A register entry dated 1618 concerning the restoration of a house, or its renovation based on its “previous style”, provides important information about the average measurements of a large room, how the interior structure of a house is designed, the expense of items, the types of tasks and the materials used in the construction of a house. All these activities were referred to as keşif (survey) in the past, as they are still known today.
The aforementioned entries give us an understanding of the Ottoman measurements zira‘ (cubit) and hesâb-ı satrancî. In Ottoman metrology a zira‘ is the length of a grown man’s forearm. The zira‘, which does not have a standard equivalent in modern measuring units, ranges between 72 to 76 centimeters. The existence of some terms such as zira‘-ı kebir (large zira‘) verifies this. The term hesâb-ı satrancî mentioned in this record is a unit of area measurement which is like a square meter (or rather a square zira‘). The total area of the house is 360 square zira‘. Based on some calculations which cannot be verified with certainty, some estimates can be made about the general measurements of the house. If a square zira‘ is considered to be 76 cm and if it is acknowledged that the house was planned approximately as a square, it can be said that it was 20 by 18 zira‘s, that is approximately 15.2 by 13.7 m. It can also be said that the house was about 208 square meters.1
Below is a simplified version of the register:
Ahmet Çelebi b. Muharrem, a trustee of the Mehmed Efendi Waqf, went to the court in Istanbul with el-Hâc Sultan b. el-Hâc Mansur and said:
The house, located in Hatib Muhyiddin District in the aforementioned city, had two rooms and one cellar, a part of which belonged to the aforementioned waqf, a part of which belonged to the Hatib Muhyiddin Waqf, and a part of which was used by the muezzin of the district as his residence; one side was bordered by a public street, and was at the disposal of el-Hâc Sultan in return for icâre-i mu‘accele-i ma‘lûme (a certain amount of advanced rent) and icâre-i müeccele (forty akçe rent). The house in question used to consist of several other houses, but because it eventually started to fall into ruin and because there were not enough funds in the waqf for its restoration, I allowed el-Hac Sultan to restore it, based on its uslub-ı sabık (original architectural style), with his own money. The expenses incurred by el-Hac Sultan were to be counted as part of the icâre-i mu‘accele (advance rent) and he was going to pay icâre-i müeccele (thirty akçe) monthly rent. el-Hâc Sultan completed the restoration of the house to its original form and I requested the calculation of the expenses that he made and recorded them in the register.”
Upon this request, Müderris Ahmed Efendi b. Abdülhalim Efendi, the architects Musli Çelebi b. Hüsameddin and Ali and the Muslims whose names are given below were appointed by the court for keşif of the expenses for the reconstruction. According to the report they prepared, two rooms were reconstructed in the cellar and three more rooms were rebuilt. The total size of the upper floors width and length was calculated to be 360 zira‘, according to the hesab-ı satranci (360 square zira‘) and every zira‘ was calculated at 50 akçes.
Thus the total cost of reconstruction was 18,000 akçes. The total width and length of the flooring of the above-mentioned five rooms was 268 zira‘. The total cost of flooring was calculated at forty akçe per zira‘, as 10,720 akçe. The width and length of the dolma duvar (filled walls) of the rooms were 329 zira‘, costing 11,515 akçes at 35 akçes per zira‘. Each one of the 400 pieces of chestnut wood used in the construction of the terrace on the third floor cost six akçe, which makes a total of 2,400 akçes. Likewise, each one of the thirty pieces of ağa wood used in the construction was 15 akçe, the total cost of which reached 450 akçes. The total cost of the railings, stairs and pillars of the second floor was 2,000 akçes and the front wall and middle partition of the second floor were made of 77 water …? wood, each of which cost 12 akçes, the total cost was 924 akçes. The stone wall built on the side of the public street cost 3,000 akçes in total and the cost of the white paint was calculated as 1,500 akçes. Each of the five furnaces built in the five rooms was 300 akçes, and the total amount was 1,500 akçes. 1,000 akçes were calculated for two of the 4 partition walls and 600 akçes for the other two partition walls. Together with the drainage pipes, the two restrooms cost 1,200 akçes.
The total cost incurred by el-Hac Sultan was calculated and estimated by the architects and construction experts at 51,509 akçes, after deducting 3,300 akçes for the value of the debris from a total of 54,8092 akçes.
The translation of the register entry is as follows:
The specialist report for Hacı Sultan’s restoration of the house which belonged to the Mehmet Efendi Waqf:
Ahmed Çelebi b. Muharrem, the trustee of the late Mehmed Efendi’s Waqf located in the city of Istanbul confirmed and spoke in court in the presence of bâ‘isü’l-kitâb el-Hâc Sultan b. el-Hâc Mansur. The house, which was located in the Hatip Muhyittin District in the aforementioned city, consisting of two rooms and one cellar, a part of which belonged to the above mentioned endowment, a part of which belonged to the Hatip Muhyiddin Waqf, a part of which was used by the muezzin of the district as his residence, and one side of which is bordered by a public street, was at the disposal of el-Hac Sultan in return for ‘icâre-i mu‘accele-i ma‘lûme and forty akçes ‘icâre-i müeccele. The house in question used to consist of several other houses, but because it started to fall into ruin with the passage of time and over the course of the years, and because there were not enough funds in the waqf for its restoration, I allowed el-Hac Sultan to restore it based on its uslub-ı sabik with his own money. The expenses incurred by el-Hac Sultan were to be counted as part of the icâre-i mu‘accele and he was going to pay thirty akçe icâre-i müeccele. el-Hac Sultan completed the reconstruction of the house as it was originally and requested that experts be sent to calculate the expenses that he had sustained and record them in the register. Upon this request, (müderris) Ahmed Efendi, the son of the late Abdülhalim Efendi from among the prominent professors, Musli Çelebi b. Hüsameddin and Ali, from among the distinguished architects and Muslims whose names are given in the supplements of the register, were sent. Two door rooms were built in the cellar and three more rooms were built in them. By its width and length, the total measurement of the upper floor was calculated at 360 zira‘ according to hesab-ı satranci (360 zira‘ square). And calculating 50 akçes for every zira‘, the total cost of the renovation is 18,000 akçes. The total width and length of the flooring of the above-mentioned two rooms and the three rooms above comes to 268 zira‘. The total cost of the flooring, calculated at forty akçe per zira‘ came to 10,720 akçe. The dolma duvar of the rooms were 329 zira‘ in width and length, which cost 11,515 akçes at 35 akçes a zira‘. Each of the 400 pieces of chestnut wood used in the construction of the terrace (tahta-pûşun) on the third floor was six akçe, making a total of 2,400 akçes and each one of the thirty pieces of ağa wood used in its construction was 15 akçe, the total cost of which makes 450 akçes. The total cost of the railings, the stairs, and the pillars of the second floor was 2,000 akçes and the front partition wall and the middle partition of the second floor were made of 77 water …? wood, each one of which cost 12 akçes, making the total cost 924 akçes. The stone wall, built on the side of the public street cost 3,000 akçes including all the materials, and the cost of the white paint was calculated at 1,500 akçes with all of the materials. Each of the five furnaces built in the five rooms was 300 akçes and the total amount was 1,500 akçes. There were partition walls on four sides, two of which were 1,000 akçes each and two of which were 600 akçes each. Including the drainage pipes, the two restrooms cost 1,200 akçes. The total expenses were 51,5093 akçes which was the remaining amount after deducting 3,300 akçes for the value of the debris from the total [54,809 akçes]. It has been recorded at the court upon request that the renovation of the areas of the aforementioned house for the aforementioned amount was unanimously confirmed and estimated by the aforementioned architects and construction experts.”4
1 A similar calculation can be seen in the investigation of “the costs of restorations carried out by the trustees on the mosque, apartments, and instructor housing of the Kiremitçi Ahmed Çelebi Waqf” located in the town of Hasköy. See: Tahsin Özcan (edited by), İstanbul Kadı Sicilleri Hasköy Mahkemesi 10 Numaralı Sicil (H. 1085-1090/M. 1674-1679), Istanbul: Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslâm Araştırmaları Merkezi (İSAM), 2011,pp. 52-54.
2 Even though the amount mentioned in the original text is 51,509 akçe, this must be a clerical error.
3 Although this is the amount mentioned in the original text, according to calculations the total amount should be 54,809 akçe.
4 Yılmaz Karaca et. al. (edited by), İstanbul Kadı Sicilleri İstanbul Mahkemesi 3 Numaralı Sicil (H. 1027/M. 1618), Istanbul: Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslâm Araştırmaları Merkezi (İSAM), 2010, pp. 132-133.