Visit to the Gazi Husrev - beys library in Sarajevo, June 7-18, 2004
The Gazi Husrev Bey Library in Sarajevo was founded in 1537, to- gether with a Islamic school (madrasah). Gazi Husrev Bey, the Ottoman Governor of Bosnia, had established the oldest higher education institution in Sarajevo for the teaching of Sufi philosophy (hanikah) some six years earlier. In his endowment charter (vakufnama) concerning the con- struction of the madrasah, the benefactor requested that “… whatever was left from the funds for construction should be used for the purchase of good books, which would be utilized in the aforementioned madrasah, for those who would read them and for those who are involved in science to copy from those books”. For this reason, this library is considered to be the first and oldest cultural institution of the Bosniaks.
The Library remained within the Kurshumlija Madrasah until 1863 when, due to the lack of space, it was reallocated to a larger room built next to the Gazi Husrev Bey’s Mosque. It remained there until 1935 when it was moved again because of the large quantity of books in its collec tions. Its new location was in the building in front of the Imperial (Careva) Mosque. The library and its collections were house there until the beginning of the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992 when safety concerns forced the transfer and distribution of the collections to several other more secure locations within the city.
The basic collections of the Library consist of manuscripts in Arabic, Turkish and Persian. They number approximately 10,000 codices, which makes this Library one of the largest of its kind in Europe. The manuscripts came from various parts of the Islamic world, mainly from the largest centers of Islamic culture and science such as Istanbul, Mecca, Medina, Cairo and Baghdad. A considerable number of these manuscripts originated in Bosnian towns and villages where many Bosniaks-Muslims wrote original works or copied the books by other authors from all, then known scientific disciplines.