Turkish (Ottoman Turkish)

Letter missive by Suleiman the Magnificent to King Ferdinand I, Istanbul, 1530 | © BSB/ Cod.turc. 135 – 137
Letter missive by Suleiman the Magnificent to King Ferdinand I, Istanbul, 1530 | © BSB/ Cod.turc. 135 – 137


The collection of Turkish and Ottoman Turkish literature held by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek counts around 48,000 Turkish printed works (1928 – 2015), around 1,300 Ottoman Turkish printed works (1729 – 1928, in Arabic script) and around 770 manuscripts in the Ottoman Turkish language (approx. 1500 – 1920). The latter are referred to briefly as "Turkish manuscripts" for the sake of simplicity. Moreover, the Turkish collection includes around 650 finished and around 40 current journals (periodicals and yearbooks), as well as around 400 maps. The annual increase currently amounts to around 600 volumes.

Foundation and collection development

The library of the scholar Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter (1506 – 1557), which forms the foundation of today's Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, supposedly already included a small number of Turkish manuscripts. During the subsequent centuries, these holdings could be increased only to a limited extent. The conditions for continuous collection development improved only during the second half of the 19th century. It was now possible to buy larger amounts of Turkish printed works and manuscripts, predominantly from the libraries of scholars. During the 20th century, it was predominantly the company Harrassowitz (traders of new and antiquarian books) seated in Leipzig (later in Wiesbaden, after the Second World War) that delivered the majority of Turkish printed works (including journals). This is applicable also to a part of the so-called Müteferrika prints.

Müteferrika prints

The term "Müteferrika prints" refers to a small collection group of 17 printed works – partly in the Ottoman Turkish, partly in the Arabic, partly in the Persian and partly in the French language – printed by the Ottoman court officer, diplomat and scholar, İbrahim Müteferrika, who was of Hungarian origin, between 1729 and 1743 in the print shop in Istanbul established with the support of the state. He had obtained permission for this from the Ottoman ruler Ahmed III in 1727. These prints are the incunabula of Ottoman and Islamic book printing so to speak. The most elaborate project of Müteferrika was the printing of Kâtib Çelebis Cihânnümâ (1732), an important geographic work with many maps. All 17 Müteferrika prints and almost all other Ottoman printed works of the 18th century form part of the Turkish collection.

Periodicals and yearbooks

The Turkish collection further includes around 100 Ottoman journals and other periodicals in the Ottoman Turkish language. Among these, the Ottoman yearbooks (sâlnâme) published from 1847 to 1918, occupy a special position. They are an important type of source for researching the history of the late Ottoman Empire. During the second half of the 20th century, a large part of these yearbooks could be bought from German and Turkish antiquarian book traders.


One peculiarity of the Turkish literature of the Ottoman state is that there are books and journals which were written in the Ottoman Turkish language, but printed in Greek or Armenian script. The target groups of these publications were Armenians and Greeks speaking Turkish. These books have predominantly religious content. Several editions of the Bible and of the New Testament are among them. The Turkish books published in Greek script are referred to as Karamanlidic literature.

Main focuses of content

During the 19th and 20th century, the main focus of the collection was on historical and religious-historical contents. The majority of titles is from the field of the history of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey and Islam. In addition, there are voluminous collection groups on the fields of language and literature, architecture, art, archaeology, geography, political science and social science. Particular attention has always been paid to Turkish music as well, in particular the Turkish art music and art song. However, Turkish popular songs and modern Turkish music (arabesque music, rock music and pop music) are also present in the collection in the form of relevant omnibus works and monographs. The Department of Music purchases printed sheet music of modern Turkish composers who have worked or are still working in the tradition of western music.

A broad variety of publications on the Ottoman Empire and Turkey in western and East-European languages is purchased by the Department of Eastern Europe.


The Oriental and Asia Department manages the Turkish manuscripts technically (acquisition, subject information, guided tours, exhibitions), while the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books administrates them and is in charge of their use. The Oriental manuscripts can be consulted in the Reading Room for Manuscripts and Rare Books.

Manuscript catalogues

  • [Cod.turc. 296 – 597]
    Götz, Manfred: Islamische Handschriften. Part 2: Persische und türkische Handschriften der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München. Stuttgart, 2015. Verzeichnis der orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland. 37,2.
  • As of the acquisition year 2009, new acquisitions have been entered in the OPACplus/ BSB catalogue, bearing the classification mark Cod.turc.
    Digital copies of Turkish manuscripts can be searched via the OPACplus/ BSB catalogue or the Digital Collections.

    OPACplus/ BSB catalogue

    Digital Collections

Early printed books

Ottoman Turkish type prints

  • Hieronymus Megiser (around 1554 – 1618), a universal scholar originally from Stuttgart, was the first author to publish Ottoman Turkish language samples in the original script with translations and an extensive representation of the Arabic alphabet used for this purpose in his Turkish grammar book:
    Megiser, Hieronymus: Institutiones Linguae Turcicae. Wroclaw; Leipzig: Kirsten, 1612.  (L.as. 436)

Müteferrika prints

The introduction of book printing in the Islamic cultural area took place only in the year 1729, almost 300 years after the first print produced by Gutenberg. It is owed to the Hungarian apostate İbrahim Müteferrika (1670/74 – 1745). In his print shops, established with the permission and support of the Ottoman state administration, he printed 17 works in the years from 1729 to 1742. He had imported the printing types from abroad.

  • Müteferrika also published the first illustrated printed book of the Ottoman Empire and of the entire Islamic world. It is a description of the newly discovered American continent:
    Târîh ül-Hind il-garbi el-müsemmâ bi-Hadîs-i nev. Kostantınîye: Dâr üt-Tibâat il-Maʿmûre, 1142 [hicrî] = [1730].  (Res/4 A.or. 3548)
  • The most elaborate printed work produced by Müteferrika, however, was Cihânnümâ („index of the world“) by Kâtib Çelebis (1609 – 1657), which is partly based on Mercator's Atlas Minor. It is the first printed extensive cartographic work of the Ottoman Empire and the Islamic world:
    Kâtib Çelebi: Kitâb-ı Cihânnümâ. Kostantınîye: Dar üt-Tibâat il-Mamûre, 1145 [hicrî] = [1732].  (Res/2 A.or. 371)
  • Müteferrika also published the Turkish translations of two works by the French marshal and master constructor of fortresses Vauban, among them his treatise "De l'attaque et de la défense des places" (translator: Kostantin İpsilanti alias Kōnstantinos Ypsēlantēs):
    Vauban, Sébastien Le Prestre Vauban: Fenn-i harb. Kostantınîye: Râşid Efendi Matbaası, 1207 [hicrî] = 1793.  (2 A.or. 361)
  • The Ottoman physician Şânîzâde Mehmed Atâullâh (1771 – 1826) is the author of the first medical printed work of the Ottoman Empire and the Islamic world. He mentions also famous Italian physicians such as Bartolomeo Eustachi, Gabriele Fallopio and Costanzo Varolio, on whose research his work is partly based:
    Şânîzâde Mehmed Atâullâh: Hamse-i Şânîzâde. Kostantınîye: Dâr üt-Tıbâat il-Âmire, 1235 [hicrî] = 1820.  (3 volumes: 4 A.or. 92.54-1/3)

Ottoman stone prints (lithographic prints)

The lithographic printing method (stone printing method) invented in 1796 by Alois Senefelder (1771 – 1834) was used in the Ottoman Empire for the first time in 1831 by the two Frenchmen Henri and Jacques Caillol – they had settled in Istanbul – for printing military treatises. With this printing method, it was much easier to reproduce the characteristic features of handwriting than with type printing. For this reason, later also the first Koran imprints of the Islamic world were published in the form of stone prints. However, type printing always remained dominant in the Ottoman Empire.

  • An Ottoman calendar scroll (206 x 9 cm) printed in the lithographic method on the basis of a handwritten original:
    Yûsuf İbn-i-Mûsa Balıkesrî <Müneccimzâde>: Cedvel-i marifet-i tahvîl-i sâl ve tevârîh-i meşhûre. İstanbul: Mekteb-i Fünûn-ı Harbiye Matbaası, 1841.  (A.or. 5789)
  • The stone printing method was particularly popular for printing illustrated folk tales. The folk tale of the night watchman Bekci Bâbâ set in Istanbul contains delightful illustrations:
    Bekci Bâbâ destânı. Istanbul, around 1875.  (A.or. 5768 f)
  • This illuminated and partially hand-coloured stone-printed edition of the popular Arabic pilgrims' prayer book Dalāʾil al-ḫairāt, calligraphed by Seyyid Halîl Şükrî, entirely follows the layout of an Islamic manuscript and is bound in a beautiful lacquer cover:
    Muḥammad Ibn-Sulaimān al Ǧazūlī: Delâil ül-hayrât. Istanbul: Dâr üt-Tıbâat il-Âmire, 1264 [hicrî] = [1848].  (Res/A.or. 97.276)
  • This edition of the Koran was produced in a modernized stone printing method on the basis of a manuscript calligraphed by Hâfız Osmân:
    [Qurʾān]. İstanbul: Matbaa-ı Osmanîye, 1304 [hicrî] = 1886.  (A.or. 558 o)

Ottoman Turkish printed works in Greek script

  • A history of Alexander the Great and his military campaigns:
    Aleksandros Makedonyalı meşhur padişahın eyyam-i padişahlığında ettiği seferlerin ve cenklerin, ve min evvelinden el ahirinedek, yani doğduğu günden vefatine kadar nasıl ve ne tarzile gelip geçtiğinin nakliyeti. Istanbolda: Ohannes Deruanç Basmahanesinde, 1871.  (A.or. 92.1688)

Ottoman Turkish printed works in Armenian script

  • An Ottoman Turkish edition of the New Testament in Armenian script, published in Saint Petersburg:
    Rappimiz Yesow êl Mêsihin Yaht i Čêtiti [Rabbimiz Yesu el-Mesihin Ahd-i Cedidi]. I Petropolis: Tparan Y. Yōhannisian, 1819.  (B.orient. 114)

History of the Turkish collection

Outset in the 16th century

The beginnings of the Turkish collection, like those of the Arabic collection, go back to the foundation of the Munich court library in the year 1558 by Duke Albrecht V. The collection of this court library at the time of foundation was constituted by the private library of the diplomat and Orientalist Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter (1506 – 1557). His library is said to have contained seven Turkish manuscripts in addition to the around 50 Arabic ones. However, these could not be identified so far.

17th and 18st century

During these two centuries, hardly any Turkish manuscripts came to the Munich court library. Merely the "Turk loot" in the wake of the conquest of Ofen in 1686 resulted in a small increase. The so-called Müteferrika prints (1729 – 1742) were purchased in the course of the 19th and the 20th century or came to the court library as part of Quatremère's library.

Hamdullâh Hamdî: Yûsuf ve Züleyhâ. İstanbul?, 1515 | © BSB/ Cod.turc. 183
Hamdullâh Hamdî: Yûsuf ve Züleyhâ. İstanbul?, 1515 | © BSB/ Cod.turc. 183
Prayer book of the harem lady Düsdidil (detail). Istanbul, 1845 | © BSB/ Cod.turc. 553
Prayer book of the harem lady Düsdidil (detail). Istanbul, 1845 | © BSB/ Cod.turc. 553

19th century

The Turkish collection hardly profited from the sea changes, wars and political crises of the 19th century. While a number of Turkish manuscripts (i.a. Cod.turc. 266) and printed works were acquired by the court library in the course of the secularisation (1803) and due to the regulations of the Congress of Vienna (1814/ 1815), it was only the purchase of the library of the French Orientalist Etienne-Marc Quatremère (1782 – 1857) with its large collection group of Islamic manuscripts (1,250 volumes) and printed works that resulted in a substantial increase in volume and numbers of the Turkish collection, adding 200 Turkish manuscripts. A number of Turkish codices is also owed to the former personal physician of the Egyptian vice king, Franz Pruner (1808 – 1882). Among the manuscripts and printed works originally included in Quatremère's library, the following should be mentioned specially:

Two Müteferrika prints from Quatremère's library:

  • Nazmîzâde Murtazâ: Gülşen-i hulefâ. Kostantınîye, 1143 [hicrî] = [1731].  (Res/2 A.or. 402)
  • Füyûzât-ı mıknâtisîye. Kostantınîye, 1144 [hicrî] = [1732].  (A.or. 5825)

The two subsequent decades were the first period during which it was possible to acquire Turkish manuscripts and prints somewhat continuously from the numerous travellers to the Orient, from scholars' libraries and from book traders. From the library of the Polish-Russian Orientalist and Turkologist Anton Osipovič Muchlinskij (Polish name: Antoni Muchliński, 1808 – 1877) around two dozen Turkish manuscripts came to the Munich court library. The court library also received a substantial number of Turkish manuscripts from private persons as donations. In parallel to the manuscripts, also the number of Turkish printed works increased, among them also a number of lithographic prints (stone prints).

Two rare stone prints:

  • Stone print with distances between cities in Europe, Asia and North Africa:
    İbrahim Edhem: Ebâd-ı büldân cedveli: Bahr-i Sîyâhda kâin Batûmdan İngiltereye kadar, Avrupa, Asya ve Afrika sevâhillerinde bulunan meşâhîr-i büldânın arz ve tulleriyle birbirlerine olan bude-i mesâfelerine hâvî ebâd-ı büldân cedvelidir. İstanbul, 1288 [hicrî] = [1871].  (A.or. 6942 n)
  • Stone print with data of the population statistics of Istanbul of April 1885:
    Nezâret-i Umûr-ı Dâhilîye; Sicill-i Nüfûs İdâre-i Umûmîyesi: Dersaâdet ve Bilâd-i Selâse nüfûs-ı umûmîsine mahsûs istatistik cedvelidir: sene-i rûmî-i 1301 gâye-i mârt. İstanbul: Matbaa-ı Osmânîyede tabʿ olınmuşdur, 1301 [rûmî-mâlî] = [1885].  (4 A.or. 3522)

20th century

The military cooperation between Germany and the Ottoman Empire led to a strongly growing interest in Turkish books and journals also in the Kingdom of Bavaria in the late 19th and early 20th century. Accordingly, there was a substantial increase of Turkish books, journals and maps in the Munich court and state Library during the two decades before the First World War. Also the music culture of the late Ottoman Empire is documented well in the form of relevant literature and printed sheet music of Turkish art music.

  • Printed sheet music:
    Neyzen Rıza Bey: Düşeyim der iken eyvâh vefâlısına. İstanbul, around 1890.
  • The building activities of the Ottoman sultans in Mecca and Medina:
    Mehmed Emin el-Mekki: Hulefâ-i izâm-i osmânîye hazerâtının haremeyn-i şerîfeyndeki âsâr-i mebrûre ve meşkûre-i hümâyûnlarından bâhis tarîhî bir eser. İstanbul, 1318 [hicrî] = [1900].
  • Atlas:
    Çığıraçan, İbrâhîm Hilmî: Memâlik-i osmânîye ceb atlası. İstanbul, 1323 [hicrî] = [1905].
  • Universal encyclopaedia:
    Şemseddin Sâmi: Kâmûs ül-a'lâm. İstanbul, 1306 – 1316 [hicrî] = [1889 – 1898]. 6 volumes
  • History of literature:
    Ebüzziya Tevfik: Nümûne-i edebîyat-ı osmânîye. Kostantınîye, 1329 [mâlî-rûmî] = [1913].
  • Print of the First World War:
    Mahmud Muhtar Paşa: Üçüncü Kolordunun ve İkinci Şark Ordusunun muhârebâtı. Dersaâdet, 1331 [mâlî-rûmî] = [1915].

In the time before the First World War and between the two world wars, the majority of new acquisitions from the Turkish cultural area were delivered by the company Harrassowitz from Leipzig. During the 1920s and 1930s, Harrassowitz were even in a position to procure a number of important specimens of Chagatai book production from Central Asia:

  • Mullā Mīrzā Aḥmad Ibn-Mīrzā Karīm: Gül ü Bülbül. Taškent, 1332 [hiǧrī] = [1914].
  • Hazînî: Bayaz-i Hazini. Taškent, 1333 [hiǧrī] = [1915]

The book traders Harrassowitz (who had moved to Wiesbaden now) for many years also after the Second World War remained the only German book shop that was in a position to continuously deliver academically relevant literature from the Near and Middle East and Turkey. The Oriental book shop in Wiesbaden used windows of opportunity during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s to purchase a large number of antiquarian prints from the 18th to the 20th century, among them Müteferrika prints and many issues of Ottoman yearbooks. This enabled the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, during this period having substantially more funds at its disposal than in the time before the Second World War, to acquire printed works of importance for historical bibliography and important source works from the Ottoman Empire retrospectively. The improved budget situation also made it possible during this period to substantially expand the acquisition spectrum of new Turkish publications (books and journals). Due to a structural change of the book trade in Turkey in the mid-1980s, books and journals could now be bought directly from high-capacity Turkish book traders in Istanbul or Ankara.

After the foundation of the first Turkish private university Bilkent (Ankara, 1984), numerous private and state-run universities were founded in many Turkish cities during the ensuing 25 years. This circumstance and the positive economic development during this period led to a strong increase in academically relevant literature in Turkey. A special role has been – and is still – played in this context by pictorial books, congress proceedings and exhibition catalogues funded and published by private (foundations, companies) and public (ministries, provincial administrations, city administrations) sponsors. Whereas e-book editions have acquired a certain importance in the field of Turkish fiction, this is not the case so far in the field of academic publishing.


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