Books for the Sultan

European Authors and Book Diplomacy in the Ottoman Court in the Mid-19th Century

In: Quaerendo
Ayşe Başaran Marmara University Istanbul Turkey

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This article explores the new functions and meanings books gained amid the novel technologies, shifting political dynamics, and growing commercialization of the mid-nineteenth century, with a particular focus on the various ways authors, state figures, and various intermediaries used books to advance themselves and their diverse agendas. Through an examination of some 150 petitions written by European authors to the Ottoman Empire between the 1840s and the 1860s, it argues that for European authors, the book served as an opportunity to codify and commodify their expertise and as a means of securing prestige, position, and pecuniary gain from the courts of Europe and further afield, including the Ottoman Empire. Meanwhile, for the Ottoman sultans and their advisers, these same books served as tools both for advancing the empire through science and for strengthening ties with particular European powers and institutions. Taken as a whole, these petitions reveal a complex, international web of personal and professional relationships, state interests, and diplomatic manoeuvring surrounding the book in the mid-nineteenth century, a web that extended far beyond the borders of Europe and the Ottoman domain.

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