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Turkish manuscripts and rare printed books collection

Identifier: ubl116

Scope and Contents

A survey of any given library in Turkey will reveal that Turkish manuscripts are relatively underrepresented. In the cultural framework of the Ottoman Empire, Arabic and Persian always took precedence over Turkish, which was mainly used as an administrative language. Unsurprisingly, this situation is reflected in the Leiden Oriental collections, where the Turkish holdings rank third after Arabic and Persian. The emphasis is on religion, history, language, Ottoman belles lettres (especially poetry) and epistolography. The history of Dutch-Ottoman diplomatic and economic relations is reflected in the extensive holdings of letters.

The collection of books printed in the Ottoman Empire since the 18th century focuses on the process of gradual modernisation and westernisation with editions of textbooks on medicine, government, military science, economics and, since the latter half of the 19th century, the rise of modern Turkish literature.

Printed books in European languages, the products of Western orientalism since the 16th century, cover subjects as varied as language and literature, the arts, travel in the Middle East, the history and geography of the Ottoman Empire and Islam.

The so-called Murad V collection has a certain emphasis on militaria, economics and belles lettres.


  • Creation: c. 1400-1928
  • Creation: Bulk c. 1600-1928

Language of Materials

Ottoman Turkish and other Turkic languages, European languages.

Conditions Governing Use

Some manuscripts are too old and fragile to handle. Where available, a microfilm will be offered as an alternative.

Regulations that apply during the use of these materials can be found on the website of Leiden University Library.


1600 manuscripts and fragments and an unknown number of rare printed books. (No estimate available.)

Abstract in Dutch

De Turkse handschriftenverzameling van de Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden, ca. 1600 items, bestrijkt het gehele spectrum van Osmaanse wetenschap, literatuur (voornamelijk poëzie) en geschiedenis, waaronder die van de Nederlands-Turkse betrekkingen. Enkele handschriften zijn afkomstig uit Centraal-Azië, Iran en de Kaukasus. Belangrijke handschriftencollecties zijn afkomstig van geleerden als Levinus Warner, Nederlands resident aan de Hoge Porte in de 17e eeuw, of van de Duitse geleerde Franz Taeschner (1888 of 1896-1967). Gedrukte boeken over Turkije of de turkologie worden vanaf de late 16e eeuw verzameld, waaronder de bekende uitgaven van İbrahim Müteferrika. Van bijzonder belang is een collectie van ca. 10.000 19e-eeuwse en vroeg-20e-eeuwse gedrukte boeken, mogelijk afkomstig uit de privé-bibliotheek van sultan Murad V en diens nazaten.

Abstract in English

The Turkish manuscript holdings of Leiden University Library, c. 1,600 items, reflect the full range of Ottoman scholarship, literature (especially poetry) and history, including the history of Dutch-Ottoman relations. Some manuscripts originate from Central Asia, Iran and the Caucasus. Notable collections hail from scholars like Levinus Warner, Dutch Resident to the Sublime Porte in the 17th century, or the German scholar Franz Taeschner (1888 or 1896-1967). Printed books on Turkey and Turkology have been collected from the late 16th century onwards, among them the imprints of the well-known Müteferrika press. Of singular importance is a c. 10,000 volume collection of 19th and early 20th-century printed books, presumably the property of Sultan Murad V and his descendants.

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

Turkish printed books can be found in the online catalogue of Leiden University Library.

Custodial History


Only isolated Turkish items were purchased for Leiden University Library by Jacobus Golius (1596-1667), professor of Oriental languages and Mathematics at Leiden, who stayed in Istanbul and Aleppo from 1625 until 1629 (Cat. J. Schmidt, I, pp. 1-23). A sizable collection of Turkish manuscripts was left to the University Library in 1665 by Levinus Warner (1619-1665), a student of Golius who departed for Istanbul in 1644, never to return. He initially found employment of an informal nature at the Dutch Embassy, eventually obtaining the rank of Resident (see Levinus Warner and his legacy; Cat. J. Schmidt, I, pp. 43-497).

In the seventeenth and eigteenth centuries, Leiden professors of Oriental languages rendered services to the States General of the Dutch Republic as translators of diplomatic correspondence with the Ottoman Empire and the Barbary States. Many such documents in Turkish are found in the collections of scholars like Jan Jacob Schultens (1716-1778) (Cat. J. Schmidt, I, pp. 514-601) and Johan Hendrik van der Palm (1763-1840), who acquired the library of his professor Hendrik Albert Schultens (1749-1793) (Cat. J. Schmidt, II, pp. 166-197).

A noteworthy acquisition of the nineteenth century is the Testa collection, possibly hailing from baron Gaspard Testa (1770-1847), Dutch chargé d’affaires at the Ottoman court, but more probably from one or more of his nine sons (Cat. J. Schmidt, II, pp. 80-162).

Perhaps the most interesting acquisition of the twentieth century is a collection of 104 manuscripts of the German Orientalist Franz Taeschner (1888 or 1896-1967), which were bought from Messrs. Brill in 1970. The 104 Turkish manuscripts in this collection are often beautifully calligraphed and splendidly bound (Cat. J. Schmidt, III, pp. 26-335).

Printed books

Apart from an almost complete collection of rare printed books on Turkish language, literature, history and geography written by European Orientalists, the collections of rare Turkish books comprise a number of imprints by the Hungarian convert İbrahim Müteferrika (1674-1746), who ran a printing establishment in Istanbul from 1727 until his death in 1746. A copy in the Special Collections reference library of Franz Babinger’s Stambuler Buchwesen (OOSHSS B 451) contains the Leiden shelfmarks in the margin. Also well-represented are books in Turkish printed in Istanbul from the early nineteenth century onwards, or by the Government printing press in Būlāq, Egypt, founded by Muḥammad ʿAlī Pasha in 1821-1822.

An important collection of Ottoman printed books was acquired between 1963 and 1964 with the mediation of Prof. Anton Abraham Cense (1901-1977), director of the Netherlands Archaeological Institute (NIT) in Istanbul from 1958 until 1964. This collection, consisting of c. 10,000 printed books and some manuscripts, was offered for sale as the private library of Sultan Murad V (1840-1904, reigned briefly in 1876) and his son Salahuddin Efendi (d. 1915). The actual origin of the collection remains contested. The file on the acquisition is kept in the University Library Archive ‘Bibliotheek Archief 2’, section S 361


Occasionally, new items are added to the collections.

Existence and Location of Copies

Part of the manuscripts collection has been microfilmed.

Related Materials

The Leiden Turkish manuscripts and rare books are part of the larger Leiden collections of Middle Eastern materials.

More Turkish manuscripts can be found in the permanent loan collection of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW) in Leiden University Library, accessible through the Digital Collections by searching ‘KNAW’.

Separated Materials

The National Archives (Nationaal Archief) at The Hague house an important collection of documents on the relations of the Ottoman Empire with the States General of the Dutch Republic and the Kingdom of the Netherlands from the early seventeenth century onwards.


  • Babinger, Fr., Stambuler Buchwesen im 18. Jahrhundert. Leipzig 1919.
  • Dozy, R.P.A. [et al.], Catalogus codicum orientalium bibliothecae Academiae Lugduno-Batavae. 6 vols. Lugd. Bat. [Leiden] 1851-1877.
  • Levinus Warner and his legacy. Three centuries Legatum Warnerianum in the Leiden University Library. Leiden 1970.
  • Schmidt, J., Catalogue of Turkish manuscripts in the Library of Leiden University and other collections in The Netherlands. Leiden 2000-… Vol. I. Comprising the acquisitions of Turkish manuscripts in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Leiden 2000; Vol. II. Comprising the acquisitions of Turkish manuscripts in Leiden University Library between 1800 and 1970. Leiden 2002; Vol. III. Comprising the acquisitions of Turkish manuscripts in Leiden University Library between 1970 and 2003. Leiden 2006.


All manuscripts can be requested in the online catalogue (tab Special Collections, Request materials in the Reading Room) with the help of the appropriate classmark (Cod. Or. [number]). The relevant classmarks can be found in the Catalogue of Turkish manuscripts by Jan Schmidt.

The material in this collection can be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Processing Information

From the early seventeenth century onwards, the Turkish manuscript collection has been described several times in the printed catalogues of Leiden University Library. The nineteenth-century Latin Catalogus codicum orientalium bibliothecae Academiae Lugduno-Batavae by R.P.A. Dozy and others is still regarded as a valuable source.

The most recent and complete description of the Turkish manuscript holdings is Jan Schmidt’s masterly Catalogue of Turkish manuscripts in the Library of Leiden University and other collections in The Netherlands (2000…., three volumes published to date). A fourth volume, describing other Turkish collections in the Netherlands and the permanent loan collections in Leiden University Library (most notably the loan collection of KNAW, the Netherlands Royal Academy of Sciences), is in preparation.

All printed books on Turkey and Turkology in European languages have been catalogued retrospectively in the early 1980s. Books in Ottoman Turkish followed suit in the 1990s. At present, all holdings on Turkey or in (Ottoman) Turkish are searchable through the online catalogue. Searches can be refined with language keys such as Ottoman Turkish (ota) or Modern Turkish (tur).

Collection guide of the Turkish manuscripts and rare printed books collection (c. 1400-1928)
Collectie Turkse handschriften en oude drukken
Dr Arnoud Vrolijk, 2007
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Beschrijving is in het Engels.

Revision Statements

  • 16 March 2017: latest update

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

Witte Singel 27
Leiden 2311 BG Netherlands
+31 71 527 2857