administration of their facilities was handled by members from the same family. Such additional endowments not only enriched the collections of the libraries of Köprülü, Atıf Efendi, Veliyyüddin Efendi, Aşir Efendi, and Hacı Selim Agha, for example, but also allowed the personnel at these libraries to earn higher salaries.

16- Yıldız Library established by Sultan Abdülhamid II (Yıldız Albums)

One of the reisülküttabs (head of the scribes of the imperial council) from the reign of Mahmud I, Mustafa Efendi, mentioned that he planned to establish a library for his books in the stone rooms near Bahçekapı; this is recorded in the endowment deed written in Safer 1160 (February 1747); however, Mustafa Efendi died in 1749 before he had the chance to realize this plan. His son Mustafa Aşir Efendi, one of the sheikh al-Islams during the reign of Sultan Selim III, built a library in the same location in order to fulfill his father’s will, and he put the books that his father had bequeathed, as well as his own books, in this library.

Mehmed Asım Bey from the Köprülü family, as trustee, endowed 350 books and new revenue sources to the Köprülü Library with an endowment deed dated 1220 (1805).100 According to his statements in the endowment deed, when Mehmed Asım Bey saw that some of the books most frequently used by the students were missing from the library, he bought replacement copies of them. He also reserved some money to buy books that might be needed in the future. It can be seen that Hacı Selim Agha’s son Mehmed Emin Efendi made some additional endowments in 1221 (1806) in order to increase the revenues of his father’s library.101

In addition to making additional endowments to the existing libraries, there were also some attempts to establish new libraries during Sultan Selim III’s reign. For example, the scholar Debbağzade İbrahim Efendi established a library within the Kılıç Ali Pasha Madrasa in 1801. In the endowment deed dated 15 Sha’ban 1212 (February 2, 1798) for the mosque, school, and library he built in Balat, Sheikh Mustafa Hulusi Efendi provided 250 books and appointed his son, son-in-law, and grandson to three librarianships.102 Mehmed Hasib Efendi, one of the Sufi masters of the Celveti order, donated seventy-four books on 18 Muharram 1210 (August 4, 1795) to the lodge he had built in Üsküdar in 1208 (1793–1794); almost all of these were related to Sufism.103 On 15 Jumada al-Akhir 1212 (December 5, 1797), Abdullah Efendi b. Mehmed Salih, the second imam of the Eyüp Mosque and an instructor at the Hekim Kutbüddin Mektebi, donated about seventy of his books to the school where he taught, and appointed the instructor of the school as an unpaid, volunteer librarian.104

The Diversification and Transformation of Istanbul Libraries According to Need during the Nineteenth Century

The small library established by Abdülkadir Bey b. Mehmed Pasha in the Bab Court in 1223 (1808) is important because it was the first library established in a court. The inventory of this library comprised books needed by the court personnel; the same personnel also worked as the library staff.105 According to the statements of an American who visited Istanbul during Mahmud II’s reign, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, there was a library next to or inside every mosque in Istanbul as well as in many dervish lodges.106

The libraries established in the dervish lodges occupied the most important place among the libraries established in Istanbul during the reign of Sultan Mahmud II.107 Of these libraries, the collections of the Darülmesnevi Library in Çarşamba, the Şeyh Murad Library in Eyüp Nişancası, the Feyziye Library in Kocamustafapaşa, the Selami Efendi Library in Eyüp, and the Şazeli Dervish Lodge Library in Unkapanı were not very great. In contrast to most other Sufi lodge libraries, which were established by the masters of the lodges and enriched by donations from the dervishes, the Şazeli Dervish Lodge Library was established by Mustafa III’s daughter Hatice Sultan. A list of the fifty-five books with which she endowed the library was recorded in the endowment deed written in 1231 Sha‘ban (July 1816) and registered at the Eyüp Court.108 That almost all of the books in this list were related to Sufi literature shows that Hatice Sultan was donating books in keeping with the relevant institute. The wording of the endowment deed of the library established by Mehmed Said Halet Efendi in the Galata Mevlevihane in Rabi‘ al-Akhir 1235 (January 1820) reveals the richness of its collection of books related to history, literature, and more particularly Sufism. The details the deed offers on the library’s operation are also noteworthy, especially when one considers that this location had been clearly envisioned as the special location of a dervish lodge.

In Üsküdar Çiçekçi, Minister of Internal Affairs Mehmed Said Pertev Pasha built a library and rooms for dervishes; there was also a dining hall built next to the Selimiye Naqshbandi Lodge, where the pasha’s Sufi master had been buried. According to his endowment deed, dated 1252 (1836), this rich library employed a pair of librarians at quite a high salary.109 According to a stipulation in the endowment deed, Pertev Pasha required both the librarians to be selected from members of the lodge, but he also allowed for trustworthy people from outside the lodge to be appointed if there were none inside qualified for this position.110

The endowed libraries in Istanbul served the needs of madrasa students and scholars for centuries. However, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, a need for a different type of library arose; this was particularly true during the Tanzimat period. New libraries that could serve the newly emerging educational institutions of the period were needed. Many school libraries were established, with collections mostly devoted to basic sciences, technology, and books written in foreign languages.111 Due to improving relations with Western countries, members of the Ottoman intelligentsia started to make efforts to establish general and public libraries similar to those in the West. Thus, during the Tanzimat period and afterward, not only were libraries established in educational institutions, such as colleges of engineering, medical schools, and law schools, but general libraries were also established in Istanbul and some other cities.

During the reigns of Sultan Abdulmecid (1839–1861) and Sultan Abdulaziz (1861–1876), libraries were established as part of the Darülfünun (University), Mekteb-i Tıbbiye (Medical School), and some other educational institutions; there were also efforts to improve the state of endowed libraries. In this period, steps were taken to prepare published catalogues for the endowed libraries, and the catalogues of the Damad İbrahim Pasha and Ragıp Pasha libraries were made available. The library spearheaded by Münif Pasha (d. 1910) and established within the Cemiyet-i İlmiye-i Osmaniye (Association of Ottoman Scholars) had a set of regulations that governed its operations—one of the first such regulations of its kind. Münif Pasha also wrote a bill that included his suggestions for establishing a “People’s Library” in Istanbul (1287?/1870?).112

The period of Sultan Abdulhamid II occupies a special place in the history of Turkish libraries.113 Sultan Abdulhamid II applied his policies for the madrasas and other schools to the field of libraries as well. In addition, he strove to improve the conditions of endowed libraries, prepare library catalogues, and enable libraries to provide regular service. Even though there were some attempts to prepare catalogues in the middle of the nineteenth century for every endowed library in Istanbul, their completion was only possible about twenty-five years later, during the period of Sultan Abdulhamid II. Beginning in 1884, the catalogues of the sixty-seven endowed libraries existing in Istanbul were published in forty volumes over twelve years. These catalogues, which are referred to as the “Age-of-Hamid Catalogues” (Devr-i Hamidi Katalogları) because they were published during the period of Sultan Abdulhamid II, are not very different from earlier manuscript catalogues in respect to their contents. The most important difference is that they record the call numbers of the books. These catalogues served as a reference source until card catalogues were completed in the endowed libraries much later, even into the period of the Turkish Republic. Sultan Abdulhamid II established libraries in institutions such as schools, colleges, hospitals, and museums, and these usually consisted of books in foreign languages. He also gathered together a very rich collection of sources in Yıldız Palace. Another library called the Ottoman Public Library (Kütübhane-i Umumi-i Osmani), which was to function much like the modern-day National Library, was established in June 1884, but it did not function as anticipated.

The most important work that was carried out to improve the conditions of the endowed libraries during the Second Constitutional Period was the attempt to gather all the existing endowed libraries in one new building. Even though a parcel of land was found for the construction of this library, which was planned as a state library, this project was unsuccessful. The project, which was under the leadership of Sheikh al-Islam Hayri Efendi, failed because of the Balkan Wars and other crises that took place in the final days of the empire.

The efforts to establish new libraries and to enrich existing ones through book donations continued during the Tanzimat period. Even though there were some efforts to renovate the old libraries based on the Western style and to use Western libraries as an example during this period, there were no major changes in the administration or organization of the library collections. There were four independent libraries established during this period: Esad Efendi (Sultanahmet, 1846), Hüsrev Pasha (Eyüp, 1854), Hasan Hüsnü Pasha (Eyüp, 1896), and Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi (1916). Although the Hüsrev Pasha, Hasan Hüsnü Pasha, and Aziz Mahmud Hüdayi libraries were in separate buildings, they had a collection of approximately one thousand books each. The Esad Efendi Library differed from the other endowed libraries not only in the number of books it contained, but also because it contained books concerned mostly with history and literature. Esad Efendi, who was also known as Sahaflar (bookseller) Şeyhizade, was famous for his passion for literature. Most of the five thousand books he donated to his library were manuscripts that contained special features that reflected his passion.

The establishment of libraries by benefactors with small collections in some educational institutions, mosques, or lodges continued during this period as well. Libraries were established by Sheikh Mehmed Murad in the Darülmesnevi (Çarşamba, 1846), Nafiz Pasha in the Yenikapı Mevlevihane (1851), Kalkandelenli Mehmed Agha in the Yeni Madrasa (Çarşamba, 1870), Bezm-i Alem Valide Sultan in her school in Cağaloğlu (1851), Pertevniyal Valide Sultan in the Valide Mosque (Aksaray, 1872), Vecihi Paşazade Kemal Pasha in the Düğümlü Baba Tekke (Sultanahmet, 1866), Hacı Mahmud Efendi in the Yahya Efendi Dergah (Beşiktaş, 1912), Saffeti Pasha in the Naqshbandi tekke in the neighborhood of the Sublime Porte (1845), Sheikh Mehmed Sırrı Efendi in the Rifai Dergah (Fatih Sofulari, 1873), Sheikh Ahmed Rasim Efendi at the Ramazan Efendi Dergah (Yedikule, 1877), Müderris Mustafa Efendi in the Gazanfer Agha Madrasa (1850), the preacher of Hagia Sophia Mehmed Raşid Efendi next to the mosque in Kocamustafapaşa (Küçük Efendi; Feyziye, 1851), and Mehmed Ebü’l-Hüda es-Sayyadi er-Rifai in the Hasib Efendi Dergah (Eyüp, 1895).

Although some efforts were made by the Ministry of Endowments and Ministry of Education after the Tanzimat to improve the conditions of endowed libraries in Istanbul, it was not possible to achieve radical changes in this regard. By reorganizing the opening and closing hours of the libraries, the ministries tried to make it possible for the library users to benefit more from them. In addition to preparing separate catalogues for every library, there were also attempts to prepare general catalogues. We see that the first attempt to prepare a general catalogue, which would have made it easier to use the collections of the existing endowed libraries in Istanbul, was initiated by Ali Fethi Bey. Ali Fethi Bey named the catalogue that he prepared between 1850 and 1854 el-Asarü’l-aliyye fi hazaini’l-kütübi’l-Osmaniyye. In this work, Ali Fethi Bey tried to classify all the books found in the forty-six endowed libraries in Istanbul under fourteen subject headings. Probably a quarter of century after Ali Fethi Bey’s attempt at a general catalogue, we see another general catalogue prepared for Istanbul’s libraries; only one published copy of this 552-page catalogue has survived. It consists of lists of books from twenty-four endowed libraries in Istanbul, and is distinguished from the catalogue of Ali Fethi Bey by its inclusion of the call numbers of the books, indicating the books’ location in their respective libraries.

The last attempt to prepare a general catalogue for the libraries in Istanbul was made before World War I. Muhtar Bey, a library inspector from the Ministry of Endowments, appointed Ebu’l-Hayr Efendi, an employee of the Ottoman Public Library, to prepare a general catalogue for the Istanbul libraries along the lines of one that had been prepared for in Egypt. He also published a sample catalogue from the library cards he collected; he presented this to the Ministry of Endowments along with a report dated 1 March 1333 (1 May 1917). In this sample catalogue, which follows the cataloguing system of the Dar al-Kutub al-Mısriyye (Egyptian Library), books are listed in alphabetical order by title. Also included is detailed information about the book, its author, and location numbers in other libraries; differences in bibliographical data (if any) were identified and necessary corrections were made. From the sample, it can be understood that this work had the potential to be a very useful catalogue.114 However, it was never completed because Hayri Efendi, the sheikh al-Islam and minister of endowments who had shown special interest in the project, left his post; World War I also disrupted this cataloguing project.

Some officials tried to gather the library collections scattered around the city in one place. As a result, books were better maintained and protected, and it became easier for readers to find the books they were looking for. Some of the library buildings were renovated and electricity was installed. These restored libraries were also converted into specialty libraries, each one consisting of books on different subjects. In accordance with this planning, the Ragıp Pasha Library was reserved for ulûm-ı edebiyye (literature), the Nuruosmaniye Library for ulûm-ı tarihiyye (history), the Köprülü Mehmed Pasha Library for fünûn-ı riyaziyye, tabiiyye ve saire (math, natural sciences, etc.), and the Hekimoğlu Ali Pasha, Murad Molla, and Fatih libraries for tefsir ve hadis-i şerif ve fıkıh ve sair ulûm-ı şer‘iyye (Qur’anic exegesis, prophetic tradition, jurisprudence, and other religious sciences).115 The attempts to gather the small collections in mosques and prayer houses in order to maintain and protect them continued during the war years; most of the small collections were gathered together in the Public Library established in Sultan Selim.


1 Halil İnalcık, “The Policy of Mehmed II towards the Greek Population of Istanbul and the Byzantine Buildings of the City”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, vol. 23-24 (1968-69), pp. 231, 233.

2 Miklós Maróth, “The Library of Sultan Bayezid II”, Irano-Turkic Cultural Contacts, ed. Eva M. Jeremiàs, Piliscsaba: The Avicenna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, 2003, p. 112

3 Speros Vryonis, “Byzantine Constantinople and Ottoman Istanbul”, The Ottoman City and its Parts, Urban Structure and Social Order, ed. Irene A. Bierman, Rifa’at A. Abou-El-Haj and Donald Preziosi, New York: A.D. Caratzas, 1991, pp. 37-40. Among these manuscripts, which probably survived from the Byzantine era, some had been obtained by Sultan Mehmed II in various ways. For example, from a document found in the archive in Dubrovnik, we learn that Sultan Mehmed II thanked Grand Vizier Mahmud Pasha for three books brought to Istanbul with his help, and asked him to find and bring back a book titled Lo marçilio sopra lo poe lo quarto Tadeus çitilis. See: Ciro Truhelka, “Dubrovnik Arşivinde Türk-İslam Vesikaları”, İstanbul Enstitüsü Dergisi, 1955, vol. 1, pp. 51-52. For some of the other manuscripts brought from the West to the palace library and copied on the orders of Sultan Mehmed II, see: J. Raby, “East and West in Mehmed the Conqueror’s Library”, Bulletin du Bibliophile, 1987, vol. 3, pp. 297-321. For information about the palace library, also see Emil Jacobs, Unter­such­ungen zur Geschichte der Bibliothek im Serai zu Konstantinopel, Heidelberg C. Winter, 1919.

4 Julian Raby, “Mehmed the Conqueror’s Greek Scriptorium”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 1983, vol. 37, pp. 15-16. Ahmed Saib also has an early and quite interesting essay on this issue: “Saray‑ı Hümayunda Vizantiyus Kütüphanesi”, Servet‑i Fünûn, vol. 46, no. 1183, p. 302-304. The text of this article has been transliterated in Hasan Kaya, “Servet‑i Fünûn Dergisi” (MA Thesis), Cumhuriyet University, 2002, pp. 547-552.

5 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Arşivi, Evkaf-ı Hümayun Müfettişliği, no. 46, pp. 83-84.

6 VGMA, no. 625, p. 141.

7 For the publication of hujjah, see: İsmail E. Erünsal, “Şeyh Vefa ve Vakıfları Hakkında Yeni Bir Belge”, İslam Araştırmaları Dergisi, 1997, no. 1, pp. 47-64.

8 İsmail E. Erünsal, “Şeyh Vefa Kütüphanesi”, DİA, vol. 39, p. 74.

9 Ömer Lutfi Barkan, “H. 933-934 (M.1527-1528) Mali Yılına Ait Bir Bütçe Örneği”, İFM, vol. 15 (1954), p. 308.

10 İsmail E. Erünsal, “The Catalogue of Bayezid II’s Palace Library”, İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Kütüphanecilik Dergisi, 1992, vol. 3, pp. 55-66.

11 BOA, MAD, no. 5103, p. 273; no. 5761, pp. 61-98.

12 Taşköprizade, eş-Şekaiku’n-Nu‘maniyye, ed. Ahmed Suphi Furat, Istanbul: İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi, 1985, p. 167; Hoca Sadeddin, Tacü’t-tevarih, Istanbul: Tabhane-i Âmire, 1280, vol. 2, p. 546.

13 TSMA, no. E 6345, 8101.

14 Taşköprizade, eş-Şekaik, p. 179; İsmail H. Uzunçarşılı, Osmanlı Devletinin İlmiye Teşkilatı, Ankara: TTK, 1965, p. 232; Hoca Sadeddin, Tacü’t-tevarih, vol. 2, p. 556.

15 Fatih İmareti Vakfiyesi, prepared by Osman Ergin, Istanbul: İstanbul Belediyesi, 1945, pp. 24-29.

16 TSMA, D 9559.

17 Barbara Flemming, “Memlûk Saray ve Garnizonlarında Edebi Faaliyetler”, tr. Cengiz Tomar, Türk Kültürü İncelemeleri Dergisi, no. 12 (2005), pp. 209-220.

18 Osman Nuri Ergin, Türkiye Maarif Tarihi, Istanbul: Osmanbey Matbaası, 1939, vol. 1, p. 210.

19 TSMA, no. D 9101, D 9291.

20 İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri 953 (1546), ed. E. H. Ayverdi and Ö. L. Barkan, Istanbul: İstanbul Fetih Cemiyeti İstanbul Enstitüsü, 1970, p. 243.

21 BOA, KK, Ruus, no. 217, p. 161.

22 VGMA, no. 570, p. 60.

23 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Arşivi, Evkaf-ı Hümayun Muhasibliği, no. 7, fol. 23b.

24 BOA, İbnülemin-Evkaf, no. 97.

25 İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri, p. 31.

26 Şer’iye Sicilleri Archives, Balat Court, no. 2, f. 5a.

27 İstanbul Vakıfları Tahrir Defteri, pp. 439-440.

28 Süleymaniye Vakfiyesi, ed. K. Edib Kürkçüoğlu, Ankara: Vakıflar Umum Müdürlüğü, 1962, pp. 151-152.

29 TSMA, no. D 9559.

30 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Balat Court, no. 2, ff. 81b-82a.

31 VGMA, no. 572, p. 141.

32 VGMA, no. 572, pp. 27-63; VGMA, Case No. 103.

33 VGMA, Case No. 103, p. 1-80.

34 BOA, MAD, no. 5455, p. 91; no. 6483.

35 BOA, KK, Ruus, no. 25, p. 161.

36 Istanbul University Library, İbnülemin, no. 3151, f. 10b.

37 VGMA, no. 624, p. 5.

38 TSMK, Emanet Hazinesi, no. 3028.

39 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Galata Court, no. 17, pp. 187-188.

40 TSMA, no. D 8228.

41 TSMA, no. D 8228.

42 A. Süheyl Ünver, İstanbul Rasathanesi, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1969, pp. 47-48.

43 Ahmed Refik [Altınay], On Altıncı Asırda İstanbul Hayatı (1553-1591), Istanbul: Maarif Vekâleti, 1935, p. 36.

44 BOA, MD, no. 49, p. 44, ruling dated 16 Rebiülahir 991.

45 VGMA, no. 733, pp. 150-152.

46 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Evkaf-ı Hümayun Müfettişliği, no. 27, pp. 36-37.

47 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Evkaf-ı Hümayun Müfettişliği, no. 25, pp. 4-5, 11.

48 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Üsküdar Court, no. 148, f. 48b.

49 VGMA, no. 730.

50 BOA, KK, Ruus, no. 3, p. 280.

51 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Bab Court, no. 26, ff. 103b-105b; no. 29, ff. 129b-131a.

52 Vakfiye, Köprülü Library, no. 4.

53 VGMA, no. 502, pp. 1-12.

54 VGMA, no. 571, p. 119.

55 Millet Library, Feyzullah Efendi, no. 2196, f. 121a.

56 VGMA, Kasa, no. 188, pp. 388-389.

57 VGMA, no. 628, p. 640.

58 İ. Baykal, “Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi Kitaplıkları,” Güzel Sanatlar, 1949, no. 6, p. 76.

59 Çelebizade Asım, Tarih, Istanbul: Matbaa-i Âmire, 1282, p. 250.

60 According to a contemporary source, Mahmud I was keenly interested in the operations of the paper factory, once inviting its head, İbrahim Müteferrika, into his presence to learn from him about the production of different types of paper and to reward him for his work: “And the printer İbrahim Efendi brought forward [samples of] the types of paper he produced at the paper factory he had created in Yalova and showed them to His Majesty and displayed the state of his work and His Highness approved and he [İbrahim] was granted a pouch of gold and held a conversation with His Imperial Majesty and was made the envy of his peers.” Özcan Özcan, “Kadı Ömer Efendi, Mahmud I. Hakkında 1157/1744-1160/1747 Arası Ruznâme”, senior thesis, Istanbul University, 1965, pp. 41–42.

61 For the libraries that Mahmud either founded or contributed to, see Hatice Aynur, “I. Mahmud’un Kütüphaneleri (ö. 1754) ve Tarih Manzumeleri”, Kitaplara Vakfedilen Bir Ömre Tuhfe: İsmail E. Erünsal’a Armağan, ed. Hatice Aynur, Bilgin Aydın and Mustafa Birol Ülker, Istanbul: Ülke Yayınları, 2014, vol. 2, pp. 681-734.

62 VGMA, Kasa, no. 47.

63 Fuat Sezgin, “Atıf Efendi Kütüphanesinin Vakfiyesi”, TDED, 1955, no. 6, p. 136.

64 BOA, Müteferrik, no. 89, f. 114a.

65 Fethi İsfendiyaroğlu, Galatasaray Tarihi, Istanbul: Doğan Kardeş Yayınları, 1952, pp. 60-61, 267.

66 VGMA, no. 736, pp. 67-70; Millet Library, Feyzullah Efendi, no. 2197.

67 VGMA, no. 629, pp. 37-41.

68 BOA, C.MF, no. 5728.

69 VGMA, no. 638, p. 187.

70 TSMA, no. D 23, ff. 36a-b, 37a.

71 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Üsküdar Court, no. 389, ff. 49b-50a.

72 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Ahi Çelebi Court, no. 78, ff. 12a-b.

73 VGMA, no. 740, pp. 131-137, 147-151.

74 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Balat Court, no. 44, ff. 44a-54b.

75 VGMA, Case No. 157.

76 VGMA, no. 6, p. 506; no. 626, pp. 532-535.

77 BOA, Ruus, no. 82, p. 208.

78 VGMA, no. 737, pp. 116-119.

79 TSMA, No. D 6090.

80 Şem‘danizade Fındıklılı Süleyman Efendi, Müri’t-tevarih, ed. by M. Münir Aktepe, Istanbul: İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi, 1978, vol. 2, p. 54; Ahmet Küçükkalfa, “Ragıp Paşa Kütüphanesi”, Vakıflar, Istanbul: İstanbul Vakıflar Bölge Müdürlüğü, nd., p. 54; Feyhan İnkaya, “Sadrazam Koca Ragıb Mehmed Paşa Kütüphane, Sıbyan Mektebi ve Türbesi”, Sinan Genim’e Armağan, Makaleler, ed. Oktay Belli and Belma Barış Kurtel, Istanbul: Türkiye Anıt Çevre Turizm Değerlerini Koruma Vakfı, 2005, pp. 383-397.

81 Şem‘danizade, Müri’t-tevarih, vol. 2/A, pp. 63-64.

82 Memoirs Relating to European and Asiatic Turkey, ed. Robert Walpole, London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1817, pp. 171-172.

83 VGMA, Case No. 187, pp. 350-358.

84 TSMA, No. D 3305.

85 Laleli Sultan Mustafa Han Hazine Defteri, VGMA, no. 93, pp. 51-52.

86 Memoirs Relating, pp. 171-172.

87 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Evkaf-ı Hümayun Müfettişliği, no. 164, ff. 381 b-384b.

88 VGMA, no. 745, p. 79.

89 VGMA, no. 739, p. 195.

90 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Eyüp Court, no. 212, f. 19a.

91 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Eyüp Court, no. 228, ff. 9b-10a.

92 VGMA, no. 578, pp. 115-116.

93 Cevdet Paşa, Tarih, Istanbul: Matbaa-i Osmaniye, 1309, vol. 2, p. 46.

94 Muzaffer Gökman, Murat Molla: Hayatı, Kütüphanesi ve Eserleri, Istanbul: Cumhuriyet Matbaası, 1943, p. 12.

95 VGMA, Cupboard, no. 1628.

96 VGMA, no. 579, p. 122.

97 VGMA, no. 579, p. 122.

98 VGMA, no. 743, p. 501.

99 Laleli Sultan Mustafa Hazine Defteri, p. 125.

100 VGMA, no. 580, p. 13-14.

101 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Üsküdar Court, no. 564, p. 80.

102 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Kasımpaşa Court, no. 107, pp. 85-91.

103 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Üsküdar Court, no. 538, ff. 75b-76a.

104 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Eyüp Court, no. 304, f. 46a-b.

105 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Galata Court, no. 584, f. 63b.

106 J.-J. Harper (ed.), Sketches of Turkey in 1831 and 1832 by an American, New York: J.And J.Harper, 1833, p. 142.

107 For libraries in the period of Mahmud II, see: İsmail E. Erünsal, “II. Mahmud Devrinde Kütüphaneler/ Libraires in the Era of Mahmud II”, II. Mahmud: Yeniden Yapılanma Sürecinde İstanbul/ Istanbul in the Process of Being Rebuilt, ed. Coşkun Yılmaz, Istanbul: İstanbul 2010 Avrupa Kültür Başkenti, 2010, pp. 238-259.

108 Şer‘iye Sicilleri Archives, Eyüp Court, no. 426, f. 19b.

109 VGMA, Case no. 108, p. 6-7.

110 VGMA, Case no. 108, p. 9.

111 İsmail E. Erünsal, “Ottoman Foundation Libraries in the Age of Reform: The Final Period”, Libri, 2004, vol. 54, pp. 247-255.

112 About this layiha, see: M. Kayahan Özgül, XIX Asrın Benzersiz Bir Politekniği: Münif Paşa, Ankara: Elips Kitap, 2005, pp. 82-83.

113 For librarianship in the period of Abdulhamid II, see: İsmail E. Erünsal, “Türk Kütüphaneciliğinde Atılım Dönemi/Take off Era in Turkish Librarianship”, II Abdülhamid: Modernleşme Sürecinde İstanbul/ Istanbul During the Modernization Process, ed. Coşkun Yılmaz, Istanbul: İstanbul 2010 Avrupa Kültür Başkenti, 2010, pp. 360-377.

114 İsmail E. Erünsal, “A Brief Survey of the Development of Turkish Library Catalogues”, Libri, 2001, vol. 51, no. 1, p. 3-5. A photocopy of a page from what is believed to be the only surviving copy of this published catalogue can be found in Osman Ergin, Muallim Cevdet’in Hayatı, Eserleri ve Kütüphanesi (Istanbul: İstanbul Belediyesi, 1937, p. 437)

115 İbnülemin Mahmud Kemal and Hüseyin Hüsameddin [Yasar], Evkaf‑ı Hümayûn Nezaretinin Tarihçe‑i Teşkilatı ve Nüzzarın Teracim‑i Ahvali, Istanbul: Evkaf-ı İslamiyye Matbaası, 1335, pp. 238-239.

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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