Located in the Eminönü District of Istanbul, at the entrance of the Kapalı Çarşı [Covered Bazaar], is the Nuruosmaniye Kulliyesi. Its construction began in 1749, during Sultan Mahmut I’s rule (1730-1754), and was completed one year after his death by Sultan Osman III (1754-1757). The architect of the building is Master Builder Sinan. This baroque-styled kulliye is comprised of a mosque, madrasah, imaret [facility to distribute food to the needy for free], library, tomb, fountain, sebil [free water dispenser], and shops.
The Nuruosmaniye Library is a unique example of Baroque style. Being composed of two parts, the center of the library is covered with a dome carried by four pillars and a arcade corridor surrounding it. The dome is buttressed with two half-domes. The arcades are covered with mirrored vaults. A total of 30 windows are supported with plasters which give a major Baroque style feel. There is a basement floor underneath the library. One can reach the library through the staircase from the outer courtyard. A basement was built underneath the library against and the upper floor is reserved as a reading hall and for storage. The library has two doors, one of which is a humayun [imperial] gate. An epitaph is inscribed on the gate saying in Arabic, “Seek Ilm [knowledge] from the cradle to the grave.”
When the library was first opened, it had total of 18 personnel, which included one Nazir-I Kutub, six Hafiz-I Kutubs, six Mustahfizes, three Bevvabs, one Mucellid-Muzehhib, and one Ferras. The charter of the library signed by Sultan Osman III is still in the Topkapı Palace Museum. It contains the books of Sultan Mahmut I and Sultan Osman III as well as 79 manuscripts of Bayram Paşa. Moreover, the library has also a new works collection. The books in the library are organized by the author’s name and the title of work, and are classified using the Dewey Decimal Classification method.
Translated by Mr. Irfan KOKSAL