IN THE SHADE OF BOOKS AND HISTORY: BEYAZIT LIBRARYIf you pass by Beyazıt when you are tired of wandering around İstanbul, take a good look to the seemingly modest building, situated at the north-east end of the Beyazıt Square, adjacent to the Beyazıt Mosque. When you step inside the building upon listening to the voice of your curiosity, you will immediately discover that this place is an impressive library.
(This picture is used with the permission of Tabanlıoğlu Architects.)
Being the first library in Turkey founded by the state, the Beyazıt Library was opened in June 24, 1884 with the name "Kütüphane-i Umumî Osmanî" (Ottoman Public Library), after the order of Abdulhamid II. It firstly served in the six-domedsection of the Beyazıt Complex, built by Beyazıt II, the son of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror, in 1506. In three years, the number of books in the library’s collection reached 23 thousand.
The library’s importance continued to grow after the transition from the Ottoman Empire to the Republic of Turkey. Starting from 1934, one copy of every book and periodical published in Turkey has been sent to the library. In 1974, the old Dentist School building was granted to the Beyazıt Library, after it has faced a space problem due to the expansion of its collection.
Great libraries are known not only for the richness of their collections, but for their great librarians as well. From this perspective, one of the figures to be touched upon in the history of the library is, without a doubt, İsmail Saip Sencer. He served as the manager of the library for 43 years, from 1896 to 1939. Aside from his almost-legendary expertise on Arabic literature, İsmail Sencer could write and read in Persian, French, Itailan, German and Latin. He was so dearly attached to the library and the books, that he died just a year after he retired from the library, in 1940. In his rather long career as the librarian of the Beyazıt Library, İsmail Saip Sencer inherited this then-young institution from the Ottoman Empire, and bequeathed it to the Republic of Turkey. His story, in that sense, was the summary of the 20th century Turkish modernization.
Currently the library holds almost 1 million items including 140 thousand manuscripts, 40 thousand rare books, and around 500 thousand books, maps, posters, flimsies, notes, postcards and records. The reading hall in the six-domedsection recently underwent a comprehensive and very successful renovation, one of several in its long history. If you are eager to read and rest for some time beneath the shades of books and history, you may begin to flip the pages of a book under the 500-year-old, white, luminous domes of the reading hall.