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The Library Of Abdul Medjid Effendi
Located in the Sultan’s Suites hall of Dolmabahçe Palace, the Abdul Medjid Library of the last heir and caliph of the Ottoman Empire, Abdul Medjid Effendi, is an important library that embodies 10,867 rare works.
Abdul Medjid Effendi (1868-1944), who has a special place in Turkish culture and art history due to his intellect and artistic personality, was born at the Dolmabahçe Palace as the son of the 32nd sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Abdulaziz, and Hayranıdil Kadınefendi. Abdul Medjid Effendi, who was tutored in painting by Zonaro, was good enough to be called the ‘painter Prince’ and took part in domestic and foreign exhibitions with what is said to be a collection of over 200 paintings. Abdul Medjid Effendi was a man of sophisticated tastes with a genuine interest in western music. He played the violin, cello, piano and harpsichord. Ever a patron of the arts and artists, as well as befriending circles in literature, art and politics, he also forged cordial relations with the leading local and European luminaries of his time.
A SUBSTANTIAL COLLECTION
His intellectual personality and fondness for reading, together with his artistic persona, enabled him to establish a wide-ranging collection of books. His library was always very important to him and he used the room in which his beloved father Sultan Abdulaziz died in at the Feriye Palace (where he lived during the time he was a prince) as his library. In 1918 when he became the heir, he moved his library to the second room on the sea front on the upper floor of the Selamlik (Men’s Quarters) of the Sultan’s Suite at Dolmabahçe Palace. As well as reading and writing, Abdul Medjid Effendi also conducted all his important meetings in this library. He followed the important events of the period here, too, such as the First World War, and the Turkish War of Independence, and signed his regency release and the declaration of his caliphate following his election as caliph by the Grand National Assembly. Upon moving to the Dolmabahçe Palace following his election as caliph in 1922, he transferred his library to the Sultan’s Suites hall in the Sultan’s chamber. He also executed his most important duties and conducted meetings of his caliphate at the library. Indeed it was in this library that he was informed that the caliphate had been abolished and that he had to leave the country with his family on March 3rd, 1924.
WESTERN AND EASTERN LITERATURE
Abdul Medjid Effendi learned French and German to an advanced level and had sufficient command of English to be able to follow the publications of his time. Among the 204 works of literature in his library catalogue, under the subject heading of French literature are many bound volumes by such famous writers as Victor Hugo, Anatole France and Emile Zola. Under the subject heading of German literature, there are 99 works by celebrated authors such as Goethe, Henrik Ibsen and Schiller. Far from being just a book collector, Abdul Medjid Effendi personally read and analysed these works. Many of the books in the library exhibit signs of having been read in underlined sentences, notes in empty margins and scribbled dates, along with signatures in various places.
THE CALIPH WHO PURCHASED BOOKS
Some of the books in the library were autographed by their authors and presented to Abdul Medjid Effendi as gifts. The majority of the books in the library collection however were purchased from domestic and foreign publishing houses by Abdul Medjid Effendi himself. Signs that he bought books from foreign publishing houses such as Librairie S. H. Weiss and Gerard Frères as well as from domestic publishers such as Kitabhane-i İbrahim Hilmi, Tefeyyüz Kitabhanesi and Vatan Mücellidhanesi and that he paid for binding costs and subscriptions are evident in the invoices kept in the archives.
The books in the library generally date from 1840 to 1920. A Koran dating back to 1039 on the Hijri calendar and handwritten works such as Manzum Siyer dating back to 996 are also among the works in the collection.
FINE EXAMPLES OF THE ART OF BOOKBINDING
Many of the works in the library are also important because of their bindings. The materials used for these bindings include leather, fabrics (satin and velvet), wood and marble. The bindings are emblazoned with the Ottoman coat of arms in gold gilt and decorated with tughras (stylized sultan’s signatures), the star and crescent, and 19th century motifs. Photographs and albums belonging to Abdul Medjid Effendi and his family are also among the most important pieces in the library collection. These photographs and albums are impressive due to the fact that they reflect the power and glory of past emperors, nostalgic because they echo the pleasure in old landscapes; and historically significant due to their contribution to our understanding of various people and places.
WORKS RELATING TO MUSIC
Abdul Medjid Effendi’s close interest in art and music is also evident in his library collection. Almost all of his collection on music consists of works by important western classical music composers such as Schuman, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Preziosi’s ‘Stamboul Souvenir D’Orient’ and Adolphe Thalasso’s original copy of ‘L’Art Ottoman; Les Peintres de Turquie’ inscribed for Abdul Medjid Effendi are among the art books that stand out.
TRACES OF MUSTAFA KEMAL ATATÜRK
After the caliphate was abolished and Caliph Abdul Medjid Effendi sent abroad with his family on March 3rd, 1924, the period of the regency and caliphate at Dolmabahçe Palace came to an end. A new era was ushered in with the arrival of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Turkish Republic, at the Dolmabahçe Palace on July 1st, 1927. The library of Abdul Medjid Effendi also bears traces of Atatürk and his period of residcnce at Dolmabahçe. Among books such as Ziraat-ı Fenni (The Science of Agriculture), Türkiye Salnamesi (the Turkish Yearbook) and Omar Khayyam’s Manzum Tercümeler (Translated Poems), inscribed for Atatürk, there are also photographs and albums dating back to the tenth anniversary of the Turkish Republic. We know from the archival documents that during his time at the Dolmabahçe Palace Atatürk also made use of Abdul Medjid’s library and that he took some of the books on Turkish, Ottoman, Asian and Russian history as well as geography and travel books with him to Ankara and returned them to the library after reading them.
Currently accessible only to employees of the institution (due to on-going inventory work, numbering and conservation projects), the Adbul Medjid Library is a significant center of information and data for late-period history and research on palaces because of its collection of domestic and foreign books and its presentation of the periodicals and visual materials of the time in a multi-purpose and categorical manner.