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Printer Ibrahim Müteferrika Issues the First Book Printed by Muslims Using Movable Type

Imperial ferman of Ahmed III, and introduction to fevas, folios 3-4r from the Indiana University copy.

Imperial ferman of Ahmed III, and introduction to fevas, folios 3-4r from the Indiana University copy.

In 1729, two years after he received permission to print, Ibrahim Müteferrika founded the first printing press in Turkey, in his home at Constantinople. According to extant Ottoman documents, during the intervening two years Muteferrika cut his own punches and cast his own Arabic type, a typeface different from European typefaces of the period, closer to Naskh (Naskhi, Nesih) the standard book hand of the Muslim world. Muteferrika's first publication—the first book printed in Arabic by Muslims— was a Turkish translation by Vankulu (d. 1592) of Ismail ibn Hammad al-Jawhari's Arabic dictionary in two thick volumes, the first containing 666 pages and the second containing 756 pages. The edition, entitled Vankulu Lügati, consisted of 1000 copies.

Taj al-Lugha wa Sihah al-Arabiya (الصحاح تاج اللغة وصحاح العربية)[6] "The Crown of Language and the Correct Arabic" - His magnum opus dictionary of Arabic; often abbreviated as al-Sihah fi al-Lugha, "The Correct Language", and al-Sihah (الصحاح).[7] It contains about 40,000 dictionary entries.[8] Written in Nishapur, it was incomplete at his death and completed by a student. Al-Jawhari uses an alphabetical ordering system with the last letter of a word's root being the first ordering criterion. Al-Sihah is a principle Arabic dictionary of the medieval era and later compilers of Arabic dictionaries incorporated its material" (Wikipedia article on Ismail ibn Hammad al-Jawhari, accessed 7-2019).

As front matter the first volume of Vankulu Lügati reproduced many of the legal documents that Müteferrika acquired in order to receive permission to produce his printed books. It opened with a foreword by Müteferrika, and contained a copy of the original imperial edict (ferman) issued by Sultan Ahmed III, followed by religious decrees (fetvas) issued by leading religious figures in the administration giving religious clearance to Müteferrika to establish a press. After these decreets Müteferrika published a copy of his pamphlet entitled "The Usefulness of Printing" (Vesiletü’t-tibaʿa), which he wrote and presented to Grand Vizier Damad Ibrahim Paşa. In this pamphlet, Müteferrika listed ten reasons why an imperial printing house should be established.


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