Write: Hasan Mert Kaya Photos:Ahmet Bilal Arslan
TURGAY EROL IS AN OLD SEAFARING MAN, A MAN AS ATTACHED TO EPHEMERA AND OLD BOOKS AS HE IS TO THE SEA. WE SPOKE WITH HIM ABOUT HIS LOVE OF BOOKS AT THE PUBLISHING COMPANY HE OWNS, WHERE HE SHARES WITH BIBLIOPHILES THE BOOKS HE HAS COLLECTED OVER THE YEARS.
Why do they call you ‘captain’?
My real profession is navigation. When I founded the Denizler Kitabevi (Seas Bookshop) in Beyoğlu in 1993, I started publishing books on the history of navigation as well as other books. When the two came together, my customers decided to call me ‘captain’.
What kind of books excite you?
A book has to be astonishing in some way to excite me. If I discover a book about an unknown period with information that’s been overlooked until now, that excites me and I want to share that excitement. I think it’s very important to discover knowledge and be able to offer anew something that had previously been stowed away on dusty shelves.
How is that excitement conveyed to bibliophiles?
In 2010 I published my book, ‘Istanbul Maps 1422 - 1922’. The book took part as a special guest in the Miami Map Fair held in the U.S. that year and was deemed worthy of the Sedat Simavi Award, one of the most prestigious prizes in Turkish publishing. Prof. Dr. İlber Ortaylı wrote the foreword for the book, which came out in a Turkish-English dual language edition. Then, in 2011, Antoine Ignace Melling’s book, A Picturesque Voyage to Istanbul and the Shores of the Bosphorus, was published in a facsimile edition in three languages, English, French and Turkish, with a foreword by Prof. Dr. Edhem Eldem.
Apart from antiquarian books, what do you find in your research?
The place where I work and keep my books is a special place that was also home to the palace photographer Apollon in the Ottoman period. That’s why old photographs, engravings, postcards and posters are my business. As intellectual hobbies I also take an interest in antiques, handmade ceramic caftans, glassware and maps, and gladly keep them at my workplace.
Why are postcards, engravings and old photographs important?
Because those ephemera preserve the spirit of the time. Ephemeral means ‘lasting only a short time’. That’s why we can say that documents, which are difficult to find and preserve, are ephemera. Every visual reference to the past, the engraving especially, offers us a cross-section of life in that period. You can see in an engraving an architectural monument that no longer exists today. In these small but very informative sources you can discover what people wore and how they lived - the whole social fabric of the time.
A NEW GOAL
Turgay Erol is producing facsimile editions of the rare books of the past and making them available to people today. His new goal is to publish a 19th century book by the Italian architect Gaspare Fossati, titled Restoration of the Hagia Sophia.