By , February 22, 2010

University of Chicago Library Resources for Ottoman and Turkish Studies

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies works closely with the Middle East Bibliographer and the Library Director to ensure that the University of Chicago’s collection of Turkish language holdings will continue to be recognized as one of the largest and finest in North America. The University’s Regenstein Library houses some 6,000,000 volumes in the humanities and social sciences, including approximately 2,800,000 volumes in its area studies collections. The Middle East Collection consists of more than 286,000 volumes of monographs, serials, and documents in Turkish, Arabic, Persian, and other languages, covering every field of the social sciences and humanities and constituting one of the world’s pre-eminent collections of books, serials, and work in microformat on Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. Virtually the entire corpus of North American and European scholarship on the Middle East and the Islamic World is represented as well.

Fundamental to the broad range of teaching and research activities in Turkish studies at the University of Chicago have been the resources of the Middle East Department of Regenstein Library. The vernacular holdings of the Middle East Collection include approximately 56,000 volumes in Ottoman and modern Turkish. Over the years the Library’s Middle East Department has made every effort to maintain and improve its Ottoman and Turkish holdings. Our purchases of Turkish materials have been in two areas: first, we have purchased older materials when possible in order to fill gaps in our existing Turkish collection; and secondly, we have maintained a blanket order with booksellers in Turkey to enable us to acquire a wide variety of recently published materials.

In addition, the Middle East Department has committed itself to a number of projects concerned specifically with the collection and preservation of Ottoman materials which are a valuable part of the heritage of Turkish intellectual life. Many of these are unfortunately now in danger of being lost, due to physical deterioration, if not preserved in some alternate form. Out of concern that these valuable resources not disappear, the Middle East Department embarked in 1983 upon a project the dual purpose of which was: 1) to assemble and preserve valuable Ottoman research materials, many of which are rapidly deteriorating; and 2) to make these materials readily available on microfiche (or film) to other research institutions and scholars at a minimal price. Although the value of this project, in terms of preserving resources for both present and future generations of Ottoman scholars, has far outweighed its monetary cost, it has nevertheless been an expensive program to maintain. Purchase prices of Ottoman books are high, and locating copies abroad is time-consuming and difficult. Furthermore, when a copy is located, purchase is usually made long-distance, without physical inspection. As a result, many Ottoman books in our collection and in those of other American libraries are imperfect, with pages or sections missing. As part of our preservation effort, we began the painstaking acquisition of Ottoman materials to replace incomplete or damaged volumes, in order to assemble complete works for preservation by microfiching or filming. In addition, we are cooperating with other research libraries in the United States, including the Library of Congress, to pool our Ottoman resources for this and similar preservation projects in the interest of saving as much as possible of all our Ottoman holdings before age and deterioration make preservation impossible. Chicago’s collection of Ottoman primary materials in microformat is now the world’s largest. It includes all works published on the Müteferrika Press, all published divans of Ottoman poetry, all Vakanüvis histories, a complete set of Devlet Salnames, an extensive collection of provincial Salnames, all issues of the Resmi Gazetesi, numerous other Ottoman newspapers, and a variety of other materials. Scholars and researchers from throughout the United States and abroad have been encouraged to visit the University of Chicago and make use of this extraordinary body of Ottoman resources. There is perhaps no more convincing testament to the University of Chicago’s on-going commitment to Ottoman and Turkish studies than its superb library collections and research facilities.

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