Russian library holds impressive Ottoman-era collection

Published 30.05.2018 01:37
Updated 30.05.2018 01:38
Printed material is seen in the Russian State Library’s Center of Eastern Literature in Moscow.
Printed material is seen in the Russian State Library’s Center of Eastern Literature in Moscow.

The biggest library in continental Europe, the Russian State Library has a wide collection of books and printed materials written in Ottoman territories, featuring nearly 35,000 pieces

The Russian State Library's Center of Eastern Literature has the largest collection of Ottoman era books and other printed materials in the Turkish language in Europe and Russia, totaling around 35,000, according to a library official.

The center's director, Marina Melanyina, told Anadolu Agency (AA) the pearl of the collection is an assembly of first-edition Turkish books.

"A total of 13,000 items are modern Turkish books, magazines, newspapers and other printed materials, items of the Republic of Turkey."

"The rest of the collection are items in the Ottoman language, and among them is a collection of first-edition books issued by İbrahim Müteferrika Printing House. We have 16 of the 17 first editions [of this collection]," Melanyina said.

An inside view of the Russian State Library.

Books have been added to the collection since 1828 when the Foreign Ministry of the then Russian Empire transferred its collection of Turkish books to the library when it received them as a gift from the then Ottoman embassy. With this base, the collection continued to grow thanks to several more such exchanges, purchases and donations.

"After the Republic of Turkey and the USSR were formed, an exchange of books took place on a regular basis between our library and Turkish historical and linguistic societies.

"Presently, the Center of Eastern Literature cooperates with the Turkish embassy and Turkey's Ministry of Culture. As a sign of gratitude to these structures for the support and donated books, the center has placed beautifully illustrated books about Turkey in a prominent place in the center's reading room," Melanyina added.

The Center of Eastern Literature of the Russian State Library is also home to the first edition Turkish book - a two-volume dictionary called "Vankulu Lugati" from 1729; the book was named after its translator, Mehmet Vankulu, the center's director said, adding that the book was popular among educated Turks and used to be in high demand.

Another rare book in the collection is "Tarih-i-Hindi Garbi" (The History of West India) from 1730. This illustrated book is full of pictures of people and animals.

Known for its illustrations, "Cihannüma" by Katip Çelebi is another important book in the Russian State Library. The book was originally published without illustrations but this edition, granted by the Turkish embassy to the Russian State Library, came with numerous hand-drawn and painted pictures and maps, she added.

Several collections of historical documents with reproductions of historical acts with signatures and notes of top officials of the Ottoman and Republican periods are also at the center.

The Russian State Library, founded in 1728, is the biggest library in continental Europe. As of January 2018, it houses 47 million items in 367 languages. Among famous readers who made use of the library's vast collections were writers Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy as well as Russian emperors and politicians, including Vladimir Lenin.

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