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Turkish and Turkic collections: Art

The British Library's Turkish and Turkic collections contain some of the finest examples of the arts and crafts of the Islamic book. Highlights include one of the finest collections of Ottoman Turkish miniatures in the world. We also hold an important collection of historic photographs of the Ottoman Empire.

Civilian fire brigade on exercises

Civilian fire brigade on exercises. [Photo1058/41, f.8] ©The British Library Board

The fine arts and crafts of the Islamic book - calligraphy, illumination, binding, papermaking, marbling, and painting, as well as printing - are well represented in the British Library's collections. Also, some of the fine manuscripts in the Arabic collection, and some in Persian, are the work of Turkish scribes and craftsmen. A great number of texts in those languages are by Turkish authors.

The Ottoman manuscripts with miniature paintings are especially significant. Our collection is considered one of the world's finest. Together with that of the British Museum's Department of the Middle East, it is described and indexed in detail by Norah Titley in her pioneering work Miniatures from Turkish Manuscripts (London 1981). Since its publication, new material has been acquired; a supplementary catalogue and index are in preparation.

The finest illustrated manuscripts are available to readers only by special arrangement in advance. As the Library has a duty to preserve these manuscripts, they will be asked to demonstrate their need to consult the original. Colour transparencies are available for reference.

Fifty-one albums, containing over 1,800 photographs of the Ottoman Empire, were presented to the British Museum in 1893 by Sultan Abdülhamid II. The photographs have been published on microfiche and catalogued together with the almost identical collection of the Library of Congress. They show some of the sights of Istanbul and Bursa; the armed forces, their personnel, ships and equipment; industrial plants; and new educational establishments, with teachers and pupils in uniform. Some of this material is mundane, but much is picturesque; all is evidence concerning the state of the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century.

Military fire brigade

Military fire brigade on manoeuvres. From Sultan Abdulhamid II Album, presented to the British Museum in 1893. [Photo1058/41, f.10] ©The British Library Board

History of Selim II

Selim Han-name. History of Selim II, in verse, 1099 / 1687. [Or.7043, f.7v] ©The British Library Board