The Turkish Academy, Güler Doan Avrbek, discovered the existence of the Mathnawi “Layla and Majnun” in the German capital Berlin, a manuscript written by the Turkish calligrapher Hamdallah Hamdi (1436-1520), who is considered the founder of the Turkish calligraphy school.
Masnawi poetry is a form of poetry in which the rhymes of the rhymes are equal to every verse, in contrast to the traditional poetry in which the rhymes of the verses of the entire poem coincide.
The manuscript of “Layla and Majnun” belongs to Praise be to God Hamdi, the younger son of Aq Shams al-Din, the teacher of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror.
Masnavi was found by the Turkish academy, Güler Doan Avrbek, a faculty member at Istanbul Medinet University, while doing research at the German National Library last year.
In statements to “Anatolia”, Averbek said that she accidentally stumbled upon the book of Sheikh Hamdallah, while she was reviewing some Turkish writing works at the National University of Berlin.
Afrbak talked about the story of finding the manuscript by saying, “These works are kept in cardboard boxes without using any acids. When I turned the first pages of the work, I saw the words Layla and Majnun in the sheikh’s handwriting, written by hand.”
“This is something that specialists in the history of calligraphy know,” she explained. “When the sheikh’s calligraphy is said, it is meant by Sheikh Hamdallah and no one else.”
She added that she felt very excited when she saw this work, and that she asked Professor Ugur Derman, an expert in calligraphy, as he assured her that the result of his examination of the work proved that it was written by Sheikh Hamdallah.
She pointed out that the calligrapher, Muhammad Azochai, said that “the level of the line and its technical characteristics prove that it is the line of Sheikh Hamdallah.”
On the path of Sheikh Hamdallah
Averbek continued by saying that “a CT scan was performed on the book, and the work does not bear any traces of other people’s signatures.”
She pointed out that “Sheikh Hamdallah is the founder of the Turkish calligraphy school and he is the calligrapher of the fifteenth century, and the great calligraphers who came after him followed his path.”
She explained that “Sheikh Hamdallah copied many Qur’ans and Arabic literary works, and that it was not known to have reproduced any literary work in the Turkish language, which gives this work additional importance.”
On the importance of revealing this work, Averbek said, “This year marks the 500th anniversary of the death of Sheikh Hamdallah. We were unable to bring the same work to Istanbul, but a replica of it was published this month by the Presidency of the Turkish Literary Antiquities Authority.”
“Those who want can see the work,” she added, expressing her happiness because it was the reason for this work in the history of Turkish art.
She also explained that the work was written between 1499 and 1500 in Istanbul, and it is believed that someone asked Sheikh Hamdallah to reproduce it.
She pointed out that “it is clear that the work was written to present it to the Sultan or a senior statesman, meaning that it is possible that the work was prepared for the palace, but it is not known whether it was presented to the palace or not.”
With regard to the return of work to Turkey, Averbek said that there are no records indicating that the work was registered in any of the national libraries, and in that case it must be brought to Turkey.
On the arrival of the work to this day in good condition, she said, “It is clear that the people who transferred the work, knew that it was for Sheikh Hamdallah, and therefore they kept it very well.”
And she continued, “Sheikh Hamdallah was a famous calligrapher in his time as well. The work bore 4 different seals, which means that its ownership was transferred between 4 people, and they preserved it well because it belongs to Sheikh Hamad Allah.”
Averbeck stated that “the book consists of 240 pages, and that it entered the state library in Berlin in 1980, but it is not known how it arrived in Germany, and how it entered the state library.”
She thanked the State Library in Berlin for the opportunity to study and audit the work, and the Turkish Literary Works Authority to make an exact copy of “Leila and Majnun.”
She pointed out that “there are many works and literary monuments that need to be examined and scrutinized. Therefore, researchers must be supported to uncover these works.”
It is worth noting that Averbek had found and published a missing collection of the 16th-century historian Shukri Al-Batlisi, and discovered the oldest Ottoman titling document in Berlin.
Scrolls in Germany
The largest collection of oriental manuscripts in Germany is housed in the Berlin Library, which was founded in 1661 by the Prussian King Frederick Willem I who established colonies in Africa and gave an order to purchase Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Ethiopian, Coptic, Hindi and Chinese manuscripts as a natural complement to these commercial and colonial ambitions.
The Arabic manuscripts were not obtained from a single source, and historians note the enormous number of Arabic manuscripts that the German library acquired in a short period of time between 1852 and 1887.
And because the fair budget of the libraries was not sufficient to buy or obtain these expensive items, it needed help from the Prussian king, who provided support for this.
The second of these libraries is located in the state of Bavaria in Munich, and it currently owns 4,200 Islamic manuscripts, and it began through the group of orientalist and humanist Johann Albrecht Wiedmannsteter (1506-1557), who worked as a diplomat and consultant in Arab circles, and was especially famous for his early publication of the Holy Qur’an that includes the German library Copies of his old collection.
The library also included holdings from the spoils of wars between the European powers and the Ottoman Empire, and the library later included 60 manuscripts donated by two doctors to the Khedive of Egypt, between them Clot Bey to the Royal Library.
In addition, the German library bought expensive holdings from the French orientalist Etienne Marc Cuatmiri, and a collection of 157 Arabic manuscripts from Yemen, according to Sticker, professor of Islamic studies in the Department of Oriental Studies at Friedrich Schiller University.
The number of oriental and Islamic manuscripts grew strongly in the second half of the twentieth century due to the role of the Munich librarian, as one of them was particularly interested in copies of the Qur’an, and the library currently contains 179 complete copies or part of the Holy Qur’an.