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Atif Efendi Library Istanbul

Atif Efendi Library Istanbul
Atıf Efendi was a divani poet who worked as Chief Registrar during the reign of Sultan Mahmut I.  The building located in the Vefa Quarter of Istanbul was completed by Köprülü Fazil Ahmet Paşa, the son of Köprülü Mehmet Paşa in 1678 and Atıf Efendi established it as a library in 1741.  This was the second library in the Ottoman State to have its own independent building after the Köprülü Library and at that time its employees consisted of three Hafiz-i kutub (book memorisers), one Seyh ul-kurra, one Suyolcu, one Mucellit (binder) and one ferras (janitor).  The Hafiz-i kutubs were required to stay in rooms on the library grounds and had to be on duty five days a week (except Tuesdays and Fridays) and were required to either call Muslims to prayer or to lead the congregational prayers.  

The library is one of most beautiful examples of the Turkic Baroque style reflecting
18th century Turkish Civil Architectural Art.  Rules for studying in the library are inscribed on the marble foundation near the library entrance and the charter states “…talebe-i ulumun ifade ve istifadesi mülahazasiyle” (“for the consideration of the expression and benefit of all students”).  The charter also states librarians are to be chosen for their aptitude and religiosity and are required to perform their own duties, not to pass them on to their assistants or deputies and handing over their position to an under aged person who had not attained the age of discretion was strictly prohibited.  

Books were not allowed be used for ‘istinsah’ (copying or photocopying) and could not be benefitted from or be pawned.  The library has a section containing the full list of works that was donated by Atıf Efendi and is comprised of five rooms and two halls but is unable to offer full library services due to insufficient space; the five rooms are heated by radiators and measure 42, 18, 10, 10 and 5 square metres and the halls are 187 and 132 square meters.  There is a small “Hafiz-i kutub” room near the entrance, a hexagonal reading hall and underneath the building is a repertory.  

The last restoration work to be completed was in 1992 but the library requires further works to be carried out, its collections include many manuscripts, several authors’ calligraphy works, several copies of old books, nice binders, ornaments, miniature works and signet albums.  

Mehmet Zeki Pakalin’s collection is also here and includes 3,228 manuscripts and 6,358 printed books in the old Ottoman alphabet.  The library today has a total of 25,905 works and it employs one library chief, one librarian (a graduate from the Library Department of the Literature Faculty of Istanbul University), two security guards and a total of five technical personnel. Although it is affiliated with the Süleymaniye Library, digitalisation of manuscripts has not yet begun.

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