FIRST PRINTED OTTOMAN PRIMER
INTRODUCTION TO MODERN PEDAGOGICAL APPROACH IN THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
HISTORY OF IDEAS
Kayserili Mehmed Rüşdü also Rüşdi
[Nuhbetü’l-etfâl / [Could be approx. translated to:] Excellence of Children’s Learning]
Istanbul: Ressam Necib Efendi’nin Litoğrafya Destgâhı 1273 [1857, date on the last text page], 1274 [1858, date in words in imprint on the last text page and on the fronz wrapper].
Large 8°, 68 pp. lithographed text with blank page after the front wrapper probably counting as p. 1, original illustrated pink wrappers, yellow sheet with printed instructions and black cut outs bound after the last page, bookseller’s stamp on the title page, later black linen boards with embossed decoration and gold lettering, black goat spine (mispagination pp. 9-10 numbered as 4-5, p. 13 as 8, p. 30 as 29, slightly age-toned and stained, mostly in margins, restorations to the front wrapper with repaired loss of paper in margins, but overall in a good used condition).
A milestone of children’s education in the Ottoman Empire – the first printed Ottoman primer and the first primer with modern educational methods for teachers.
This is the first printed primer in Ottoman language, which also for the first time includes special Old Turkish characters, various types of scripts, diverse texts, such as children’s stories, and various modern teaching methods. The primer was juxtaposed to traditional ABC books of the Ottoman Empire, which were made in Arabic language and only focused on the Quran.
The book for the first time increases the number of letters of the alphabet from 29 to 35, by including the Ottoman characters. Already in the introduction the author points out the importance of the Ottoman letters, until then not taught in schools, for everyday words such as “money, orange, bed sheet, socks, dragon, good news”.
The book was originally written for teachers, in order to educate them in modern pedagogical methods. The text gives educators advices, how to introduce various subjects to children and how to explain the parts, that are harder to learn. These new methods were supposed to encourage children to approach reading with pleasure and develop curiosity for further knowledge.
This first modern primer was printed and drafted in a new, untraditional style, invented by the author. With the lithographed multiplying technique and a new pedagogical approach it could not be more different from the traditional Elifbas – primers used by religious schools – which encouraged children to memorize first sentences and then the whole passages from the Quran, without a sufficient understanding of the Arabic language and without any encouragement to read texts, non-related to the Holy Book (please see our previous item).
Nuhbetü’l-etfâl was later described as “a revolution in the instruction of reading and writing and the creation of a progressive professional mentality” (Aziz Berker, Türkiyede lk Öretim, 1839–1908 (Ankara: Millî Eitim Basmevi, 1945), p. 135, cit from: Fortna, B.. Learning to Read in the Late Ottoman Empire and the Early Turkish Republic . Palgrave Macmillan UK).
The first book in Ottoman language, that made a step in this modern direction was a text book Kitab iftitah al-qira’at (Introduction to Reading), a pamphlet published anonymously in Izmir in 1264 AH (1848 AD), which introduced children to spoken and written Ottoman, Arabic and Persian.
Nuhbetü’l-etfâl became a milestone in the Ottoman Empire, encouraging publications of further modern educational books in colloquial Old Turkish language.
In 1869, the Ottoman State opened a competition for textbook compositions and in 1870 Rehnüma-yi muallimin- isbyan (Guide for Teachers of Elementary Pupils), written by Selim Sabit Efendi, won. The book became highly influential in the Ottoman education and was followed shortly after by Elifba-y Osmanî (Ottoman Primer), written by the same author. This Ottoman Primer, partly based on traditional Arabic Elifbas, was published for the next decades in various versions and formats.
Not much is known about the author Mehmed Rüşdi (Rüşdü) except that he was recorded as a medical doctor at the Imperial Medical School.
Our example od the book is accompanied with a rare educational sheet, printed on yellow paper and bound after the last page. The student was supposed to cut out black fields and put the yellow stencil over the text, to separate letters and lines from the content as a part of the learning procedure.
Note on Rarity and Collation
We could trace 4 examples on Worldcat (Library of Congress, University of California Los Angeles, Universität Marburg, Leiden University Libraries). It is possible that more examples are listed, but it is difficult, as always with Ottoman books, to find them due to variations in spelling.
A facsimile was published in 1981.
There were at least two versions of the first edition, dated in 1857, differing by their decoration on the first and last page, minor changes in text (including differently written imprint, but with same text, on the last page) and the collation. The second version included some mispagination, and small correction in the text, mostly in the direction of clearer shapes of letters. The first five pages in the first version remained unnumbered.
Our edition is the second version of the first edition.
One should be careful about the collation, as the examples on the market, that we have encountered, tend to lack the first four text pages, bound in before the title page, which remained unnumbered in the first version.
The bibliography of Ottoman prints, Özege, wrongly quotes the pagination as 7 + 68 pp.
References: OCLC 604053028, 652963798, 811825040, 69386375. ÖZEGE 15546. Cf.: Fortna, B.. Learning to Read in the Late Ottoman Empire and the Early Turkish Republic . Palgrave Macmillan UK, Kindle Version; Tarık Aksoy ve Zeki Gürel, Türkçe ilk alfabe kitabı Nuhbetü’l Etfâl’de Türkçe öğretim metodu ve günümüzdeki bazı uygulamalar. Abant İzzet Baysal Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Dergisi, 2008, 2(17) pp.19-29.