Skip to Main Content

Ottoman Turkish Collections in the Library of Congress

This African and Middle Eastern Reading Room research guide provides a selected inventory of the Library’s Ottoman Turkish Collections of manuscripts, books, periodicals, maps, photographs, videos, and other helpful resources.

Introduction

Detail of Sultan Mustafa III’s Tughra from his royal decree. Near East Section, Library of Congress African and Middle Eastern Division. Photo by Joan Weeks.

The Near East Section of the Library of Congress African and Middle Eastern Division holds 5,383 cataloged works written in Ottoman Turkish (Turkish language written in Arabic Script). This research guide, "Ottoman Turkish Collections in the Library of Congress," highlights many important works from the Ottoman Turkish collection, including rare manuscripts, the Abdul Hamid II Gift Book Collection, and his photography collection. Other pages in the guide focus on the Sussheim gift collection, Ottoman newspapers and periodicals, calligraphy sheets, and maps. Also included are useful resources such as event videos, social media posts about the collections, special searching tips, and books about learning Ottoman Turkish for both Turkish and English speakers.

One of the first major acquisitions of Ottoman Turkish works was the Sultan Abdul Hamid II (1842-1918) Gift Collection, presented to the Library of Congress in 1884 under the auspices of Abram Hewitt (1822-1903), Member of the House of Representatives from New York's 10th district. The collection consists of 323 volumes in Turkish and Arabic representing a wide spectrum of important topics. The entire collection has been digitized and is freely available online as well as on microfilm, with some of the fragile volumes are preserved in the Near East Section's rare materials collection.

The single largest component of the Ottoman Collections at the Library is the Karl Süssheim Collection of 2,364 cataloged works. Karl Süssheim (1848-1947), with the help of Turkish friends, immigrated to Istanbul in 1947. While working at Istanbul University, he began collecting books and periodicals. His widow sold his collection to Yale University in 1947 which was later gifted to the Library of Congress in 1992.

By the end of the 20th century, the Library had acquired approximately one hundred Ottoman Turkish manuscripts, most of which serve researchers of religion, law and literature. Early publications include a number of the important and rare books printed by Ibrahim Muteferikka during the 1730s as well as works from the press of the Imperial Engineering School. The Engineering School Press books are fine exemplars of the printer's art. Beautifully hand-colored editions of Katib Celebi's Cihannuma (Universal geography) (Istanbul, 1732) and his history of Ottoman naval campaigns are in the collections.

The Near East Section has acquired many works in Ottoman Turkish published by the Bulaq Press during the 19th century in Egypt. Among these are the Divançe-yi İzzet-i nadide güftar benam-ı Hazân-i âsar (Collection of Izzet Molla's poetry) and the Hamse-yi Nergisi (The Five works of Nergisi), both published in Cairo in 1840. They were printed using the beautiful Nastaliq (cursive script) type font developed especially for literary works by that press.

The Ottoman Collections are available for research onsite in the African and Middle Eastern Division Reading Room, located in the Thomas Jefferson Building in Room LJ-229. Current information for researchers planning to use the collection is available at: Pandemic Information for Researchers.

About the African and Middle Eastern Division

The African and Middle Eastern Division (AMED) was created in 1978 as part of a general Library of Congress reorganization. AMED currently consists of three sections - African, Hebraic and Near East - and covers more than 77 countries and regions from Southern Africa to the Maghreb and from the Middle East to Central Asia. Each section plays a vital role in the Library's acquisitions program; offers expert reference and bibliographic services to the Congress and researchers in this country and abroad; develops projects, special events and publications; and cooperates with other institutions and scholarly and professional associations in the US and abroad.

As a major world resource center for Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, AMED has the custody of more than one million physical collection materials in the non-Roman-alphabet languages of the region such as Amharic, Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish, and Yiddish. Included in these collections are books, periodicals, newspapers, microforms, grey literature, and rarities such as cuneiform tablets, manuscripts, incunabula (works printed before 1501), and other early African and Middle Eastern publications. Among the most prized items are also several sizable pamphlet collections on African Studies.

References Services

The Library of Congress has more than 20 centers that provide research space and guidance for users to interact with collection items based on subject or format. AMED's three sections - African, Hebraic and Near East - offer reference assistance, provide research briefings on a wide range of subjects relating to the languages and cultures of the region, produce research guides to the Library's vast resources, and cooperate in developing and preserving the Division's unparalleled collections. The African and Middle Eastern Reading Room provides readers with access to materials from the AMED Collections and helps point researchers to relevant items in other reading rooms. For reference assistance using the Library’s resources, use the Ask a Librarian service to contact a reference librarian.

Contact Information

AMED Reading Room
Room LJ 229
Thomas Jefferson Building
Tel: (202) 707-4188
Fax: (202) 252-3180
View a map showing location

Metro Stops:
Capitol South (Blue/Orange Line)
Union Station (Red Line)

Public Service Hours
Monday - Friday: 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Closed Saturday, Sunday & Federal Holidays

Contact Information
Dr. Lanisa Kitchiner, Ph.D., Chief

African Section
Hebraic Section
Near East Section

Mailing Address
African and Middle Eastern Division
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave. SE
Washington, D.C. 20540-4823