Printing in Armeno-Turkish


This is a chapter from “Celebrating the Legacy of Five Centuries of Armenian-Language Book Printing, 1512-2012” (pp. 18-19) by Ara Sanjian of Armenian Research Center, University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Some books were printed in foreign languages, but in the Armenian script – mostly for Armenian readers, who had ceased using Armenian as their mother tongue and adopted the languages of their neighbors or the imperial powers under which they lived.

The first such example was an Armeno-Kipchak prayer book printed by the priest Hovhannes Karmatanents in Lvov, then part of Poland, in 1618. Kipchak was the language of the Tatars, and the Armenians for whom this book was printed had migrated to Poland from the neighboring Tatar khanate of Crimea.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, a few books — again overwhelmingly religious in character — were printed in Armeno-Kurdish for Armenians living in their homeland, close to Kurds, in the Ottoman Empire’s eastern provinces.

However, most books in this category are in Armeno-Turkish. The first such book was printed by Abbot Mkhitar in Venice in 1727. Thereafter, about 2,000 volumes were published in Armeno-Turkish in the next 260 years in about 50 different cities. Until the 1820s, Armeno-Turkish book-printing was carried out largely either in Constantinople or by the Mkhitarists in Venice, Trieste, and Vienna. Then, these centers were also joined by American missionaries, first in Malta and then in Smyrna. Indeed, up to the 1840s, most Armeno-Turkish printed books were either religious in character or were intended for language instruction.

From the 1850s, during the Tanzimat era, Constantinople forged ahead to be the undisputed center of Armeno-Turkish book-publishing as well. Not only did the quantity of Armeno-Turkish books printed every year increase, their topics also became varied, including translations of French and English classics. During the Abdülhamid II era, the number of Armeno-Turkish books printed also declined, and the topics they covered were restricted due to heavy censorship. However, Constantinople’s leading position in this domain was not affected, as there was no challenge from Tiflis on this occasion – printing in Armeno-Turkish being almost exclusively an Ottoman Armenian tradition.

After the 1915 genocide, survivors carried the habit of printing in Armeno-Turkish to their new host cities, especially Aleppo and Beirut, but also, albeit to a lesser extent, to Cairo, Jerusalem, Buenos Aires, Marseille, New York, and Los Angeles. However, with the speaking of Turkish among the Armenians gradually dying out, the last Armeno-Turkish book was printed in Buenos Aires in 1968.

Between 1840 and 1947 about 100 periodicals also appeared in Armeno-Turkish. Some of these had parallel Armenian or Ottoman Turkish sections, and a few were Ottoman official provincial publications. Up to the First World War, more than half of these periodicals were issued in Constantinople, and a fewer number, in Adana, Antep, other Armenian-inhabited locations in the Ottoman Empire, Varna, and Egypt. In the post-genocide Diaspora, Armeno-Turkish periodicals survived until the late 1940s in Aleppo, Beirut, Jerusalem, Cairo, Marseille and the United States.

Read more