During the last years I have sprodically written about the various surprises of early Arabic and Ottoman printed books and particularly the vast differences in pagination, spelling, and even content between copies that ought to be identical if one was to believe the information on the cover or the metadata provided by library catalogues (on this blog: here, here, and here). This post is a first attempt to summarise my findings on the publication history of the first series (tertib-i evvel) of Düstur, the officially sanctioned collection of Ottoman laws and regulations, published in Istanbul between 1872 and 1879.

I discovered that, contrary to my expectations, libraries around the world hold numerous unmarked editions and print-runs of tertib-i evvel of Düstur. Copies vary in pagination, spelling, and content. Yet, neither the people I asked nor the scholarly works citing copies of Düstur, seem to be aware of significant differences between copies of the same volume—which is not too unexpected an outcome when one considers that most scholars would not consult more than a single copy of every work at a single library; and once you read and / or copied a work, you would not consult another copy at another library with the explicit purpose of comparing the two for dissimilarities. I had also noted that an 1891 index to the first series of Düstur1 does not contain any information on divergent print-runs and editions.

In consequence, it is almost impossible to confirm references found in scholarly literature. Over the past years I had come to consider the many seemingly wrong references provided, for instance, by the two foremost contemporaneous French translations of Ottoman laws by Aristarchi2 and Young3 as, well, erroneous references caused by careless printers, copy-editors, even the translators themselves. But as it stands, they could have just used a different copy than the one available to me.

To illustrate the issue, I had quickly built a simple website providing imagery for different versions of the table of contents of the first, third, and fourth volume of tertib-i evvel of Düstur.

As I could not readily find any concordance or works dealing with this issue (which by the way also pertains to nineteenth-century Arabic monthly journals), I wondered whether anybody on various mailing lists could point me to relevant information. Düstur was the official collection of Ottoman legal texts at the time and the differences between the various print-runs had potentially grave consequences. Yet, to my surprise (again) almost nobody in the scholarly community of Ottomanists seemed to be aware of these puzzling divergences and no reply had any answers to offer.

The first volume of Düstur, tertib-i evvel4

In late 2012, I had had access to what I thought were four different copies of volume 1 of tertib-i evvel of Düstur. Two were held at the Hakki Tarık Us Collection (HTU) at the Beyazit Devlet Kütüphanesi5, and one each at the University of California, Berkeley and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London. I grouped these four copies into two editions, based on the substantial differences in both layout and content. I further subdivided the second edition into three print-runs, which differ in spelling and printing errors (for the lack of a better term). Safa Saraçoğlu of Bloomsburg University, PA, solved at least part of the riddle in early 2013. He pointed out via email that, before Düstur became a series from 1872 onwards, three independent volumes were published under the same title of Düstūr in 18516, 18637, and 18668. Hence, what I thought of as the first edition of the first volume of the first series (tertib-i evvel) of Düstur turned out to be the 1863 volume7. Nevertheless, the issue remains that there are at least three print-runs of the first volume that differ in spelling and printing errors. Two of them are availabe online: one at HTU and the UC Berkeley copy through HathiTrust (if one has an American IP, that is). A fourth copy is available through the digital collections of Türk Büyük Millet Meclisi Kütüphanesi Açık Erişim Koleksiyonu (TBMM) but I have not yet checked it against the other three.

Page 3 of the HTU copy

Page 3 of the UC Berkeley copy

Page 3 of the SOAS copy

The second volume9

I have currently three digital copies of the second volume of tertib-i evvel of Düstur: from [HTU], UC Berkeley, and TBMM. In addition, I have seen the physical copy at SOAS. The difference in the shape of the number 6 (or rather “٦”) and the different font width in the UC Berkeley copy indicate two independently type-set print-runs. Pagination is seemingly identical.

Page 3 of the UC Berkeley copy

Page 3 of the HTU, SOAS, and TBMM copies

The third volume10

There are at least two editions or print-runs of the third volume of tertib-i evvel of Düstur that differ in spelling and a marginally different page layout. The first can be found at SOAS and HTU and the second at UC Berkeley and TBMM.

Page 5 of the SOAS and HTU copies

Page 5 of the UC Berkeley and TBMM copies

The fourth volume11

At a workshop on Ottoman municipalities at the Istanbul Şerhir Üniversitesi in November 2015, I finally met Safa Saraçoğlu in person. We had long and interesting discussions on Ottoman legal history, digitisation efforts, and translations of Ottoman legislation into the various languages of the empire. We also shamelessly shared our private copies of Ottoman texts, among them Mīltiyādī Ḳārāvokīros’s Ottoman legal dictionary. To my surprise, the entry on expropriation of real-estate (istimlāk) references two print-runs of the fourth volume of the first series of Düstur with different paginations.12 According to this entry, among the copies I have seen, the one at SOAS would have originated in the first print-run, while those at Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (SBB) and TBMM are part of the second print-run.

Page 2 of the SOAS copy

Page 2 of the SBB and TBMM copies

  1. Ḳaraḳoç, Sarkiz. Miftāḥ-i Ḳavānīn-i ʿOŝmāniye. Der-i Saʿādet: Maḥmūd Bey Maṭbaʿası, 1309 aH [1891]. 

  2. Aristarchēs, Grēgorios Bey. Législation Ottomane, Ou Recueil des Lois, Réglements, Ordonnances, Traités, Capitulations et Autres Documents Officiels de L’Empire Ottoman. Edited by Dēmētrios Nikolaides. Vol.1-7. Constantinople: Imprimerie Frères Nicolaides / Bureau du Journal Thraky, 1873–88. 

  3. Young, George. Corps de Droit Ottoman: Recueil des Codes, Lois, Règlements, Ordonnances et Actes les Plus Importants du Droit Intérieur, et D’Études Sur le Droit Coutumier de L’Empire Ottoman. Vol.I-VII. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905–06. 

  4. N.N. Düstur: Kavanin Ve Nizamat Ve Muahedat Ile Umuma Ait Mukavelat Ve Iradat-i Seniyeyi Muhtevidir. Vol.1 Tertip I. Der-i Saʿādet: Maṭbaʿa-yi ʿĀmire, 1289 aH [1872]. 

  5. Large parts of this collection were digitised in a cooperation with the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. 

  6. N.N. Düstūr. Vol.[1]. [Der-i Saʿādet]: Taḳvīmḫāne-yi ʿĀmire, 15 Rab II 1267 aH [17 Feb. 1851]. 

  7. N.N. Düstur: Ḳavānīn Ve Niẓāmātıñ Münderic Olduġu Mecmūʿa. Vol.[2]. Der-i Saʿādet: Maṭbaʿa-yi ʿĀmire, Shaʿ 1279 aH [Feb. 1863]. This volume is available online from the Hakkı Tarık Us Collection, where it is wrongly catalogued as volume four of the first series 2

  8. N.N. Düstur: Ḳavānīn Ve Niẓāmātıñ Münderic Olduġu Mecmūʿa. Vol.[3]. Der-i Saʿādet: Maṭbaʿa-yi ʿĀmire, 1866. 

  9. N.N. Düstur: Kavanin Ve Nizamat Ve Muahedat Ile Umuma Ait Mukavelat Ve Iradat-i Seniyeyi Muhtevidir. Vol.2 Tertip I. Der-i Saʿādet: Maṭbaʿa-yi ʿĀmire, 1289 aH [1872]. 

  10. N.N. Düstur: Kavanin Ve Nizamat Ve Muahedat Ile Umuma Ait Mukavelat Ve Iradat-i Seniyeyi Muhtevidir. Vol.3 Tertip I. Der-i Saʿādet: Maṭbaʿa-yi ʿĀmire, 1289 aH [1876]. 

  11. N.N. Düstur: Kavanin Ve Nizamat Ve Muahedat Ile Umuma Ait Mukavelat Ve Iradat-i Seniyeyi Muhtevidir. Vol.4 Tertip I. Der-i Saʿādet: Maṭbaʿa-yi ʿĀmire, 1295 aH [1879]. 

  12. Ḳārāvokīros, Mīltiyādī. Lüġat Ḳavānīn-i ʿOŝmāniye. Istānbūl: “A. Aṣādūriyān” Şereket-i Mürettebe Maṭbaʿası, 1310 R [1894/95], p.79