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Ottoman History
Ottoman History

The making of a legend - Redhouse: Part One

• Following the change to the Latin alphabet, the Redhouse dictionaries had to be reproduced in the new alphabet. The 1950 Revised Redhouse Dictionary, English-Turkish was the first to be printed and this was followed by the New Redhouse Turkish-English
• • Following the change to the Latin alphabet, the Redhouse dictionaries had to be reproduced in the new alphabet. The 1950 Revised Redhouse Dictionary, English-Turkish was the first to be printed and this was followed by the New Redhouse Turkish-English Dictionary in 1968 -- with 1,325 pages and definitions for 105,000 words and expressions
• • In the 1960s the publishing program began to diversify into such areas as family life, nature and ecology, travel and Turkish culture... in line with its long-held goals of providing education and understandingNiki Gamm
• Istanbul - Turkish Daily News
• It's not such a hard building to find actually -- through the short axis of the Misir Carsi, past the sellers and car/pedestrian traffic and then turn at the second right. The building that became the Istanbul headquarters of the American Board in 1872 blends well with the gray of the other buildings on the street that seem to offer a variety of goods and offices.
• Hard to imagine when you first see it that the dictionary we've all relied upon for more than 100 years in one form or another originated here [figuratively speaking] -- the Redhouse Turkish-English Dictionary and its counterpart, the Redhouse English-Turkish Dictionary.
• It's a long story of intelligent decisions and diligent work and at present Dr. Brian Johnson is engaged in putting all of the extant material together to provide an accurate picture of a process that started in Malta in 1822. He calls the project, "Changing Fonts: The Evolution of a Press," an accurate description of what happened over time. People will be able to learn more about the transition via a brochure and series of panels in Turkish, entitled Degisen Fontlar, Bir Yayinevinin Evrimi, at the Tuyap Book Fair at Belikduzu between October 26 and November 3. The same information but this time in English will be on display at the upcoming Middle East Studies Association meeting in Washington, D.C., November 22-26 and in the Allen Library (University of Washington, Seattle) in early December.
• Beginning on Malta
• Malta was attractive in the 19th century because the location allowed the representatives of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to get their feet wet in the Mediterranean on an island that was under the British rule at the time. This was followed by splitting into two groups -- one moving to Beirut where there were large minority communities and the other to Izmir in 1833 and then to Istanbul in 1853. From Istanbul, the American Board's publication department operated for nearly 150 years.
• The situation in the 19th century was dictated by historical events of the time. But it should be pointed out that these people who were Protestants were not trying to convert Muslims. Their aim was enlightening Christians in the Ottoman Empire.
• The publication department had an extensive publishing program with religious and nonreligious books in Armenian, Greek and Turkish in a variety of alphabets (See box). And second the Istanbul publications department also produced secular works, the best known of which were the famous dictionaries of Sir James Redhouse.
• Redhouse, the dictionary man
• Born in 1811, James Redhouse was orphaned when quite young and spent between 1819-1826 in the Christ's Hospital founding home. He was given a technical education probably preparing for a naval career. In 1826, he was expelled and apparently served as a cabin boy on board a merchant ship that brought him to Istanbul where he jumped ship.
• According to what is known, Redhouse found a job with the Ottoman naval arsenal in Kasimpasa. There he was able to learn the Ottoman language and develop his skills as a translator as well as study Arabic, Persian, Italian, Greek and German. He had produced his first dictionary by 1833, a Turkish, French and English lexicon.
• Between 1834 and 1838, Redhouse was in England but he then returned to Istanbul to work as an interpreter and translator for the Ottoman government. His duties however did not stop from pursuing his interest in Ottoman Turkish as a language. He not only produced dictionaries but grammar as well.
• Traveling to England just prior to the start of the Crimean War (1853) for a brief visit, Redhouse ended up spending the rest of his life there. He continued throughout to produce works such as the Simplified Grammar of Ottoman Turkish published in London (1884). But more importantly in 1861 he finished an English-Turkish dictionary for the missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in Istanbul. The Board subsequently commissioned a Turkish-English dictionary that serves as the basis for the one most relied on today. In fact, as Johnson has pointed out, the dictionaries of 1861 and 1890, his most important works, might not have been published if it hadn't been for the American Board.
• During his lifetime, Redhouse received such honors as a knighthood, an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University, an imperial Ottoman order and a royal Persian order before dying in 1892.
• On to the 20th century and beyond
• Redhouse Press found itself adapting to modern times especially after the establishing of the Turkish Republic and the change to a Latin-letter alphabet in 1928. With the latter, the dictionary became obsolete for everyone except scholars of Ottoman Turkish. Eventually the dictionaries were reproduced in the new alphabet and updated. The result was the 1950 Revised Redhouse Dictionary, English-Turkish followed by the New Redhouse Turkish-English Dictionary in 1968 -- with 1,325 pages and definitions for 105,000 words and expressions. It has subsequently been reproduced many times. Its outstanding success led to the American Board's publication department being renamed the "Redhouse Press" in 1966.
• With William Edmonds' taking over the helm of the press in 1966 and under the new name, the publishing program began to diversify into such areas as family life, nature and ecology, travel and Turkish culture. This was completely in line with its long-held goals of providing education and understanding. (See Part Two)
• Starting with a cookbook for English-speakers and expanding to books on Turkey's bird life, from poetry collections to work on traditional crafts, the press pursued its goals. It had further hits with one of the most outstanding guidebooks to Istanbul ever written, Hilary Sumner-Boyd and John Freely's Strolling Through Istanbul. Another book, written by Everett Blake and Anna Edmonds, Biblical Sites in Turkey is one of the best sources available for people interested in early Christianity in Turkey.
• This was a dynamic period for Redhouse Press and it will always remain so especially for those who were involved with it if only as readers of its books and users of its dictionary.
• The publication department, commonly known as Redhouse Press, was reestablished as an independent Turkish-owned company in 1996 under the Health and Education Foundation (Saglik ve Egitim Vakif or SEV). The press is now known as SEV-YAY and continues to produce and sell about 200,000 copies per year of its ten separate English-Turkish/Turkish-English lexicons currently in print. Since 1996 there have been three new dictionaries published and a new CD version of a Redhouse lexicon that has just come out this year -- in short, the legend and legacy of Redhouse continue.
• To be continued tomorrow with an interview with Anna and William Edmonds who played an important role in the development of Redhouse throughout much of the second half of the 20th century.
• Brian Johnson
• Is it all Greek to you? Replace the letters ?, ?, ? with their Latin equivalents (P, L, R) and take another look. As the saying goes, don't judge a book-or in this case "Books"-by the cover.
• Although it looks Greek, the title is Turkish, "Kitaplar." It appears in the 1881 catalogue of the American Board Publication Department above a list of Turkish books printed in the Greek alphabet. The Istanbul-based press of the American Board published the books for Christians who spoke Turkish but had learned to read and write the language in Greek letters. A similar situation existed in other local communities, as explained by the Board's Henry Otis Dwight in 1901:
• Greeks and Armenians . . . who have forgotten their own language and use Turkish only, write it with Greek and Armenian letters respectively because these letters are those of the ancient church books. Even the Jews of Turkey, who in general are emigrants from Spain and who long ago lost their Hebrew, use Hebrew letters for writing Spanish in their ledgers and business correspondence, and in the newspapers which of late years they have commenced to publish.
• The variety of alphabets used in the nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire presented a challenge to the American Board Publication Department. Printing in the Empire's diverse tongues (Ottoman Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Arabic, and Hebrew to name a few) not only required many different type fonts but also skilled typesetters with the knowledge to use them.
• Sometimes existing typefaces were inadequate, such as the poorly rendered Arabic type generally available in the 1830s. To remedy this problem, the press-then in Izmir-developed a new style. After studying numerous samples of Arabic script, the Board's master printer Homan Hallock created a design and prepared the necessary punches and matrices. His font became the basis of "American Arabic," a typeface praised by Arab scholars and eventually adopted in publishing houses from Morocco to the Philippines.
• With Turkey's 1928 alphabet reform, printers shelved trays of obsolete type, while publishers faced the task of revising their texts. For much of the twentieth century the American Board labored to update James Redhouse's dictionaries from the old Ottoman language and its Arabic characters into the Latin letters of modern Turkish. Cutting up copies of the lexicons and pasting words and definitions onto index cards for easier rearrangement was one of the first steps in this decades-long process.
• Keeping the Redhouse dictionaries up to date is now the job of the American Board Publication Department's successor, SEV-YAY, a Turkish owned and operated publishing company. Modern technology has made the task simpler, but producing books in the computer era still presents difficulties. SEV-YAY is responding to the challenge. It has already added to the Board's legacy by issuing new digital versions of a Redhouse lexicon. Even if it follows different paths in the future, SEV-YAY will certainly retain one tradition of its predecessor -- adapting to contemporary needs and changing its fonts as required, the main role of a press in any age.


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