REŞAD EKREM KOÇU'S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ISTANBULThere are few writers that deserve the title "the writer of Istanbul" as much as Reşad Ekrem Koçu does. Born in Istanbul in 1905, Reşad Ekrem Koçu depicted Istanbul in his career as a writer and historian, spanning from his mid-twenties until his death, in 1975. Although he wrote many novels, monographies, and history books, his main accomplishment that renders his name immortal is the Encyclopedia of Istanbul, which has not been published in its entirety, yet.
Reşad Ekrem Koçu, whose aim –in his own words– was "to register what Istanbul has", decided to publish the Encyclopedia of Istanbul in 1940, however, the broken economy created by the World War II, delayed the publication of the first booklet for four years. Eventually, in 1944, the first booklet of the Encyclopedia of Istanbul starting with the article ABA was published.
In order to understand the kaleidoscopic structure and the peculiarity of the Encyclopedia of Istanbul, which bears as wide and colorful interests as its creator, it is enough to go through the subjects listed at the beginning of the encyclopedia: "All the buildings: mosques, masjids, dervish lodges, shrines, churches, fountains, palaces, waterside residences, kiosks, inns, public baths, theaters, coffee houses, taverns; all the famous people: statesmen, scholars, poets, artists, businessmen, doctors, teachers, dervishes, priests, monks, musicians, singers, dancers, drunks, tramps, wrestlers, firefighters, bullies, gamblers, thieves, vagrants, beggars, and killers; nature and geography: hills, slopes, water sources, weather, picnic areas, gardens etc.; streets, neighborhoods, districts; fires, epidemics, earthquakes, uprisings, murders and legendary love stories; customs, traditions, clothes; slang; paintings, poems, books, novels, travel books; and foreign celebrities of Istanbul".
The Encyclopedia of Istanbul, whose publication adventure spanned through almost 30 years with interruptions until the 11th Volume that ends with the article GÖKÇINAR, was printed lastly in 1973, two years before Koçu’s death. Until recently it has been thought that Reşad Ekrem Koçu could not finish the encyclopedia, however the rest of it has been unearthed a while ago. When it will be published, an important gap in Turkish culture would be filled as well.
Being a rare expression of a writer’s love to his city, The Encyclopedia of Istanbul, even in its unfinished form, is as rich, complex and beautiful as Istanbul itself.