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Analyzing Ayvansarâyî’s Encyclopedia of Ottoman Istanbul Using Digital Methods

Blog Post: Abdullah Seçgin, The Manuscript Institution of Turkey

The studies prepared using methods employed in digital humanities are increasingly on the rise. In this context, programs based on Geographic Information Systems like ArcGIS are highly useful tools for visualizing historical data and conducting spatial analysis. This blog post will focus on a study conducted as a Master's thesis by the author of this blog post, regarding Hüseyin Ayvansarâyî's work titled Hadîkatü’l-Cevâmi‘. The study involves the mapping of the architectural inventory and relevant data within the work using ArcGIS.

Completed in 1195/1780-81, the work primarily focuses on mosques and masjids of Istanbul in addition to mektebs, fountains, tombs, madrasas, hammams, dervish lodges, sebils, etc., and often mentions these structures alongside their constructors and patrons. With over 2000 structures discussed in total, Ayvansarâyî systematically lists mosques and masjids, presenting them alphabetically within the city walls. Subsequently, he expands his focus to the northern and southern shores of the historical peninsula, as well as the areas just outside Theodosius' walls. He then moves on toEyüp along with places like DavudPaşa, Vidoz, Alibeyköy, Sadabad, Kağıthane, and Karaağaç in its vicinity. The narrative progresses through Hasköy and Kasımpaşa, and then covering structures both within and outside the Galata walls, continuing through Tophane and Beşiktaş and completing the journey along the northern shores of the Bosporus on theRumelian side.

On the Anatolian side of the Bosporus, the account begins in Üsküdar, moving south and east within Üsküdar’s domain, then northward and ending at Anadolukavağı. Within this framework, the mentioned locations in the work can be categorized into nine main regions: the walled city, Eyüp, the environs of Eyüp, Galata, the environs of Galata I (Hasköy - Kasımpaşa), the environs of Galata II (Tophane - Kavak Kalesi), Üsküdar, the environs of ÜsküdarI (Haydarpaşa - Kısıklı), and the environs of ÜsküdarII (Istavroz - Anadolukavağı).

Figure 1: Classification of the districts as nine regions.

This categorization is based on the expressions used for these districts and regions in different manuscript copies of the work. For instance, when Kasımpaşa is mentioned, it is noted that this place is in the sub-districts of Galata, allowing for the inclusion of Kasımpaşa in the environs of Galata.

Figure 2: Kasımpaşa Mosque following the statement “nevâhî-yi Galata”.

Apart from that, one should note that the boundaries on the map are subject to change, as observed in various manuscript copies and publish editions of the work. For example, as shown in the map below, a mosque and a masjid noted to be in Hasköy in the manuscripts are not stated there in the published edition of the work.

Figure 3: Sütlüce Mosque and Kaysûnîzâde Masjid in Hasköy as shown within the circle.

In addition to Ayvansarâyî’s classification of Istanbul, the geolocation of mosques, masjids, and other structures is also crucial in comprehending the distribution of them across the city. Moreover, when considering the construction dates of these structures, it becomes apparent that there is significant building activity during the period when the work was written, especially in Eyüp, Üsküdar, and both sides of the Bosporus. Consequently, it is noticed that the city expands towards these regions during that era.

Figure 4: Mosques and masjids on the Anatolian shore of the Bosporus (28 out of 29).

The work offers the accounts of 875 mosques and masjids, with the highest numbers found in the walled city (534), followed by Üsküdar (79), Eyüp (46), and Kasımpaşa (44). Apart from that, there are also various types of structures other than mosques and masjids, which are as follows: 214 mektebs, 202 fountains, 156 tombs, 122 madrasas, 97 hammams, 83 dervish lodges, 50 sebils, 48 residential structures such as palaces and kiosks, 46 gates, 23 imarets (public kitchen), 21 libraries, 14 khans, 6 tabhanes (hospice) and 5 darüşşifas.

Figure 5: Mosques and masjids in Üsküdar (77 out of 79).

One of the most notable aspects of the work is Ayvansarâyî’s indication of whether the mosques and masjids have a “mahalle” or not. According to the work, there are 519 mosques and masjids that have a mahalle. This number seems relatively high when compared with records and studies about the number of mahalles in Istanbul, which leads researchers to ponder uponAyvansarâyî’s perception of mahalle. In addition, among the regions mentioned in the work, places where the expression “has a mahalle” is more prevalent include The walled city, Eyüp, the environs of Galata I and II, as well as Üsküdar. As for mosques and masjids without mahalles, they are high in number in the environs of Üsküdar I-II.

Figure 6:Mosques and masjids with or without a mahalle in Eyüp (46 out of 46)

Lastly, it is worth pondering that the statements regarding the mahalle of a mosque sometimes vary between the manuscript copies and published editions of the work. For instance, in various copies, the Fâtih Mosque is noted as “it does not have a mahalle,” while in the published edition that includes the add and written by Ali Satı Efendi in 1838, the expression is “it has a mahalle.”Moreover, one can occasionally notice this kind of inconsistency among the manuscript copies as well. Therefore, it is quite important to compare various copies of Hadîka when using it as a source even though the number of these inconsistencies is low in number considering the whole work.

Hadîkatü’l-Cevâmi‘ stands out as a work bearing an encyclopaedical character written in a systematical way with its rich content covering not only mosques and masjids but also various types of structures existing in Istanbul during that era. In this respect, it is a quite valuable source for researchers. Geolocation of these structures and mapping them using digital methods enables us to comprehend Ayvansarâyî's perception of Istanbul and contribute to broader studies on the city's urban fabric.


Abdullah Seçgin, "Mapping Hadîkatü'l-Cevâmi': Reevaluating an encyclopedia of Islamic monuments in the eighteenth century Ottoman Istanbul" (Master Thesis, Marmara University, 2023)

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