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Nuruosmaniye Library

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.