Abdul Hamid Collection

"Collection of manuscripts acquired in 1924 by University of Michigan professor Francis W. Kelsey with funds provided by an anonymous donor. The collection was once part of the personal library of Sultan Abdülhamid II of Turkey (1842-1918, ruled 1876-1909). The Abdul Hamid collection was originally cataloged on cards in 1925 by William Hoyt Worrell, professor of Semitics at the University of MIchigan. These cards are held in repository.

Language: Mostly Persian and Arabic, with some items in Turkish and one in Chaghatai; several items in two or more of these languages.

References: Pearson, Or. Mss Eur. N. Amer., p. 332; Martin, N. Amer. Colls. Isl. Mss, pp. 40-1; Roman, Dev. of Islamic Lib. Colls., pp. 235-236"

- from catalogue description by R. Dougherty

Note: Microfilms of selected items available in repository.

Link to descriptions for the manuscripts of the Abdul Hamid Collection here.

Concise account of the Abdul Hamid acquisition (by Evyn Kropf)

The roughly 290 manuscripts of the Abdul Hamid Collection were acquired by the University of Michigan Library in 1924 via a purchase negotiated by the University’s Professor Francis W. Kelsey (1858-1927).  The manuscripts include specimens of the highest level of artistry in binding, illumination, calligraphy and illustration and carry works chiefly of Persian and Ottoman poetry, mysticism, and history.

Kelsey was first offered the manuscripts in 1923 by the Cairo-based antiquities dealer Maurice Nahman, to whom he had apparently been introduced by Charles L. Freer (1854-1919).[1] Kelsey had already purchased a significant number of papyri from Nahman, and upon the offer of manuscripts he eagerly attempted to find a buyer in the hopes of further stimulating Nahman’s interest in collecting papyri for the University of Michigan to purchase. After prospects with other buyers fell through, including J. P. Morgan, Jr. (1867-1943) and Yale University, Kelsey encouraged the British Museum to make the purchase in cooperation with the collector Chester Beatty (1875–1968).[2] Edward Edwards was dispatched from the Museum to examine the collection and upon his incredibly favorable appraisal of the collection’s significance, Kelsey was persuaded to consider a share in the cooperative purchase along with the British Museum and Chester Beatty.[3] He was able to prevail upon a longtime benefactor of the University, Horace H. Rackham (1858-1933), to supply the funds for the purchase, initially anonymously.[4] The manuscripts were divided among the three parties, with approximately 67 going to the British Museum, 54 to Chester Beatty, and 290 to the University of Michigan.[5]

In his offer to Kelsey, Nahman apparently claimed that the manuscripts had come from the personal collection of the deposed Ottoman sultan Abdülhamit II (r.1876-1909). He later identified the former owner as “Halis Pacha of Constantinople,” again presumably intending Sultan Abdülhamit II.[6] Nahman had obtained the manuscripts from the famous antiquities dealer Tammaro De Marinis (1878-1969).[7] Reportedly, De Marinis had been authorized by the elder J. P. Morgan (1837-1913) to travel “to Constantinople in quest of valuable manuscripts” and he returned to Italy with a large number.  By this time however, Morgan had fallen gravely ill and refused to consider the purchase. De Marinis proceeded to offer the manuscripts to the Egyptian government, but after months of negotiation they proposed purchase of only a small portion of the collection. Owing to the custodian’s wish that the manuscripts remain together, the government’s proposal was declined and the manuscripts were purchased by Nahman.[8]

For a fuller account of the Abdul Hamid acquisition, see Roberta Dougherty, "Islamic Manuscripts at the University of Michigan: Summary of Collection History" posted online at http://www.lib.umich.edu/files/libraries/area/near_east/IslMssSummary.pdf.



[1] For sources on Kelsey's relationship to Nahman, see footnote 3 in Roberta Dougherty, "Islamic Manuscripts at the University of Michigan: Summary of Collection History," posted online at http://www.lib.umich.edu/files/libraries/area/near_east/IslMssSummary.pdf.

[2] For this and the preceding details see pp.14-18 in Francis W. Kelsey, University of Michigan Near East Research Memorandum no.1, March 20 to April 15, 1924, this and other Kelsey memoranda here referenced housed in Special Collections administrative files, drawer labeled "Kelsey Material | Sanders’ Papers," file box labeled "Kelsey Memoranda."

[3] See p.6 in Kelsey, University of Michigan Near East Research Memorandum no.3, May 1-15, 1924 and pp.3, 10-13 in Kelsey,  University of Michigan Near East Research Memorandum no.4, May 16-July 31, 1924.

[4] Evidence for this appears in Kelsey's corresponance with Rackham, held at the Bentley Library, which Roberta Dougherty has identified ; see p.5 of her unpublished paper "Oriental manuscripts at the University of Michigan" (available online at http://www.academia.edu/1534270/Oriental_Manuscripts_at_the_University_of_Michigan). Kelsey was also able to prevail on Rackham's generosity to fund the purchase of the Yahuda Collection, and in related correspondence refers to the "former collection already paid for" i.e. the Abdul Hamid manuscripts. See Francis W. Kelsey to Mr. & Mrs. Horace H. Rackham, 4 November 1926, Box 2, Francis Willey Kelsey papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan and p.12 in  Evyn Kropf,  "The Yemeni manuscripts of the Yahuda Collection at the University of Michigan: provenance and acquisition." Chroniques du manuscrit au Yémen no 13 (janvier 2012) (available online at http://www.anne.regourd.org/cmy/13/cmy13.02.texte2.pdf).

[5] See p.15 in Kelsey, University of Michigan Near East Research Memorandum no.8, October 1-15.

[6] See note on ledgerpaper, handwritten in French, seemingly signed by Nahman, housed in Special Collections administrative files, folder "Islamic Manuscripts: Acquisitions & General."

[7] In fact, the mark of De Marinis is visible in most of the "Abdul Hamid manuscripts" now held at Michigan in the form of a penciled "T. De M." with number.

[8] See pp.1-3 in Kelsey, University of Michigan Near East Research Memorandum no.9, October 16-31, 1924.