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x0x 'Sahaflar Carsisi,' a cultural center

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  • Turkish Radio San Francisco
    x0x Sahaflar Carsisi, a cultural center Each book read compensates for the evil done by the one before On June 12, 1954 the writer Nurullah Atac said, A few
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2000
      x0x 'Sahaflar Carsisi,' a cultural center

      Each book read compensates for the evil done by the one before
      On June 12, 1954 the writer Nurullah Atac said, 'A few books poison, good
      only coming from many of them because each book read compensates for the
      evil done by the one before'

      Ankara - Turkish Daily News

      The "Sahaflar Carsisi" (rare and used book market) is a 500-year-old
      walled bazaar tucked away between the Beyazit Mosque and the Grand Bazaar,
      trying to survive in the midst of the chaos of Istanbul. One entrance of
      this picturesque bazaar faces the Carsi Kapi of the Grand Bazaar and the
      other faces the mosque. Many of Istanbul's most renowned antiquarian
      bookshops are located in this bazaar.

      In the past the word "sahaf" referred to a bookseller of any kind,
      although today it is used only for antiquarian or secondhand
      booksellers. Istanbul's booksellers used to have their own street in the
      Grand Bazaar, but the damage to this area in the earthquake of 1894 forced
      them to move elsewhere. In subsequent years they gradually congregated in
      this bazaar, which had formerly been occupied by seal engravers. These
      booksellers traded in rare books and priceless manuscripts of all kinds,
      and the book auctions held every Tuesday and Friday in the Grand Bazaar
      were always crowded.

      The greatest bibliophile of the time was Kutahyali Ismail Efendi, an
      expert on history books in particular. He was paralyzed, and his son used
      to wheel him to the bazaar several times a week to value rare books.

      Another class of bookseller in the past were known as
      "bohcacilar," (hawkers) because they peddled valuable manuscripts at the
      mansions of wealthy collectors. These buyers paid slightly above the
      market price, and in return the bohcacis would seek out particular books
      which they wanted. They would also pay in installments, a ploy to keep the
      bohcaci coming back.

      The printing press was introduced late to Turkey, partly due to opposition
      by the army of scribes, illuminators and other craftsmen who made a living
      producing manuscript books, and not until in the early 19th century did
      printed books became widespread and replace the more expensive

      However the value placed on calligraphy and books as a fine art form was
      also instrumental in keeping these crafts alive for so much longer than in
      Western countries. Calligraphic inscriptions were collected and hung on
      walls in the same way as paintings were in Europe, and the work of
      outstanding calligraphers commanded high prices. When combined with the
      other arts of the book such as illuminations, miniature painting, marbling
      and binding, the resulting manuscripts became precious works of art,
      independent of their content.

      Antoine Galland, who served as interpreter at the French Embassy in the
      17th century, described the Turkish attitude towards manuscripts in his
      diary: "I must add that the Turks do not gain pleasure from printed
      books. Although they admit that the latter are easier to read, they
      nevertheless prefer manuscripts to the finest quality printed books, even
      when the former are written in a hand difficult to decipher. I saw a
      printed copy of Ibni Sina (Avicenna) in an Istanbul bookshop, but even
      though it was printed in the finest Arabic script most closely resembling
      handwriting, this book did not find a buyer for a long time. Yet
      manuscript copies of the same book sold well at high prices in other

      The bazaar was badly damaged by fire in 1950, and the wooden shops
      subsequently rebuilt in concrete by the municipality. The new shops had
      broad eaves so that books could be displayed on tables outside. In 1981
      the bazaar was renovated and a further 18 shops added. At the same time a
      bust of Ibrahim Muteferrika (1670- 1745), founder of the first Turkish
      printing works in 1728, was erected in the courtyard.

      Copyright 2000, Turkish Daily News. This article is redistributed with
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      may be reproduced, further distributed or archived without the prior
      permission of the publisher. Contact: Turkish Daily News Online on the
      Internet World Wide Web. www.turkishdailynews.com

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