Panorama de Constantinople

The library recently acquired a rare photographic panorama of Istanbul, titled Panorama de Constantinople Pris de la Tour du Galata. The panorama was made in the 1870s or 1880s by J. Pascal Sebah, a leading commercial photographer in Istanbul whose studio was renowned for its views and portraits of subjects in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East.

The French-language title, referring to the city by its former name of Constantinople, rather than Istanbul, and the elaborate binding indicate that the panorama was designed for the European tourist trade. The photograph itself was taken from the top of the fourteenth-century Galata Tower, located in a suburb across the Golden Horn from the historic city. At the time, the city was still the capital of the Ottoman Empire but was becoming increasingly connected with its European neighbors.

Composed of ten separate albumen photographs that unfold to form a view of Istanbul more than ten feet long, the panorama highlights popular sites such as the Hagia Sophia, the Suleiman Mosque, and the Golden Horn. It is a remarkable survey of the geography of the city, recording its state before the onset of a century of dramatic change.

Panorama de Constantinople complements another recent acquisition: a large collection of books and periodicals from nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Turkey, documenting Turkish society and culture during the final years of Ottoman rule and the transition to a modern, secular Turkish state. The collection, which includes many rare materials in both Ottoman Turkish and modern Turkish, will provide a significant resource for research in Islamic Studies.

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