The British Library holds strong collections of Turkish and Turkic printed books and periodicals.
Map of Asia Minor as far east as the Euphrates, shown "upside-down", the map being oriented with south upwards. Cihannuma. World atlas by Katib Celebi, pioneer of printing in the Ottoman Empire. Istanbul, 1245 / 1732. [Or.80.a.10, p.629]
Our Turkish printed book holdings cover, though not evenly, more or less the whole range of dates, geographical areas, subjects and forms of publication. All twenty-five to thirty Turkic languages, ancient and modern, are represented. The collection is particularly rich in books in the fields of religion, history, politics, literature and the arts.
The highlights of this collection include the works of Ibrahim Müteferrika, the Hungarian-born pioneer of printing in Arabic characters in the Ottoman empire. Between 1729 and his death in 1745, Müteferrika produced at Istanbul 17 fine volumes, the incunabula (early books) of Turkish printing. The British Library holds all these imprints; in a few cases there are second copies as well.
Another important acquisition was a set of about 270 specially bound volumes, presented to the British Museum in 1893 by Sultan Abdülhamid II.
Other examples of Ottoman printing include many products of the Imperial Press (Matbaa-i Amire) at Istanbul and Bulak, and numerous first editions of novels, essays and stories. In recent years many gaps have been filled in our holdings of 13th/19th century scholarly and literary publications; and of books and pamphlets published during, or around, the time of the Milli Mücadele or War of Independence.
The output of Turkey's printing presses grows by the year, impressing by its quality as well as quantity. We purchase several hundred new volumes annually, selecting a sample of new creative literature and as many reference works and monographs of research level standard, and critical and facsimile text editions, as funds permit.
Few libraries outside the CIS possess a really good representative collection from the printing presses of Muslim Central Asia, Caucasia and Tatarstan (under Russian rule before the end of the Second World War). The British Library's holdings are uneven, but we do have many unusual items from this period. We also acquire some microfilm of antiquarian books and periodicals.
Overall, we have good collections of humanities and social sciences publications in Azeri and in the Turkic languages of Central Asia. This is partly a result of successful book exchange agreements, dating back to the 1950s, with libraries in the former Soviet republics.
It has always been difficult to obtain Turkic publications from Tatarstan and the Bashkir and Yakut regions of the Russian Republic. Since the Central Asian republics achieved independence, books and periodicals have become more expensive, but nevertheless we acquire several dozen titles each year.
Although our holdings of Turkic publications from China are not strong, we have several dozen volumes. These include:
- small lithographed pamphlets on the rudiments of Islam
- Uighur-Chinese dictionaries
- new editions of medieval and later texts in Uighur or Chaghatay
Our holdings of Cypriot Turkish publications are much smaller than might be expected since, although crown copyright applied to Cyprus, it was not implemented methodically. Since 1996, however, we have begun to specialise in acquiring books from Northern Cyprus, an area to which few other European libraries have paid much attention.
Map of Transoxiana, part of Central Asia. Cihannuma. World atlas by Katib Celebi, Istanbul, 1245 / 1732. [Or.80.a.10, p.347]©The British Library.
The British Library has one of the best collections of Turkic language periodicals in the UK. Particular strengths are literary and cultural journals of the Ottoman period and Republican Turkey. Our holdings include most learned journals in the humanities published by Turkish universities until their proliferation in the 1980s.
Daily newspapers are purchased only as back runs in microfilm.
In principle, all Turkish language newspapers, magazines and books published in the UK are received by the British Library under copyright law.
The British Library holds official publications, such as reports and statistics, from the Turkish Republic. These holdings are less extensive, however, than those of Durham University (see Durham's Middle East Documentation Unit), the Institute of Development Studies and SOAS Library.
We have most issues of the Ottoman government yearbook, Salname-i Devlet-i Aliye-i Osmaniye, a valuable source, and several yearbooks from provincial governments and other bodies. The Library also holds a small amount of official literature from Soviet and post-Soviet Central Asia.
Most Turkish government publications are requested and viewed in the Social Science Reading Room.