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culture

Ottomans' silver marks brought back to life in Kurkman's book

كتب : 30/10/2010 23:39:25


The book presents readers with a luxurious volume and a dynamic manual for the study of Ottoman silverware as well as its coinage

A book by Garo Kurkman which has been recently republished with the support of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce (İTO) brings the tradition of silver marks and tughras, monograms of sultans in stylized script, to light.

For centuries, during the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, it was obligatory for gold and silver wares to be assayed and stamped at the state's mint. These marks are cataloged in the book, titled “Ottoman Silver Marks.” The book contains a complete list of the tughra marks of the sultans and other silver marks.

During the Ottoman era, the Darphane (mint) served as an institution to control the distribution of precious metals by testing the purity of the gold and silver used to fashion precious objects and strike coins. An official stamp guaranteeing the purity, usually 90 percent for silver, accompanied by the monogram signature (tughra) of the reigning sultan was stamped on all precious metalwork.

The marking was done by a special assay office in the Ottoman mint. This practice was virtually unknown in other Islamic dynasties, and the Ottoman Empire was the first Islamic state to make use of this practice. The system of silver marks began in the reign of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror just after the conquest of İstanbul in 1453. In his noteworthy book, Kurkman presents readers with a luxurious volume and a dynamic manual for the study of Ottoman silverware as well as its coinage.

The book is an accumulation of research launched decades ago by Kurkman whose interest and expertise in numismatics goes back to his youth. His study, which is abundantly illustrated with beautiful photographs of luxurious metal objects, stands as the first systematic one on Ottoman assay marks and silver stamps, both religious and secular.

Kurkman says in the preface of the book that lack of publications on Ottoman silver marks forced him to prepare such a work to bring together his years-long research, which he first published in 1996. Kurkman says in the book that foreign silver materials, which were made specifically for the Ottomans and brought to the empire, had to be sent to the Darphane to be marked with Ottoman marks.

So, he says, Ottoman marks along with foreign marks can both be found on some materials. Kurkman's book also contains individual town marks and maker's marks.

"Golden ink"

During the Ottoman Empire, every sultan had a unique tughra. Although the tughra of a sultan could have some minor changes due to the various masters who made it, the basic parts of the tughra -- the text written and the order of the words -- did not change. Although the tughras of all sultans appeared to be similar, they were in fact different as to their content and style.

It is interesting to note that many of the earlier sultans' signatures are done in black ink, whereas in later examples, these signatures, called “tughra” in Turkish, are done in golden ink.

The peak of power and magnificence experienced by the Ottoman state during the 16th century is reflected quite visibly in the signatures from this period; there are dark blues and golds done in careful balance, flowery designs and spirally decorations called “Halic isi” on the signatures.

"Always the victorious"

Although the first known tughra dates back to the 14th century, the reign of Orhan Gazi, it was during the time of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror when calligraphers began designing more artistic tughras for the sultans. From this time on, the sultans also began adding some other titles before their names such as han, muzaffer (victorious), el-muzaffer daima (always the victorious) and sah (shah).

The title “muzaffer” is seen to first be used by Mahmut II, and the title “muzaffer daima” was used between the reigns of Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror and Süleyman the Magnificent, while “el-muzaffer daima” was used between the rule of Selim II and that of Mehmet VI.

Some tughras also include mahlas, or nicknames, of the sultans. However, nicknames are more frequently seen on coins.

CHA

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