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Re: A few clarifications on origins and meaning.

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  • jemiljan
    Since I ve been asked by members both on and off list to open these discussions for everyone, I ve gone ahead and posted my reply to Feridun for all of you to
    Message 1 of 7 , Sep 5, 2009
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      Since I've been asked by members both on and off list to open these discussions for everyone, I've gone ahead and posted my reply to Feridun for all of you to read, and invite your comments if any of you have any observations to make or points to add.

      Sevgili Feridun, Bir şey değil!

      Thanks for finding that reference, I really appreciate it. Note, though, that the Arabic script in your message got chopped via Yahoo, but can I assume that it was simply the Ottoman spelling for "ebrû"? Your mention of what has been said about Necmeddin Effendi using the term "ebri" is interesting too in this regard. Do you know if this is corroborated by those who knew him personally? Has Niyazi Hoca shared any insight with you? I had read about it, but wondered if this was something that he may have done without a lot of thought only to later be viewed more formally as a facet of "tradition" by our contemporaries. It certainly poses certain problems for those inclined to promote the idea of a single "correct" term of strictly Turkish origin.

      Honestly, I wonder if we sometimes forget today the influence of oral traditions of poetic culture in times past. The fact that inspired individuals like Necmeddin Effendi, who knew Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, purposely played around with multiple usages to intentionally imply multiple meanings of a word in different languages; a form of what I call "polyglottic polysemy". He was hardly the first person in this culture to do this! There are countless examples of this in poetry in all of these languages. So, the idea that today we must somehow accept just one meaning in one language as the sole "correct" one, and portray others as "incorrect" is only rendered all the more problematic.

      I presume that what you found is in an earlier edition of the Redhouse Lexicon? Could you kindly give the citation? It rolls back the date all of a decade, so the gist of the argument that I made remains in place; that the term "ebru" is still very, very late one in the history of this art.

      A few years ago, I had wondered if it may have some kind of relationship with the term now popular in Iran, namely "abr-u-bâd" or "cloud and wind" (which are the opening words to the fourth Ruabii poem in the Golestan of Sa'adi). That said, I have found nothing whatsoever to support this. Perhaps a Persian artist heard the term "ebru" as it is used in Turkey, and then was inspired to call it this?

      One practical manual on book arts written by the contemporary Persian artist Ardasher Mojarrad Takestani, in which he specifically refers to "abr-u-bad" as a modern method of marbling, which he distinguishes from historical "abri". In Iran today, the use vivid oil colors to create patterns and designs that are more contemporary in look and feel (reminiscent of the work of Tini Miura) are primarily used as a support for contemporary "Khatt Naqsh" or "calligraphy-painting" panels that are very popular in Iran today. Nevertheless, this curious usage serves as an example of how a term can come to be adopted- especially one derived from a famous poem- that has no relationship to other terms we know were used historically.

      Back to the Lexicon, I just found something rather interesting in the second 1861 edition of Redhouse's English-Turkish lexicon contains a translation of "marble-edged"- meaning, the practice of edge marbling books- using the term "marmar" instead of "ebru"! The definition is given on page 500.


      The same information appears in the later 1884 edition as well, on the same page.


      The Redhouse "Turkish dictionary, in two parts, English and Turkish, and Turkish and English", second edition omits this. Unfortunately, the Turkish volume is not available online as of yet. The first edition published in 1856 doesn't give this definition, only the translation of "marble"- presumably the stone- as "marmar" on p. 232.


      All of this brings me to another point. I have always wondered if there may have been what I have described as "parallel traditions" of marbling in Istanbul at this time, as some kind of marbling seems to have been introduced together with modern "trade" semi-mechanized bookbinding methods from Europe. What sparked this was the fact that many years ago now, I spotted simple ruled notebooks in Istanbul for sale to students that featured marbled edges. I wondered if these were possibly "roller marbled" or even transfar-marbled", but they seemed to me to have all of the features of having been marbled directly. Of course, now I really wish that I had bought one!

      When I asked certain ebrucus about them, they dismissed them as a "commercial craft" whereas they insisted what they made was "art". That said, I did encounter some who were under the impression that the method of edge marbling was of necessarily Turkish origin, despite the lack of any evidence for their belief. On the other hand, another person employed the term "marmar " to describe what he deemed was an "inferior" application, indicating it was an "inferior" European process, whereas "true Turkish ebru", in his view, was "superior". The implication here was that one should only pay attention exclusively to "ebru" as an "art", and ignore anything else one might find because in their view, it was neither authentically Turkish nor "art"(!)

      These replies were, needless to say, so subjective and inherently biased that I found them to be hardly very satisfactory in my opinion. In contrast,I saw these supposedly "inferior" edge marbled notebooks as an important form of physical evidence indicative of a very different "tradition" of marbling in Istanbul that some just didn't want to talk about. Later, I realized that the marbling of the edges is not readily observed on Islamic manuscripts, and that the masters of the Özbekler tekke tradition did do it either, even in spite of the fact that Necemeddin Okyay and Mustafa Düzgünman had trained in traditional Islamic bookbinding. Nor is there mention of edge marbling in any of the early primary manuscript sources in Persian or Turkish, nor in any of the accounts of European travelers to Turkey, India, and Iran in which the art is mentioned, usually in passing.

      After reviewing all of the literature, I feel certain that the application of marbling to the edges of books developed not in Turkey, but in France. French bookbinders were clearly doing it by the early 18th century. See Wolfe pp 37-8. He in turn cites Uzanne, though I wonder if French scholars such as Guilleminot-Chrétien or Doizy have determined anything earlier, especially in connection with some of the more famous 17th century names associated with the art.

      If the presence of this independent, "Europeanized" trade can in fact be established in Istanbul, it would prove that a very distinct, separate form of marbling- totally independent of the Özbekler Tekke- would have been part of the history of marbling in Turkey, albeit in a very different context than what is typically emphasized. Whether some consider this merely "trade" or "craft" vs. "art", or whether it is "incorrect" or "un-traditional" in the view of some today is irrelevant in a discussion of history. An objective study should be inclusive of all forms of marbling, and should not be limited to what some may prefer to emphasize. It would also serve as yet another example of the "ping-ponging" or "bouncing" of the art back and forth between completely separate regions, as opposed to the overly simplistic description of the art traveling in one direction "from the East to the West along the Silk Road".

      Interestingly enough, I have found specific information in Persian regarding the introduction of "modern" European bookbinding methods in Qajar Iran at right about the same time that the above Turkish lexicon was printed. It is found in a government resolution dated to 1862 CE , and published by the Iranian historian Iraj Afshar. The resolution addresses the problem that with the introduction of mechanized printing some two decades earlier, the bookbinders were simply not keeping up with the output from the print shops, and it was holding up the market. This resolution was inspected and approved by Naser-al-Din Shah Qajar personally, as there are notes written in his own hand at the very top of this document. While there is no specific mention of marbling in it, this document does mention arrangements made for Persian craftsmen to be sent to Europe for training in the "latest" bookbinding techniques with the stipulation that they return and train others, and also the establishment of special scholarships to recruit young people to become bookbinders familiar with these same methods. They worked in what was called the "Majma'a- ye Sanaye" which can be translated to mean "Arts & Crafts Association". This institution has not been as well researched as others in Iran at that time, so I am currently trying to dig up what I can, but pursuing the trail for this is understandably quite tedious and slow.

      One section of another Qajar Persian text entitled the "Kashf us-Sanaye" (there are two editions, one kept at the Library of Tehran University- Ms. No. 2261, and a second somewhat later edition is found in the Ayatollah Mara'ashi Najafi library) contains a section devoted to "Murakkab Sazi va Jeld Sazi" (Ink making and Bookbinding). This account was written by a master bookbinder named 'Ali Hosseini, and the second appears to be an updated version that his student may have written a couple of years later. In it, the process of marbling and edge marbling are both described, but curiously enough, the term employed is "marbul", whichI realized is simply the transliteration of the English term "marble" into Persian. Another section is devoted to "Franj Marbul" which is an obvious transliteration of the English term "French Marble"! So, it is very clear that this master may very well have been one of these craftsmen sent to Europe- in this case England- for training, or that he learned from one of those who did. Oddly enough, according to the Persian scholars Afshar and Najeb Mayel-Heravi, he was trained in France, but the transliteration of the term "marble" is clearly English and not French, so I honestly wonder how these scholars came to the conclusion that he had trained in France instead.

      Since the notion that the art only traveled in one direction from the East to Europe isn't really true, and we have evidence that it was in fact "re-introduced" in a very novel application in Iran, it seems likely to me that something very similar also happened in Istanbul. This is especially true given the obvious prevalence of European influence on bookbinding methods in Turkey in the exact same period. So, it seems reasonable enough to assume that specifically European marbling techniques probably found their way back to Istanbul in the 19th century. I rather wonder if the volume of mechanized printing in Istanbul was far more extensive than in Tehran at that time, which leads me to suppose that the potential for such "trade" practices seems all the more likely.

      Another sorely neglected aspect to look at is whether the reforms in accounting procedures in both Turkey and Iran led to the adoption of the European "spring back" binding. This was often traditionally marbled along all three edges, with the view that it served as a security device to protect the accounts from being tampered with. Richard Wolfe provides almost no information on marbling in relation to the topic of account books, but Bernard Middleton states that it was first patented in Great Britain in 1799 by John and Joseph Williams (see Middleton, A History of English Craft Bookbinding. 2nd ed. pp. 114-116). We now know that the idea of applying marbling as a kind of security device was not of Turkish origin at all, but an application developed in England in connection with financial practices, beginning with Samuel Pope attaining a patent for marbling paper currency in 1731. I have yet to find anything more concrete on introduction of marbling account book edges with the intention of it serving as a form of security device. Although it is mentioned frequently in marbling literature nothing specific is really given, but I suspect that it was developed in the 18th century along with marbled paper money and legal documents.

      The subject of the modernization of book production is just as much a part of Turkey's history as the history of ebru at the Özbekler tekke. I can see why many would want to emphasize the one "tradition" over the other "trade", but that doesn't mean that the subject can't be a part of any reasonable discussion. In fact, if we stop and consider the role played by Necmeddin Effendi's teacher Edhem Effendi in the "tradition", we also know that by all accounts, he also played a role in the "trade" as well, as we know that he was a pressman, and also supplied marbled papers for use in the burgeoning printing industry. He may not have marbled the edges of books, but it is clear from the evidence that survives that he did devise some novel applications that have nothing to do with manuscripts, and I wonder if in the case of his tax form (the image of which you had sent to me), if this was an idea that he or someone he worked with had gotten from European financial practices.

      So, these two very different contexts of "tradition" and "trade" are not at all exclusive of one another as I found some preferred to portray them. I just think that some contemporary marblers in Istanbul today want to emphasize certain aspects they prefer with an overriding desire to promote themselves as "traditional" or "artists". This problem is only further compounded by those who emphasize their belief that marbling is a form of traditional spiritual practice. The idea that marbling was somehow part of an industrialized operation in Turkey is simply not something to their taste.

      These preferences and biases clearly interfere with, rather than uphold an objective view of history. I hope that in time that these tendencies and attitudes in Turkey will change and become more accommodating and inclusive of these interesting facets of history, rather remain than so exclusively devoted to upholding and promoting just one particular tradition, at the expense of others.



      --- In Marbling@yahoogroups.com, "Feridun Ozgoren" <feridun.ozgoren@...> wrote:
      > Dear members,
      > I meant to send this message to Jake Benson but, I hit the `reply all` button by mistake.
      > I apologize for the inconvinience.
      > Best wishes to all,
      > Feridun Özgören
      > -----Original Message-----
      > From: Marbling@yahoogroups.com [mailto:Marbling@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Feridun Ozgoren
      > Sent: Friday, September 04, 2009 1:14 AM
      > To: Marbling@yahoogroups.com
      > Subject: RE: [Marbling] A few clarifications on origins and meaning.
      > Importance: High
      > Sevgili kardeşim,
      > You wrote :
      > 3) The term "ebru" is a contemporary Turkish term, as it is never found in any manuscript sources for this art in any language, including Ottoman Turkish. It appears to have been used in the 20th century, but whether it was used before that has not been concretely established. The oldest usage I have found is in the Redhouse "Yeni Lugat" dictionary.
      > Today I was searching a word in the Turkish-English Lexicon (1890 edition) and I came accros the word ebru (ابرو). It was spelled the same for marbling and eyebrow.

      > I too thought that "ebru" was a 20th century term used for ebru, but appearently it was in use in 1890's. Which makes me wonder why Okyay used "ebri" and his student Derman used "ebru".
      > I hope all is good with you, and you are happy and healthy.
      > Sevgiler,
      > Feridun Özgören
      > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • '' Huzur Yolu ''
      Efendim herkese Merhaba,   Ingilizcem fazla olmadığından dolayı Türkçe sormak istiyorum. Bazı Yurtdışında olanlar Ebru Sanatını Carrageen Moss ile
      Message 2 of 7 , Sep 11, 2009
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        Efendim herkese Merhaba,
        Ingilizcem fazla olmadığından dolayı Türkçe sormak istiyorum. Bazı Yurtdışında olanlar Ebru Sanatını Carrageen Moss ile çalıştıklarını öğrendim bende ile ilk defa bir çalışma yapmak istedim, ölçü bilemediğim için bir kaç Çorba Kaşığı Carrageen alıp 5 litre soğuk suyla karıştırdım. Lakin Boyaları damlatıktan sonra Kağıta geçirdiğimde Kağıda tam oturmadı bulanık görünüm oldu, Türkiyeden Deniz Kadayıfıyle gayet güzel olmuştu, Carrageen Moss kullanırken ölçü olarak ne kadar kullanmalıyım ve bu sorunum nereden geldiğini bilmek istiyorum bu konuda bana yardımcı olursanız çok sevinirim. Şimdiden herkese teşekkür ederim.
        Emine Öncel - Germany 

        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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