Sinan Pasha (d. 1486) explains the reason for writing his famous work Tazarru’nâme (Book of Heartfelt Supplications) in the following manner:

“The spoken word is such a thing that it does not vanish; it remains until the Day of Judgment. Sometimes it so happens that it is read in various gatherings and becomes a means of receiving blessings from others. And it sometimes happens to be read to somebody whose prayers are acceptable in the presence of Allah; a saint of Allah with a blessed mouth and a sweet tongue...”

And in the rest of his words, Sinan Pasha prays for salvation in the Hereafter through the intercession of such a person with acceptable supplications.1 It was probably not a coincidence that Sinan Pasha chose the term “spoken word.” He knew that the work he produced would be used in an oral environment, within a form of communication where the written and spoken words intermingled. Therefore, he said that his spoken word would remain until the Day of Judgment. In other words, the “spoken word” in Ottoman culture did not simply fly away as it so easily does today; the distinction between the written word and the spoken one -- if such a distinction really exists -- was not as sharp as it is in contemporary times. In fact, it is an issue frequently brought up in recent studies that Ottoman culture, in its essence, was not a written culture, but rather an oral one; that Ottoman authors addressed a community of “verbally literate” people, and moreover, that the written portion of Ottoman culture was confined to very small circles of literate people.2

This shows that if we are to question the existence of a widespread culture of reading in the Ottomans, or more precisely the quality of this reading, we should be able to go beyond “solid evidence”, such as inheritance records or the number, kind or content of the manuscripts that have reached our time; we should construct a vast world where every kind of oral, even visual, method of communication was employed. This kind of work requires us to use the narratives and visual materials of every period in which we can find traces of oral culture and to take these materials at least as seriously as we do the manuscripts and archival documents. What we intend to do in this article is to provide some information about the reading traditions in Ottoman Istanbul based on the limited publications and sources on the subject; we then need to make some observations in order to construct the vast world mentioned above, based on the journey undertaken by a popular literary work -- Hamzanâme -- in Ottoman literature.3

A Glimpse at the Tradition of Reading Aloud in Ottoman Istanbul

Unfortunately, there has been no systematic research into the historical course of reading silently and reading aloud in the Ottoman period, unlike the detailed studies carried out about reading traditions in Europe.4 For this reason, it is very difficult to give general information about the history of reading silently and aloud in Ottoman culture. In a number of publications about this subject, it is stated that the tradition of reading aloud existed since the time of the Seljuks, where certain religious and literary texts were read aloud; this tradition continued in the Ottoman era.5 Halil İnalcık points out that some of the earliest Ottoman chronicles were written in order to be read aloud, adding that the vocative utterances in the texts confirm this.6

Unfortunately, studies needed for properly following the historical continuity of this tradition have not yet been made, despite these references and citations. However, it is possible, by reading between the lines, to track down certain pieces of information which convey that the tradition of reading aloud to a particular group of people -a tradition that existed since the earliest years of the Ottoman State- actually lived on, and it is certain that ongoing studies or studies to be carried out in the future will enrich this accumulation. A major portion of the information that has reached us today undoubtedly tells us of an Istanbul-based reading tradition. For example, the famous French book-collector Antoine Galland (d. 1715) records that the book dealers in the Bedesten Bazaar in Istanbul would -in return for several silver coins- read chapters from İskendernâme to their customers who were seeking to be entertained during the long winter nights.7 It is known that this tradition was followed in the Ottoman court as well, and that certain books were read aloud to the Ottoman sultans. For instance, Abdurrahman Abdi Pasha (d. 1692), an Ottoman historian, writes that he read books of history to Sultan Mehmed IV, relating the successes and achievements of past Ottoman sultans. One of the texts he read aloud for the sultan, Abdurrahman Abdi Pasha records, was about the Çaldıran Battle (1514), fought between Sultan Selim I (r. 1512-1520) and Shah Ismail (b. 1487 - d. 1524).8

1- Youth (Sultan Ahmed I’s Album)

There is no doubt about the vitality of the book culture in the Ottoman palace and its environs; we can see this vital trend, particularly from the time of Sultan Mehmed II, given the production of illustrated books in the palace workshops during his reign. However, it was not until around the seventeenth century that books became relatively more accessible for a wider audience in Istanbul. Indeed, a proportionate increase is observed in the production and consumption of books in the major centers of the Islamic world, starting from precisely this period, and particularly in the eighteenth century. For example, Nelly Hanna, in her study of Cairo, states that the production of books saw an increase from the seventeenth century on in major centers, such as Cairo, Damascus, Aleppo and Istanbul, also noting that a large number of oral narratives were recorded in the popular language of the time. According to Hanna, many different factors were involved in this increase; the purchasing power of the middle-class rose, as well as the rate of literacy, while the price of the paper imported from Europe went down.9 This relative abundance in the number of books undoubtedly led to an increase in the number of libraries in so many cities, including Istanbul.10

2- Hamza depicted as going to the Mountain of Kaf on Phoenix

The findings of İsmail E. Erünsal in his comprehensive study of the Ottoman waqf libraries also support this view. In the seventeenth century, independent libraries began to be established in addition to the madrasa and tomb libraries, which were only available to scholars and students, and mosque and tekke libraries, which were available for both scholars-students and the public. The first example of these libraries is the Köprülü Library, established in 1661. Erünsal states that the Köprülü Library as the first independent library as a result of the death of Köprülü Mehmed Pasha prior to the completion of the complex he was planning to commission. He adds that the number of the libraries set up from the beginning of the seventeenth century in regions that were not major centers of the empire saw an increase, and that this increase achieved a significant momentum in the eighteenth century. Even though one reason for the increase, Erünsal points out, was the concomitant rise in the rate of literacy, the real reason was that madrasa students needed these libraries more than ordinary people did. Moreover, not only did the number of libraries increase during this period, but also their collections grew larger through donations.11

The fact that starting from the seventeenth century depictions of well-dressed young men holding books or folk poetry notebooks in their hands appeared more frequently in albums must have been a result of the book culture that was becoming more widespread in Istanbul at the time; this had a lasting impact on the art of painting. An interesting example of this was an album of clothing prepared in the mid-seventeenth century for Ralamb, the Swedish ambassador.12 In these albums, produced mostly for European customers, people from various occupations and ethnicities living in the Ottoman lands are depicted. The caption beneath the depiction in question in Ralamb’s Kıyafetnâme (An Album of Clothing) contains no specifics as to any profession, name or ethnicity; the depicted figure is simply defined as “an Istanbulite” (Figure 1). The picture is that of a beardless young man, blithely walking with his robe, which is lined with fur, which he has thrown over his shoulders, because, apparently, he did not have enough time to wear it properly, with the tassel swinging behind. His red leather-bound book or journal tucked into his sash is obviously a defining detail of an Istanbulite in the seventeenth century. In fact, in albums that depict apparel, and, indeed, in the general Islamic portrait tradition, the most important determinant of the depicted person’s identity is their clothing. What is meant here by “clothing” is undoubtedly not merely the clothes or headgear being worn; the person’s attitude and manner, as well as the objects they are carrying are all parts of the identity.

This depiction is virtually a portrait of a ‘middle-class Istanbulite’ who is closely associated with the world of books; books started to become more prominent in the seventeenth century. Furthermore, the depictions, of young people, or of young men and women reading books or listening to book readings at gatherings held in the country (Fig. 2),13 in the album prepared for Sultan Ahmed I (1610) are living witnesses to the sort of environment under discussion. The young people in these depictions are also reminiscent of the “city boys” who increasingly occupied larger spaces in Ottoman sources starting from the end of the sixteenth century. We find the most detailed information about this group in Mawaid an-Nafâis fî Qawaid al-Majalis (Tables of Souls in the Rulings of Gatherings) by Gelibolulu Mustafa Âlî (d. 1600). While sharply criticizing the “inappropriate” behavior of the “city boys,” Âlî underscores the right etiquette for social conversations and interactions, as well as mentioning the honest and literate ones among the “city boys” among those whose presence and talks are pleasant, adding that these boys were able to appreciate eloquent words.14 And this in return suggests that the people described as “city boys” were not a monolithic group and that this term was rather used for people who were closely associated with urban life.15 All of these observations make us think that this urban group, which we encounter more often in the sources of the era and which become more visible in pictures with their portraits, was part of the increased production and consumption of books in Istanbul in the seventeenth century.

From the eighteenth century on, we are able to more clearly follow the traces of the environment which began to take on prominence in the seventeenth century. Based on the reading notes jotted down in the margins of a number of extant popular works, we can say that reading aloud to a certain group became a significant social event for a group of city-dwellers in Istanbul in the eighteenth century and that this tradition continued into and through the nineteenth century. A wide range of works -- from religious parables to books recording feats and miracles, from the adventures of Istanbulite playboys to the classical stories of Islamic literature or to history books written in a narrative style -- were probably hired from a book dealer or a bookbinder and read aloud over and over again in both private and public spaces; those present during these readings, those who did the readings, and even certain events and incidents which occurred during the readings, as well as the joy and pleasure obtained from the readings themselves were immortalized through the marginal notes.16 That the traces of this tradition emerge at a greater frequency from the eighteenth century suggests that book-reading gatherings started becoming more prevalent during this period, and this -- as has been mentioned above -- must have been a development that was parallel to the fact that books, as objects, had become more widespread and accessible in the same century.

To follow the traces of reading gatherings held all across Istanbul in the eighteenth and ninteenth centuries, through the various examples available to us is beyond the scope of this paper. Nonetheless, discussion of this subject via one of the most famous works read aloud in these gatherings would give us an opportunity to demonstrate that it is necessary to consider many different forms of expression, such as pictures, as well as the spoken and written word, together when talking of the “reading culture” in the Ottomans. The work in question is a work compiled under the title Hamzanâme, which is centered round the life of Prophet Muhammad’s uncle, Hamza ibn Abdilmuttalib (d. 625); this work was enriched with many historical and legendary plots.

Hamzanâme in the Language of Meddah

In the Seyahatnâme (travelogue) of Evliya Çelebi (d. 1682), the long journey of meddahs (eulogists and storytellers) across the Islamic lands begins with the story of Hamza. According to Evliya Çelebi’s account, Suhayb al-Rumi, the panegyrist of Prophet Muhammad, as well as the father of meddah, told stories with great fluency and eloquence, with a stick in his hand and notebooks tucked into his sash, recounted the battles of Hamza, the Prophet’s uncle. However, Suhayb al-Rumi used to first read Ahternâme, noting that recounting these battle stories would encourage Prophet Muhammad’s community to battle. According to Evliya Çelebi, Abu al-Maali increased the stories to make up 60 volumes in 874-875, and later Greek storytellers increased this to 360 volumes.17

Although the number 360 given by Evliya Çelebi has been considered by many literary historians to be an exaggeration, from the more than 100 extant copies of Hamzanâme, it is possible to understand that there were a large number - although not 360; from the innumerous marginal notes in these copies18 it can also be understood that the Ottoman society showed a great deal of interest in these Hamza stories, which were popularly and enthusiastically read and listened to19 in a large number of languages across the Islamic lands. Today there are 69 known copies of Hamzanâme, which contains a large number of intertwining plots woven around the life of Hamza. It is pretty difficult for today’s reader to keep track of these stories, where so many extraordinary events are recounted, and themes, such as love and war are included; this is perhaps on account of being far removed from such forms of communication. These works follow oneanother successively, giving neither the author’s name nor having any chapter or preface giving the reason for why they were written. The first information given at the beginning of every copy mostly concerns the volume in question; this is followed by the text, which invariably commences with the set phrase of “The narrators of news, the conveyors of works, and the meddahs of our time narrate in the following manner that ... “ In fact, beginning the work in this way explains why there was a lack of discussion about why the work was written; what is recounted here does not belong to a single author, but has rather been jointly created by all the meddahs who kept this tradition alive for centuries, enriching and increasing the number of stories by adding new chapters. Actually, literary historians consider Hamzavî as the first compiler of these stories.20 However, the differences between contemporary copies21 or separate works written or translated about the heroes in the work,22 just like the epic stories that originated after Shah-nâma, indicate that over time the stories compiled by Hamzavî were enriched by new additions. This must be the reason why Hamzavî’s name is not included in any of the copies.

Therefore, although Hamzavî compiled the work which can be considered to be the first core of Hamzanâme, it should be kept in mind that while talking of the Hamzanâme, we are not talking of a work written at a specific time in the past, but rather of a great corpus that kept on living and growing over time. Another matter that, in view of the scope of time during which it lived and grew, such a work will inevitably be subject to changing perceptions. Studies made on this work, however, have generally put the great prevalence of Hamzanâme and its popularity with its audiences down to the “religious consciousness and zeal inherent in the work,” and Hamzanâme has thus been evaluated as the first of the great Islamic epics of heroism adopted by the Turks.23 Yet it would not be very realistic to remark that a text which kept growing through continual contributions from the sixteenth to the seventeenth centuries could be understood with the same perception. At least, when we survey the extant Hamzanâme copies dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it can be clearly observed that they contain stories of love and adventure enriched with extraordinary elements, in addition to an overall religious tone. From the readers’ notes, which will be discussed later, can also be understood to have been read aloud and listened to in actually quite entertaining environments. As a matter of fact, at the beginning chapter of a study on an illustrated Hamzanâme prepared for the Mughal ruler Akbar (d. 1605), it is emphasized that Hamzanâme should not be thought of as a text about the spread of Islam or the biography of a historical figure, but rather it should be evaluated as a text similar to the Arabian Nights or Robin Hood legends, in that it comprises stories meant to entertain.24

The fact that Hamzanâme is known today mostly through manuscripts that date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in no way indicates that different stories from earlier copies which have not reached the present time or which are as yet not known, were not read aloud or listened to. As was emphasized at the outset, the notion of “reading” in the Ottomans should be considered not only as part of the written culture, but also as one that consists of different forms in the oral literary culture. This kind of consideration is essential in creating a more integrated picture. The reason is that the written and visual sources that have reached us today from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are rich enough to demonstrate the great extent to which meddah listened to the Hamzanâme stories.

For example, according to a story related by Lâmi’îzâde Abdullah Çelebi (b. 1472 - d.1537) in Letâif, a meddah is assigned by his own village to be the preacher; however, the people cannot convince him to deliver the Friday khutba (sermon), no matter what they say. He eventually runs out of excuses and is obliged to climb the pulpit and deliver the khutba. Under the influence of the opium he had taken shortly before, he reminisces about the past, becomes lost in reverie, and cries out: “O most valiant of all warriors! O God’s Lion! O traveler of Mount Qaf! O HAMZA!” clapping all the while with his chest puffed up. Expectedly, the entire congregation starts snickering.25 The fact that the first story which emerges, even if unconsciously, from a meddah’s mouth is a parable about Hamza, or even if this parable was chosen to be told first, clearly indicates how these stories were fundamental narratives for meddahs and that the word meddah was closely associated with the Hamzanâme stories. Another anecdote, which is very similar, reinforces this argumentAccording to the narrations in a story book that recounts the adventures of Sipahi Ali of Kastamonu and which apparently originated in the seventeenth century, a meddah by the name Çavuşzâde, who was famous for his striking beauty, captivates the entire population of Istanbul, and people fill up the coffeehouses every day to see him. The stage where the meddah appears before us for the first time in the story is interesting in terms of our context here. In the narration, the meddah enters a coffee house and establishes himself somewhere near a chest where everybody can see him. He begins to tell his story. However, as the audience is beyond itself due to the meddah’s beauty, the poor Çavuşzâde is barely able to utter: “Hamza had a son by the name Bedîüzzemân and he was very brave...” According to the report of the narrator, shortly thereafter, the meddah has no more mental resolve left to continue, nor are the listeners able to hear him any longer.26

If the people in this story had not been utterly astounded by the beauty of Çavuşzâde, he would probably have related in his story, which he began by saying: “Hamza had a son by the name Bedîüzzemân and he was very brave...”, the famous struggle between Bedî’ (Bedîüzzemân) and Kâsım, the most exciting Hamzanâme story for the Istanbulite listeners. It seems that this story, although having been listened to by hundreds of people before, had lost nothing of its impact and led people to fight one another for centuries, as explained below.

Describing the characteristics of Istanbul in the mid-fifteenth century, Latîfî (d. 1585) depicts the Tahtakale quarter as an entertainment center of the city, noting that some people came there to listen to historical stories from meddahs, whereas others preferred quaint legends which had been handed down through chains of narrators. In Latîfî’s account, there were some people who swore that Kâsım would defeat his rival; as a result, the supporters of Bedî’, affected by these oaths, pounced on the meddah.27 Although the author does not feel the need to say which “quaint legend” he is mentioning, it is clear that he is speaking about the story of Bedî’ and Kâsım. Another famous fight caused by this long-standing struggle is told by İsmail Beliğ in his work entitled Güldeste-i Riyâz-ı İrfân (A Bouquet of Roses from the Gardens of Divine Knowledge). According to this story, in 1616, while the poet Haylî Ahmed Çelebi was sitting in a coffeehouse in Bursa, the meddah was relating the story of Bedî’ and Kâsım. Some of the people in the coffeehouse support Bedî’, while others support Kâsım, and they let out shouts and yelled when the names of their heroes are mentioned. In the meantime, one of the supporters of Kâsım, Ahmed Çelebi, gets seriously exhilarated, whereupon a meddah named Saçakçızâde, whose hero is Bedî’, makes fun of the wild look in Ahmed Çelebi’s eyes, mockingly asking him: “Can you really see that with those eyes!?” Upon hearing this, Ahmed Çelebi flies into a rage and plunges his dagger into Saçakçızâde, killing him right there.28

These stories help to illustrate not only that Hamzanâme was an important narrative told by meddahs, but also indicates which stories of the many different stories were appreciated. Coincidentally, the few extant images that have survived the wear and tear of time depict the various moments from these stories much favored by meddahs as well as the listeners.

Hamzanâme in the Brush Strokes of Painters

The most famous of the rare depictions of Hamza that has survived until today can be found in one of the palace albums (Fig. 3). In this depiction, which is not linked to any text and which is conspicuously large in proportion to images usually used in manuscripts, Hamza, in his Arabian warrior outfit, is depicted with a lion-headed mace in his hand, flying on the mythical bird the simurg (phoenix). According to the note above, this picture portrays Hamza as he is flying on the simurg to Mount Kaf. It is stated that the dimensions and theme of this picture indicates that it would be shown during the telling of a story.29 This depiction, which is probably a part of a series, like the images prepared for Akbar, was utilized during the telling of a story; this illustration is related to the beginning of the long story about Hamza30 on Mount Kaf. It is also probable that if that meddah-preacher in Lâmi’îzâde Abdullah Çelebi’s story had not come to his senses due to the congregation’s snickers, he would have told them a chapter from this story.

A mecmua (journal), probably produced published in Istanbul in the mid-seventeenth century, depicts the struggle between Bedî’ and Kâsım; this was the kind of story that caused a member of the audience to attack the meddah in Tahtakale, and led to a murder being committed in a Bursa coffeehouse.31 The depictions in this mecmua, which contains single-page depictions and couplets by divan poets, most probably portray the heroes of the stories as told by meddahs throughout the seventeenth century. What makes us think this is that every image of a hero has a name written on it. Another depiction is of an empty space, with two youngsters springing towards one another (Fig. 4).32 With their helmets and armor, the two young men, both with mustaches and beards mustache and beard, have remarkably similar faces. In the depiction, which has barely any color, only certain details of the armor are gilded, and a little paint is also used. The note above the depiction tells us that the young men are Bedî’ and Kâsım. That is, the image is depicting the famous fight between the two warriors, a fight that set so many others at odds with each other.

Though we have no conclusive evidence, the fact that these two images depict the stories that were often told by meddahs, or rather which often could not be told because of various reasons, as seen in the stories discussed above, suggests that the similarities in these images are not coincidental, but are actually products of a common world. They probably had been prepared in order to be shown during the storytelling. The fact that there are no illustrated copies of any volumes of Hamzanâme also strengthens this argument.

Apparently, the way these stories were used, stories which lived on thanks mostly to meddahs throughout the sixteenthand seventeenth centuries, started changing from the eighteenth century onward; that is, in their “popular” use. That the book became more “easily” accessible and more widespread starting from this century compared to previous ones possibly made it more normal for these stories to be read from the books. This must have been the reason why Hamzanâme volumes, written in the “language of meddahs” in a legible naskh style, were hired from book dealers or book binders and read aloud in all corners of Istanbul, in innumerable private and public places, by talented ordinary Istanbulites or professional meddahs.33 The pleasures received from these moments were immortalized through the marginal notes.

Hamzanâme in the Hands of Readers

In the ninteenth century, Süleyman Fâik Efendi (d. 1837) began an article in his mecmua by saying: “May Allah save those addicted to the fabricated legends Hamzanâme and Ahternâme,” thus lambasting the practice of hiring34 these from book dealers and reading them aloud. Süleyman Fâik Efendi notes that although the number of Hamzanâme volumes was rumored to be around 30-40, the actual number of the volumes one could lay hands on seemed to be only 15. Süleyman Fâik Efendi intensifies his criticism, saying that those who were gifted enough among the “wretched beings” who read these volumes recited the stories in coffeehouses, thus passing for meddahs; they charged their listeners, who were but a bunch of layabouts. “In fact, if an educated person were to listen to these stories just once, he would appreciate what kind of [nonsensical] stuff they are, because they have no beginning, nor do they have any conclusion; they are basically fabricated legends,” he remarks, adding that they had been written for two reasons. The first reason was to encourage warriors, while the second was to surpass and defeat Ferdowsi’s renowned work Shahnmeh. However, neither of these reasons were convincing for Süleyman Fâik Efendi. “If,” he asks: “these were the real reasons, why did they feel the need to write so many volumes?”35

Actually Süleyman Fâik Efendi is not totally mistaken in some of his criticisms. That is, the goal was probably not to write a piece solely to outdo Ferdowsi or to provide the necessary courage for the listener to fight in a particular battle. Indeed, while the marginal notes in the Hamzanâme volumes suggest that those reading or listening to these books had no intention of fighting, or rather that their sole intention was not fighting, and that the works were mostly read for pleasure, these notes also prove that Süleyman Fâik Efendi is right in his criticisms about the addictive nature of these works. It is clear that a group of people were addicts of Hamzanâme in the eighteenth and ninteenth centuries in Istanbul, in a way comparable to many contemporary people being addicted to television series today. Every volume was read over and over again, just like watching repeats on television, although each one took 3 to 4 hours to finish.36 In fact, some listeners, just like that “indiscreet friend” who gives a spoiler before the film is finished, could not resist writing at the very beginning of some volumes what was going to happen and who was going to die at the end.37 However, these addicts, contrary to Süleyman Fâik Efendi’s claims, do not seem to have been layabouts who did nothing all day. Quite the contrary, the professions and titles noted in the margins suggest that the readers and listeners were members of the urban middle class. Now let us turn to the notes in these copies that were read in so many Istanbul neighborhoods, in countless private and public spaces, ranging from houses to coffeehouses, and from tekkes to army barracks.38

Public Spaces

The most prominent of all reading venues was undoubtedly the Istanbul coffeehouse. In fact, what we can understand from the marginal notes is that a number of copies were circulated between the coffeehouses. One of these copies (volume 53) was read for a very long period, from the beginning of the seventeenth century until the middle of the nineteenth century. One of the earliest notes scribbled in this copy states that it was read in 1706-1707 in Sarây-ı Cedîd (New Palace), probably Topkapı Palace, by a person named Abdullah in the room of ‘Ali Bey’.39 Another note states that it was still read in 1715-1716 in Mehmed’s coffeehouse in the Hocapaşa quarter.40 The use of the adverb “still” in the second note suggests that the note was made while the book was being read; the same is true of some other notes as well. The journey of this copy through the coffeehouses continued during the nineteenth century. Once it was read in the coffeehouse of Ahmed Agha, the kayıkçılar kethüdası (boatmen steward) at the Üsküdar Wharf; the listeners, all friends, had quite a good time.41 It was read again in Üsküdar in 1841-1842 in the coffeehouse of Süleyman Agha;42 and Hüseyin Hâce read it on a Sunday night in 1797-1798 in Mehmed Agha’s coffeehouse in Kasımpaşa.43 In another note, the date of which is not fully legible, we learn that this copy was read in Şehremini by Kasap (butcher) Ali Agha in Berber (barber) Mehmed Agha’s coffeehouse.44

Another copy, the 25th volume, which circulated between coffeehouse frequenters was read mostly in thenineteenth century. Among the coffeehouses where this copy was read, those aligned side by side across from the Üsküdar Ferry Wharf are particularly noteworthy. These must have been the ones with pergolas at the wharf where Suhulet,45 Istanbul’s first ferryboat, which was built in 1871, docked. The people who gathered here were probably watching Suhulet, which had created great excitement and curiosity in those days, while concurrently listening to the adventures of Hamza. In a note dated February 23, 1884, it is stated that the book was read by a Hakkı Efendi in the coffeehouse of Ahmed Efendi, the kayıkçılar kethüdası,46 and it was also noted that the book was read in the Hakkı Efendi’s coffeehouse, which was on the same side of the street.47 The same volume was read twice by the calligrapher Hâfiz Mehmed Hilmi Efendi of Çankırı in Nakkaş (illustrator) Hüseyin Agha’s coffeehouse, located in the neighborhood of Karaki Hüseyin Çelebi, in the vicinity of Hocapaşa.48

3- The sword of Badi‘ al-zaman (Hamzaname, Süleymaniye Library, Hacı Mahmud Efendi, no. 6244, fol. 149a)

Another venue that hosted these book readings was the bazaars of Istanbul. Hamzanâme copies were read in Unkapanı many times. For example, in the marginal note in question, in volume 53 and which is mentioned above, it is said that the book was read in Unkapanı on January 16, 1795 by Durakzâde Mehmed.49 In another note, dated January 25, 1865, it is said that it was read in the same place by Arpacı (barley seller) Durakzade Halil Efendi, that the friends present there really enjoyed the reading and recited the opening chapter of the Qur’an (Fatiha) for the spirits of martyrs. The person who had made the note turned to his interlocutor and remarked that he was recording this event.50 The venues, noted simply as ‘Unkapanı’, suggests that the readings were done either in the shops, or out in the open in front of these shops. In fact, there are notes in which the only information provided about the venue is the name of a neighborhood, leading to the conclusion that the readings were done out in the open.

For example, in a copy of volume 11, it is written that the work was read twice near Sultanahmet Sultanahmet Mosque by Seyyid Ahmed Efendi; the first time on January 27 and the second on April 16, 1762.51 Another note, taken by Seyyid Abdullah Efendi of the Naqshibandi Order, states that it was read by Hacı Ahmed Agha in Sultan Ahmed Türbesi Street.52 Another note says it was read in Edirnekapı around 1761-1762 (1757-1758).53 Volume 53 was read once in Galata in the Çeşme Square by İsmail Agha.54 Another copy that comprises volume 54 was among the Hamzanâmes that were read aloud in various streets of Istanbul: It was read in 1171-1172 (1758-1759), near Sultanahmet Sultanahmet Mosque by Seyyid Hâfız Ahmed Efendi. Another time it was read by three people, the names of whom are not given, in Ispanakçı Viranesi in the Kasap İlyas Neighborhood on September 20, 1851.55 Ispanakçı Viranesi was a kind of square where immigrants, particularly from Arapkir, settled in the nineteenth century.56 The reading probably took place there.

4- ‘Umar Ma‘di’s halberd (<em>Hamzaname</em>, Süleymaniye Library, Hacı Mahmud Efendi, no. 6244, fol. 110a)

In addition to these public places, Hamzanâme volumes were read aloud at piers, in shipyards, barracks and tekkes.57 The characteristic of every reading venue must have been effective in determining the identity of the listeners. For example, the gatherings held in the public spaces in question, such as coffeehouses, streets, squares or shop fronts, created the formation of more open and heterogeneous groups; the readings that were most likely held at private homes were occasions in which acquaintances and more closely acquainted people came together.

5- Badi‘ and Qasim (<em>Hamzaname</em>, Millet Library, Ali Emiri, no. 105, fol. 1a)

Private Spaces

Various private residences, from the home of an ordinary Ottoman to the mansion of a wealthy Ottoman pasha, were among the venues that hosted Hamzanâme readings. The types of houses and the identities of the homeowners were noted down in the copies. These notes clearly demonstrate that these readings were a source of pleasure and entertainment which brought together many different segments of society.

For instance, a Hamzanâme copy which constitutes volume 11, probably copied at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and which was apparently read more at homes and in the streets, was read aloud in 1725-1726 in the home of Ömer Agha, and in the some mansion on September 20, 1728.58 Another note found in the same copy, addressed to Mahmud Pasha, who could have been one of the listeners, records that the work was read in the home of Mehmed Çelebi in January or February 1750.59 It is reported in another note, dated 1763-1764, that it was read in the mansion of al-Hâjj Mustafa Agha, located near Bin Hane, by his servant Hâfız Mehmed.60 Once, volume 53 was read aloud on December 31, 1873 in the mansion of the late Ruhalı Edhem Paşazade Mehmed Bey, near the tomb of Sultan Mahmud; on March 8, 1804 it was read in the mansion of Kudsî Efendi in the quarter of Fazlı Pasha.61 These notes, particularly the one in which the reader was the servant of a house; indicate that these works were received by many different layers of society with similar degrees of interest.

One of the interesting and important questions about this prevalent reading culture in Ottoman Istanbul is whether any women were amongst the readers or listeners. The content of the notes taken in the copies being discussed, particularly the profane words which will be touched upon below, bear the traces of a male-centered culture; however, a few notes taken in the same copies suggest that these works may have also been read in the harem section of the mansions that belonged to Istanbul’s wealthier families. For example, from one of the notes taken in volume 53, we learn that the book was read around 1810-1811 in the private harem section of the mansion of an Ottoman pasha.62 From another note we learn that the work was read in the harem of a mansion in Beylerbeyi.63

As one can see, the reading notes taken in the Hamzanâme offer very interesting data that helps to understand how the books were circulated in Istanbul, and even outside Istanbul, as seen in a number of examples,64 and what kind of adventures each copy experienced.65 However, what we find in Hamzanâme volumes is not confined to marginal reading notes. There are abundant details that help us to surmise and imagine the joy of such reading gatherings, the moods of the readers and the listeners, and the ways these books were perceived and received by society. These notes record the transformation of the books into a kind of “media” by which the readers and the listeners communicated with the book as well as with each other.

Books as “Media”

Here is a note written in a copy of the Hamzanâme which explains the reason for the note being made: “I wrote this so that it become a means of commemoration. So that it become a means of well-wishing for the reader, for the writer.”66 It seems, however, that not everybody had the same reason. Book pages became almost walls on which notes were written, notes that reflect the troubles and joys of those who attended the gatherings. For instance, someone wrote the following couplet, in an effort to complain about his bad fortune:

No comfort is left in my body, chasing after my fortune
It has taken me as far as Samarkand and Bukhara.

Another person, who seems very witty, responded to this reproach in the following manner:

What need did you have to go as far as Samarkand and Bukhara?
Our designated fortune shall reach us when we seek it.67

An upset reader wrote: “If I were to live in this world eternally / It would be easy to seek revenge on my enemy,” below which another reader replied: “Very well brother, but even Sultan Süleyman did not live eternally.”68 Yet another reader wrote on the margins in another volume: “O Most Exalted Truth! Help all lovers unite with their beloved. And do not let this poor servant be separated from his beloved even for an hour. Amin.” And right below this supplication we find an obscene word, written most probably by somebody troubled by love or his beloved, or annoyed that people wrote such notes in the book.69 Not only the writers of these notes were cursed and abused, also the heroes of the book sometimes were sworn at.70

One of the issues which drew the greatest ire was the harm done to the book. People taking notes in the books or cutting pieces from the pages apparently annoyed many readers and listeners. For this reason we encounter a large number of profane expressions in the page margins. For example, in one of the copies somebody wrote: “May the hands and feet of the one who cuts this paper be cut too, and may every reader who sees these cut pages not pass it off without cursing the cutter. If you love (?) Allah.”71 In another such note in the same copy, the writer curses not only the one who cut the page, but basically the person’s entire extended family.72 Those who did other kinds of harm to the books in addition to cutting pages were also vehemently condemned. A note in one of the copies reads: “May those who mishandle or damage this book be themselves mishandled and damaged,” blatantly reflecting the degree of the anger incited.73 Those who read these notes must have been deterred from harming the book in any fashion, at least for a while.

The notes taken in the book do not consist only of curses and bad wishes; sometimes people wrote good wishes as a result of the pleasure they received. An example is: “Oh Lord! May the one who possesses this book live a hundred years. May they obtain pleasure for 50 years, may they fully enjoy their lives for 50 years,”74 thereby immortalizing the joyful moments the reader or the listener had. Couplets, such as the one written at the beginning of another copy: “Do not love a blonde girl, she’ll get dirty in no time / If you want to love a girl, love a brunette; she’ll get more and more coy as she is loved.”75 This allows us access to talented poets who attended gatherings of Hamzanâme readings.

More than merely joyous details of the reading gatherings, these notes reflect the general moods in the gatherings and forms of communication; moreover, they are living witnesses to the responses evoked in the audience by the stories read. These responses represent a large spectrum of emotions, ranging from anger to joy and from teasing to bullying, even getting physical. The responses evoked from the readers were not limited to marginal notes; they sometimes drew on the margins depictions of the heroes or objects that belonged to them; this was just another manifestation of the atmosphere in which the readings were done. At the same time, the depictions connect these readings to the aforementioned performances of meddahs and to the tradition of depiction, which are thought to be products of the same environment.

Images on Margins

The fights that broke out during the performances of meddahs, as well as the marginal notes in the manuscripts, clearly reflect the skill of those who read aloud or told Hamzanâme stories and the power of these stories. In addition, the images drawn on the margins indicate the instinctive tendency and desire of human beings to “see.” The images, apparently drawn during readings by Istanbulite listeners or those who read the book, mostly depict weapons of war used by the heroes, such as, swords, maces, hexagonal maces, halberds, bows and arrows, or poleaxes; the portraits of the heroes themselves were also occasionally drawn in the margins. The images were obviously drawn by people whose drawing skill should not be underestimated.

Among these images, the most frequent one is the sword; the name of the sword’s owner is written on the sword. For instance, in one of the volumes is a picture of Bedîüzzemân’s sword (Fig. 5), and in the same volume, on another page, is the hexagonal mace of Ömer Ma’dî (Fig. 6) The fact that the images of war weapons vastly outnumber all other images suggest that the Hamzanâme chapters in which people feel the greatest pleasure and excitement were battle and fight scenes. In fact, studies carried out on the text record that the words related to battles and fighting abound, and that battle scenes or duels are described quite excitedly.76

Portraits, which are smaller in number to depictions of war weapons, connect the images dating from the seventeenth century to the tradition of reading Hamzanâme as carried out in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; furthermore, it strengthens the argument that the images from the 17th century co-existed with the meddahs in the same environment. Two portraits in one of the Hamzanâme copies are particularly remarkable in this respect. Two images are drawn facing one another on the blank page at the beginning of the book. The faces of the figures are very similar with their long mustaches, and they both have headgear that look like helmets. (Fig. 7) Maybe not in style, but with the details of the attires, these men are reminiscent of the depictions of Bedî’ and Kâsım in the seventeenth-century copy. The name “Kâsım”, noted right next to one of the portraits, confirms this suspicion, and suggests that the person in the second portrait is Bedî’.77 As a matter of fact, the notes in this copy indicate that this volume contains the stories of the two heroes. These two depictions hint that the tradition of drawing Bedî’ and Kâsım, the two heroes of this renowned struggle, is at least as widespread and deep-rooted as the practice of relating this story.

As we have seen, Hamzanâme, a single work in Ottoman literature, albeit a work that has a historical account limited to Istanbul, provides us with sufficient data that helps to understand the multi-layered and changeable structure of the practice of “reading” in the Ottoman culture, which is included in many different forms of expression from oral to written styles, even incorporating descriptive images. The more general picture can only be attained with a perspective that takes into account all forms of expression. If we are to return to the introductory words of Sinan Pasha we quoted at the outset; the Istanbul account of Hamzanâme stories prove Sinan Pasha to be right: The “word”, which sometimes lived in the stories of meddahs, sometimes in depictions, and sometimes in Hamzanâme copies, did not disappear; people present at the gatherings never ceased to pray for the writers, readers and listeners.


1 Sinan Pasha, Tazarru’nâme, prepared by A. Mertol Tulum, Ankara: Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı, 1971, p. 14.

2 Mehmet Kalpaklı, “Evliyâ Çelebi Seyahatnâmesi ve Osmanlı Kültürünün Sözelliği/İşitselliği,” Evliyâ Çelebi’nin Sözlü Kaynakları, Ankara: UNESCO Turkiye Milli Komisyonu, 2012, pp. 85-88.

3 What is meant here by “Ottoman” is Istanbul, and not the entire state that spread across a huge territory and which was diverse in every sense of the word.

4 About Europe’s history of reading, see: Alexis Weedon (series ed.), The History of the Book in the West: A Library of Critical Essays, 5 vol., Farnham: Ashgate, 2010.

5 Zehra Öztürk, “Eğitim Tarihimizde Okulam Toplantılarının Yeri ve Okunan Kitaplar,” Değerler Eğitimi Dergisi, 2003, issue 1, pp. 131-155; Zehra Öztürk, “Osmanlı Döneminde Kıraat Meclislerinde Okunan Halk Kitapları,” TALİD, Eski Türk Edebiyatı Tarihi I, vol. 5, issue 9 (2007), pp. 401-445.

6 Halil İnalcık, “The Rise of Ottoman Historiography,” Historians of the Middle East, ed. B. Lewis and P. M. Holt, London: Oxford University Press, 1962, p. 157.

7 Antoine Galland, İstanbul’a Ait Günlük Hâtıralar (1672-1673), tr. Nahid Sırrı Örik, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1998, vol. 1, p. 210.

8 Abdurrahman Abdi Pasha, Vekâyî’nâme, prepared by Fahri Ç. Derin, Istanbul: Çamlıca Basım Yayın, 2008, pp. 237-238.

9 Nelly Hanna, In Praise of Book: A Cultural History of Cairo’s Middle Class, Sixteenth to Eighteenth Century, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2003, pp. 81-89 A similar situation is true of Istanbul as well. The cheapest paper that came to Istanbul in the mid-seventeenth century was mostly from Italy. And from the eighteenth century on, French-made paper entered the Ottoman market. See: Osman Ersoy, XVIII. ve XIX. Yüzyıllarda Türkiye’de Kâğıt, Ankara: Ankara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih Coğrafya Fakültesi, 1963, pp. 19-26.

10 Hanna, In Praise of Books, pp. 81-89.

11 İsmail E. Erünsal, Türk Kütüphaneleri Tarihi II: Kuruluştan Tanzimat’a Kadar Osmanlı Vakıf Kütüphaneleri, Ankara: Atatürk Kültür, Dil ve Tarih Yüksek Kurumu Atatürk Kültür Merkezi, 1988, pp. 54-56. Frédéric Hitzel draws attention to the vitality of the book trade in Istanbul in the eighteenth century, particularly based on the information he narrates from Evliya Çelebi. Frédéric Hitzel, “Manuscrits, Livres et Culture Livresqu à Istanbul, Revue des Mondes Musulmans et de la Méditerranée, Série Historia, 1999, vol. 87-88, pp. 19-38.

12 Tadeusz Majda, “Ralamb’ın Türk Kıyafetleri Albümü,” Alay-ı Hümâyûn: İsveç Elçisi Ralamb’ın İstanbul Ziyareti ve Resimleri, 1657-1658, ed. Karin Adahl, translated by Ali Özdamar, Istanbul: Kitap Yayınevi, 2006, p. 223.

13 TSMK no. B. 408. About the album, see Serpil Bağcı et al., Osmanlı Resim Sanatı, Istanbul: Kültür ve Turizm Bakanlığı, 2006, pp. 228-231.

14 Gelibolulu Âlî Mustafa, Mevâidü’n-Nefâis fî Kavâidi’l-Mecâlis, prepared by Mehmet Şeker, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1997, p. 195.

15 A similar use of the word occurs in a book estimated to have originated in the seventeenth century. See: Tülün Değirmenci, “An Illustrated Mecmua: The Commoner’s Voice and the Iconography of the Court in Seventeenth-Century Ottoman Painting,” Ars Orientalis, vol. 41 (2011), p. 194.

16 For detailed information about this, see: Tülün Değirmenci, “Bir Kitabı Kaç Kişi Okur? Osmanlı’da Okurlar ve Okuma Biçimleri Üzerine Bazı Gözlemler”, Tarih ve Toplum Yeni Yaklaşımlar, 2011, issue 13, pp. 7 – 43.

17 Evliya Çelebi, Seyahatnâme, prepared by Orhan Şaik Gökyay, Istanbul: Yapı Kredi yayınları, 1995, vol.1, p. 225.

18 In some of the theses and books based on different copies of Hamzanâme, a list of the copies discovered thus far is given. See: Lütfi Sezen, Halk Edebiyatında Hamzanâmeler, Ankara: Kültür Bakanlığı, 1991, pp. 27-33; Nurhayat Şimşek Akın, “Hamzanâme (Vol. 8, Yapı Kredi Sermet Çifter Research Library) Text-Analysis” (master’s thesis), Çukurova University, 2006, pp. 5-10. However, only those copies in Turkish libraries are given in these lists. It is possible that a search in European libraries may unearth several other copies.

19 G. M. Meredith-Owens, “Hamza b. Abd al-Muttalib,” Encyclopedia of Islam, EI2 (Eng.), vol. 2, 152-154.

20 Mustafa Aksoy, Hamzanâme-I, Istanbul: Kriter Yayınları, 2009, p. 15; Vasfi Mahir Kocatürk, Türk Edebiyatı Tarihi, Ankara: Edebiyat Yayınevi, 1970, p. 192. According to the narrations in the collections of biographies of Âşık Çelebi (1520-1572), Hamzavî, one of the courtiers of Emir Süleyman (d. 1411), “combined” all the İskender and Hamza stories in prose in 24 volumes, adding his own verses in places. Âşık Çelebi, Meşâirü’ş-şuarâ: İnceleme-Metin, prepared by Filiz Kılıç, Istanbul: İstanbul Araştırmaları Enstitüsü, 2010, vol. 1, pp. 186, 312.

21 Aksoy, Hamzanâme, pp. 8-9.

22 For example, in his Tezkire, Âşık Çelebi mentions that Emirizâde Hâşimî wrote the story of Hamza’s son, Berk-i Pûlâd-Dil in the “language of storytellers.” Fuad Köprülü cites this in Edebiyat Araştırmaları I, Istanbul: Ötüken Neşriyat, 1989, p. 370. Âşık Çelebi, Mesâirü’ş-şuarâ, vol. 1, p. 532. Another storyteller, Hacı Mehmed Tokatî, translated Haşimnâme, the story of Hamza’s son Hâşim, into Turkish from Persian for Sultan Korkud. Aylin Koç, Hâşimnâme: Giriş-Metin-Dizin-tıpkıbasım, Konya: Palet Yayınları, 2010, pp. 1-2.

23 Abdullah Uçman, “Hamzanâme”, TDEA, vol 4, 92; Kocatürk, Türk Edebiyatı Tarihi, p. 192.

24 John Seyller, “Introduction”, The Adventures of Hamza, Painting and Storytelling in Mughal India, Washington:: Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 2002, p. 13.

25 Lâmiîzâde Abdullah Çelebi, Latîfeler, prepared by Yaşar Çalışkan, Istanbul: Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı, 1997, pp. 233-234.

26 Hikâyât-i Sipâhi-yi Kastomonî ve Tûtî, Millet Library, Ali Emîrî, Roman, no. 146f. 7b-8a.

27 Latîfî, Evsâf-ı İstanbul, prepared by Nermin Suner (Pekin), Istanbul: İstanbul Fetih Cemiyeti, 1977, p. 51.

28 Köprülü, Edebiyat Araştırmaları, pp. 382-383; İsmâil Belîğ, Târîh-i Burûsa, Güldeste-i Riyâz-ı İrfân ve Vefeyât-ı Dânişverân-ı Nâdiredân, Bursa: Hüdâvendigâr Vilâyet Matbaası, 1302, pp. 463-467.

29 Banu Mahir, “A Group of 17th Century Paintings Used for Picture Recitation,” Art Turc/Turkish Art, 10th International Congress of Turkish Art, 10e Congrès international d’art Turcan, Genève-Geneva 17-23 September 1995/17-23 Septembre 1995, Actes-Proceedings, Genève: Fondation Max van Berchem, 1999, pp. 443-455.

30 The main theme of the story that transpires between Hamza and his contemporary Sassanid ruler Khosrow I (531-579) is the love between Hamza and the ruler’s daughter Mihr-Nigâr. At the end of the story, Hamza ends up being obliged to go to Mount Kaf and lives there for 18 years. See: Sinem Ceyda Baysal, “Hamzanâme (7. cilt) Gramer Özellikleri, Metin, Sözlük, İndeks” (postgraduate thesis), Fatih University, 2008, pp. 6-7.

31 Mecmua, British Library, Or. 2709 f. 26b. For catalog information see Norah M. Titley, Miniatures from Turkish Manuscripts: A Catalogue and Subject Index of Paintings in the British Library and British Museum, London: British Library, 1981, pp. 1-2.

32 The author would like to thank the British Library in London for allowing this image to be used.

33 It is known that on most occasions the books were not read only by “ordinary” Istanbulites, but also by the storytellers themselves. For example, Sadreddinzâde Mustafa Efendi (d. 1736) mentions in Cerîde on December 29, 1722 a halva gathering held in a neighbor’s house, noting that meddah Derviş Mehmed was also invited to the gathering and that he read a part from the epic of Abu Muslim. See İsmail E. Erünsal, “Bir Osmanlı Efendisi’nin Günlüğü. Sadreddinzâde Telhîsî Mustafa Efendi ve Cerîdesi”, Kaynaklar, issue 2/Winter (1984), p. 81. See also Değirmenci, “Bir Kitabı Kaç Kişi Okur?”, pp. 27-32.

34 Cited by Köprülü, Edebiyat Araştırmaları, p. 202; Mecmua, Istanbul University Library, no. T. 3472.

35 Narrated in: Köprülü, Edebiyat Araştırmaları, p. 202; Mecmua, Istanbul University Libary, no. T. 3472.

36 Once the reading of the 25th volume is recorded as taking three and a half hours, and another time it took four hours. Hamzanâme, Millet Kütüphanesi, Ali Emîrî, no. 102, fol. 45a, back cover.

37 The beginning of volume 54 reads: “Sa’di and Sa’îd will be martyred in this volume.” Hamzanâme, Millet KütüphanesiAli Emîrî, no. 105, f. 2a.

38 In this article, we have managed to survey the notes in only five of the many copies. The major criterion in the choice of these five copies was not the content of the works, but whether the libraries involved were open to researchers. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the staff of the libraries in question who continued serving their readers, even during repair works. The examined copies are the following: Hamzanâme (vol. 11), Süleymaniye Library, Hacı Mahmud Efendi, no. 6244 (henceforth: HM 6244), Hamzanâme (vol. 26), Millet Kütüphanesi, Ali Emîrî, no. 101 (henceforth: AE 101), Hamzanâme (vol. 25), Millet KütüphanesiAli Emîrî, no. 102 (henceforth: AE 102), Hamzanâme (vol. 53), Millet KütüphanesiAli Emîrî, no. 104 (henceforth; AE 104), Hamzanâme (vol. 54), Millet KütüphanesiAli Emîrî, no. 105 (henceforth: AE 105).

39 “In the chamber of Ali Beg, the 53rd volume of Hamzanâme was read by Abdullah in the New Palace, 15, [1]118”. AE 104, fol. 15a.

40 “Warden ... still read this book in Hoca Paşa in the coffeehouse of Mehmed. Year [1]128.” AE 104. The blank page at the beginning.

41 AE 104, the blank page at the beginning.

42 AE 104, fol. 33a.

43 AE 104, back cover.

44 AE 104, fol. 57b.

45 Eser Tutel, Şirket-i Hayriye, Istanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 1994, p. 194.

46 AE 102, fol. 77b; for another reading note taken in the same coffeehouse, see. f. 32a.

47 AE 102, fol. 58a.

48 “The one who read this volume in the coffeehouse of Nakkâş Hüseyin Aga -- who lives (?) in the Karakî Hüseyin Çelebi neighborhood near Hoca Paşa -- is Hattât Hâfız Mehmed Hilmî Efendi.19 Rabiulakhir 1268, [Feb. 11, 1852].” AE 102, the blank page at the end of the book. For another note, see the inside cover of the same work.

49 AE 104, back cover.

50 “The 53rd volume of Hamzanâme, which generates joy and pleasure, was read at Kapan-ı Dakîk by Arpacı Durâk-zâde Halîl Efendi, and all the beloved friends listened to and took great pleasure from it, and they all offered a Fatiha for the souls of all war veterans and martyrs. This has been written to make it known to you my master… [1]281, 27 Sha’ban.” AE 104, fol. 1a.

51 HM 6244, fol. 33b.

52 HM 6244, fol. 116b.

53 HM 6244, fol. 167.

54 AE 104, fol. 51b.

55 “This book was read at the Dâvud Paşa Wharf in the Kasâb İlyas Neighborhood in the Ispanakçı Ruin by İsmâil (?) Efendi, Yûsuf Efendi, Mehmed Efendi. Year [12]67, 23 Dhu al-Qaidah [Sept. 20, 1851], AE 105, fol. 39a.

56 Cem Behar, Neighborhood in Ottoman Istanbul: Fruit Vendors and Civil Servants in the Kasap İlyas Mahalle, edited by Donald Quataert, Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003, pp. 98-103.

57 “This was read on the third day of the March of the year 1269 in the Erdebil Sinân Tekke in the Great Ayasofya. In [12]69 2 March”, [March 15, 1853]. AE 102, the blank page at the end.

58 HM 6244

59 “My dear Mahmûd Pasha. It was read in the house of Mehmed Çelebi. 1163, sad. [Safer].” HM 6244, fol. 135b.

60 HM 6244, fol. 144.

61 AE 104, the blank page at the beginning and fol. 70.a

62 “This was [the unreadable part because the paper was cut off] in the private harem of our master the pasha 1225.” AE 104, fol. 18a.

63 “They still read this book in Beglerbegi in the Haremende [harem?] of Heci [Hacı?] ‘Atâ Efendi.” AE 105, fol. 29b.

64 In a copy in circulation in Istanbul, it is written that the work was read in Damasucs in 1854-55 by Eşref Agha, the son-in-law of ‘Attâr Hamza. AE 101, fol. 78b.

65 However, these notes, although helping us to determine the circulation routes of the books, may not always be very “helpful”. The fact that there are almost the same notes in different copies suggests that not every note taken in a copy is a “real” record about that particular copy, and that some notes were simply transferred along with entire books as they were copied. For example, in a volume from the nineteenth century, it is recorded that it was read on February 7, 1871 at night in the coffeehouse of Tiryaki İsmail Agha in Eyüp by al-Haj Mehmed Hâlid Efendi, who worked as a clerk in Telgrafhâne-i Âmire (the Imperial Telegraph Office); also recorded is that the beloved friends there were very attentive as they listened to the story and all were pleased. AE 104, the blank page at the beginning. Although the same note can be found in another copy, this time the date is given as February 5, 1803, and it is noted that the reading took three and a half hours, which is another contradiction. AE 101, f. 80a. The difference of 68 years between the two notes makes it impossible that these two readings being done by the same person in the same place. This situation alerts us to assess the reading notes by sifting through them carefully.

66 AE 101, fol. 31a.

67 AE 104, the blank page at the beginning.

68 AE 104, fol. 1a.

69 Right below this note is written “I’ll f*** your mother’s c***.” HM 6244, fol. 21a.

70 HM 6244, fol. 128b. Because most of these profane words were later deleted, they are hardly legible.

71 HM 6244, fol. 65b.A similar note is on fol. 75b.

72 “May one hundred thousand infidels f*** the mother and the daughter and the beautiful female relatives of the one who happens to cut these papers,” HM 6244, fol. 134a.

73 AE 101, fol. 69b.

74 HM 6244, fol. 166b.

75 AE 102, the last page.

76 In a study on the 8th volume of Hamzanâme, battle scenes from the text are cited and it is stated that there are too many words in the text that relate to battle. See Akın, “Hamzanâme,” pp. 21-23, 25.

77 AE 105, fol. 1a.

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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