The Venetian State Archives (Archivio di Stato di Venezia) has made freely available online one of its most important collections of Ottoman documents. The Venetian State Archives is one of the most important repositories in Europe of archival material related to Ottoman history. While the majority of material related to the Ottoman Empire is only accessible through research on site in Venice, through the auspices of Progetto Divenire, the archive has digitized and made available online a number of its collections, including an important collection of documents concerning relations with the Ottoman Empire (Miscellanea documenti turchi).
The collection now labeled Miscellenea documenti turchi contains some of the most important documents related to the political and diplomatic relations between the Republic of Venice and the Ottoman Empire. While there are other collections within the Venetian Archives which preserve important material pertaining to the relations between these two states, many of the most important imperial letters (name-i hümayun) and treaties (ahdname) issued by Ottoman sultans are preserved among the twenty boxes of documents which comprise Miscellanea documenti turchi. For this reason, many of these documents have been examined and published by prominent Orientalists and Ottomanists of the twentieth century, including Luigi Bonelli, Lajos Fekete, Alessio Bombaci, M. Tayyıp Gökbilgin, Maria Francesca Tiepolo, and Şerafettin Turan. Beginning in the 1940s, Alessio Bombaci was tasked with organizing and cataloging the collection. Although Bombaci developed an inventory of the collection’s fifteenth- and sixteenth-century holdings, he never produced a formal catalog as the difficulties of carrying out the work in the midst of the Second World War proved too great. In the 1980s, Maria Pia Pedani resumed the work of describing the collection and creating a catalog. This work was published in 1994 in a volume entitled I “Documenti turchi” dell’Archivio di Stato di Venezia. In 2006, the Venetian State Archives, in collaboration with the National Council for Research in Florence (Consiglio nazionale delle ricerche di Firenze), began digitizing this collection through Progetto Divenire. Today all of the documents of the Miscellanea documenti turchi are freely available online.
The collection contains 2,022 documents related to the Republic of Venice’s relations with the Ottoman Empire between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. The collection is ordered chronologically with a small number of undated documents added to the end of the collection’s series. Documents n.1-1997 are ordered chronologically and include material produced between 859/1454 and 1252/1837. The majority of these documents are from the tenth/sixteenth century (n. 73-1117), although the collection has considerable material from the eleventh/seventeenth century as well (n. 1118- 1609).
The range of material varies from elaborately produced imperial documents such as official royal correspondence (name-i hümayun) and treaties (ahdname) to short letters and reports written by provincial Ottoman officials, especially in the Balkans. The documenti turchi includes such important rescripts as Selim I’s victory announcement (fethname) in the wake of the Ottoman capture of Kemah and the defeat of ‘Ala al-dawla Dulgadir in 921/1515 (n. 165) and the peace treaty offered by Selim II in 980/1573 which ended hostilities between the Ottomans and Venetians after the battle of Lepanto and the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus (n. 818). For the seventeenth century, the collection has a large number of documents concerning Crete (n. 1334 contains many documents) as well as the Treaty of Karlowitz together with the Ottoman capitulations with the Republic of Venice (n. 1610, dated 1112/1701). In total, the collection has twenty-one treaties with Venice issued by Ottoman sultans.
While the collection’s material is mostly in Ottoman Turkish, there are a fair number of documents issued in other languages including Greek, Italian, and Arabic. Most of the documents are accompanied with contemporary Italian translations or summaries. Particularly interesting is the fair amount of Ottoman imperial correspondence composed in Greek which bears the sultan’s insignia (tuğra). The creation of Ottoman documents in Greek by the central chancery was a relatively common occurrence in the fifteenth century. This is reflected in the holdings of Miscellanea documenti turchi, where all of the Ottoman documents produced during the reign of Sultan Mehmed II (d. 886/1481) were prepared in Greek. The collection’s last rescript issued by a sultan and composed in Greek is Sultan Süleyman’s victory announcement issued for the Hungarian campaign and siege of Vienna in 935/1529 (n. 250).
The collection includes more quotidian material as well. There are many examples of testimony (hüccet) endorsed by Ottoman provincial judges. Moreover there are several surprising inclusions in the collection. For instance, the last document in the series explains the rules of Persian grammar in Arabic verse (n. 2022).
The collection is available at the archive’s website. While the site is in Italian, its simple and logical layout allows users with little knowledge of Italian to navigate it without too much difficulty. Users may browse the documents in order by clicking on the link to any of the individually numbered documents. More importantly, the archive’s website provides an advanced search option (ricerca avanzata, located in the menu bar). Within the advanced search option, select the collection (documenti turchi) and the search criteria under the heading ‘criteria directory’ (elenco criteri). Search criteria range from name of sender or recipient to document origin, destination, type, date, language, and even physical dimensions. In the box below labeled imposta il contenuto da cercare, you may enter your search term. Make certain to select Miscellanea documenti turchi under the reproduced series field (serie riprodotte) before you request the search (effetua la ricerca). The search engine enables users to enter multiple search terms.
Once you have located a document to view, click on its link. The archive’s website is often slow and as the document files are very detailed, this step may take a few seconds. This will bring up the document’s page. In order to access the catalog information as well as view the digitized document, click on the document link on the right-hand side of the page under the heading schede. In order to view the document in a large format in a separate window, click on the screen icon on the upper right of the document viewer. The catalog information for each document is quite detailed and includes information on the document’s sender, recipient, date, location, as well as a short description of the document’s contents.
The open-access digitization of this important collection is a welcome development in our field. Many libraries and archives around the world are turning to digitization as a way to preserve their collections while also make them available to a wider community of scholars and researchers. In an upcoming post, Nir Shafir will examine the implications of these developments for conducting research.
Catalogs and Useful Resources
Archivio di Stato di Venezia. I “documenti turchi” dell’Archivio di Stato di Venezia: inventario della miscellanea a cura di Maria Pia Pedani Fabris; con l’edizione dei regesti di Alessio Bombaci. Rome: Ministero per i beni culturali e ambientali, Uficio centrale per i beni archivistici, 1994.
Inventory of the lettere e scritture Turchesche in the Venetian State Archives. Edited by Maria Pia Pedani; based on materials compiled by Alessio Bombaci. Ledien; Boston: Brill, 2010.
Miscellanea documenti turchi: The open-access digitized documents of the Miscellenea documenti turchi at the Venetian State Archives
State and Information in the Early Modern Mediterranean: A discussion of information gathering and the development of archives in the sixteenth-century Mediterranean at Ottoman History Podcast
Written by Christopher Markiewicz
24 October 2013
Cite this: Christopher Markiewicz, “Venetian State Archives Online: Miscellenea documenti turchi”, HAZİNE, 24 October 2013. http://hazine.info/2013/10/24/venetian-state-archives-online-miscellenea-documenti-turchi/