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INCUNABLE OF OTTOMAN LITHOGRAPHY: مذكره ضابطان [Officer’s Notes]


A rare manual for officers is the fifth and the last book, printed in the first Istanbul lithographic press, run by a Frenchmen Henri Cayol on the premises of the Ministry of War for only five years. It was written by the main patron of this new technique, the statesman and admiral Koca Hüsrev Mehmed Pasha.


8°: [6 pp.] blank and title pages, 67 pp. lithographed text with one plate, folding plate, contemporary binding with marbled boards and black calf spine with gilt decoration, original blue endpapers (light foxing and staining, light water staining in the inner lower corners, possibly made immediately after the printing, before binding (similar stains appear on other copy on the market), circa 22 tiny, pin size holes going throughout the book including the binding, binding with small scratches and minor wear on the edges, old annotations in purple on the rear endpapers, otherwise in a good condition).

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A rare lithographed manual for the Ottoman officers was printed in the first Istanbul-based lithographic press as a fifth and possibly last book, before the printer moved to the new location and enlarged the workshop.

It was written by an admiral and statesman Koca Hüsrev Mehmed Pasha (1769 – 1855), who was in charge of the modernisation of the Ottoman army, based on the Western examples. In 1826, Hüsrev Pasha played a vital row in the disbandment of the Jannissary corps (the Auspicious Incident) and in the formation of the new Ottoman army, a so called Mansure army.

With a goal to modernize the new Ottoman army, Hüsrev Pasha assembled a staff of foreign advisors and experts. A part of this new program was also a military press, which would produce manuals and illustrated books for the education of the Ottoman officers.

Hoca Hüsrev Pasha, with no doubt under advice of the central European stuff, decided to introduce to Istanbul a press with a relatively new printing technique of lithography, until then practically unknown in the Ottoman Empire.

Possibly only 5 books were produced in this first Istanbul-based lithographic press, which existed for five years at its original location on the premisses of the Ministry of War. All the pamphlets were manuals on modern military skills, printed on fine, sometimes colour paper, in limited editions.

A Brief History of the Lithography in the Islamic World

The Istanbul lithographic press by Henri Cayol, founded in 1831, is one of the first presses of such kind in the Muslim world and was possibly only preceded by the Bulaq and Calcutta presses.

Lithography was introduced to the Islamic World in the second and third decade of the 19th century. Although much more appropriate for reproducing a hand-written text and calligraphy of the Arabic script than movable type, lithography was often frowned upon as a cheap technique, and was only slowly replacing the letterpress.

Possibly the first press to introduce lithography to the Islamic world was the Bulaq press in Egypt, under the influence from France and Italy. The first mentioning of a lithographic workshop at the Bulaq press in Egypt is that by an American traveller G. B. English, who saw a lithographed newspaper in Italian and Arabic, made by the School of Engineering in 1822 (A Narrative of the Expedition to Dongola and Sennaar, London 1822, p. viii. In: Hsu Cheng Hsiang, The first Thirty Years of Arabic Printing in Egypt 1238-1267, 1822-1851, p. 57).

Books, made in the early years of the Bulaq press, would often use the technology of lithograph for illustrations in printed books on the subjects of the military science and mathematics. The first known lithographed book, issued other than the Bulaq press, was made in 1832 at the School of Medicine in Cairo (established in 1827).

The first lithographic press in Persia was brought from Tiflis in 1821, but the first recorded book, The Quran, was only published in 1832/1833.

The first Muslim books, produced in the technique of lithography in Asia, were published in India under the influence of East India Company, who brought lithographic presses to Calcutta in 1823, yet the first book was not issued until 1827.

Henry Cayol – the First Lithographer of Istanbul

In Istanbul, Hüsrev Pasha’s lithographic press at the Ministry of War from 1831 under the leadership of Henri Cayol, with its first book produced in the same year, was one of the first functional lithographic presses in the Islamic World, after the Bulaq (1822) and Indian presses (1827).

The new Pasha’s printer and lithographer was Henri Cayol, a lawyer from Marseille, who opened the lithographic press together with his cousin Jacques Cayol. The modern printing equipment was imported from Paris.

The lithographic press was running in the building of the Ministry of War from 1831, when they published this first book, titled Nukhbat al-talim [The Elite Education], with 79 charts representing for training the battalions, to 1836, when Hürsev Pasha was removed from the office. During these 5 years, 50 soldiers were trained by Cayol at the press to learn the technique of lithography.

In 1836, Henri Cayol, still under Hürsev Pasha’s wing, opened a lithographic press near the French Embassy, where he worked until his death from cholera in 1865. Cayol’s work was continued by his apprentice Antonije Zelić, a Croatian, born in Brela, Dalmatia in 1820, who moved to Istanbul 1840 for economic reasons. After learning the craft of lithography from his teacher, Zelić opened his own shop in 1855.

The lithography in Istanbul was scarce and expensive to make, as the stones had to be imported until 1892, when they discovered appropriate stone south of Istanbul. More common, especially for the religious prints was much cheaper photolithography.

Note on Condition

The binding was possibly made in the circle of the Cayol’s lithograph shop, as it resembles the bindings of other Cayol’s books. The blue endpapers are made from the same paper as it was used in Cayol’s first lithographed book Tabur talimi, printed in 1247 [1831].

Note on Rarity

The book is very rare and was possibly only printed in limited edition for the higher ranks of the Ottoman army.

We could only find one institutional example on Worldcat (Hungarian Academy of Sciences Library).

The only other example, which we could trace on the market, was bound in the same binding and had similar water-staining in the inner part of the lower margin, which suggest, that the books were exposed to the water after being printed. The endpapers and the binding are not water-stained.

References: OCLC 1014785357. Selim Nüzhet GERÇEK, Türk Taş Basmacılığı, İstanbul Devlet Basımevi 1939.

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