Abdullah Bey (Karl Eduard Hammerschmidt) (1800-1874) (attr.) Collection of over 100 watercolor drawings of fossils from the Bosporus Strait, most probably collected by Abdullah Bey. Turkey, ca. 1870.

18 sheets [ca. 25,5 x 20,5 cm]. The drawings depict fossil specimens collected from various places around the Bosporus Strait and Istanbul: Arnavutköy, Kartal, Kanlidja, Stenia, Yeni-Keui, Guenk-Sou, Tarabya.
With an additional contemporary ink and watercolor drawing on thin linen, that shows a few of the fossils included on 3 of the other sheets. Probably made by the same person – perhaps an initial drawing.

Very beautiful, finely executed drawings of numerous fossils from the Bosporus region. The place where the specimens were collected is noted on the upper part of the sheet, in pencil handwriting. The specimes are numbered (1-73) – with the exception of the last 13 drawings which remain unnumbered – and ordered according to number and location, but lacking any taxonomic rank. Some of the specimens are drawn with their respective labels, which indicates they were part of an extensive collection of fossils. In the case of one label, the number in the collection is mentioned as well and it corresponds to the numbering within the manuscript, which further proves these are drawings of specimens in a fossil collection and that the numbering associated to the drawings correspondents to the number in the actual classification of the specimens.

As there have not been many collections of fossils recorded in Turkey during the second half of the 19th century, we will put forward the hypothesis that the drawings depict a part of Abdullah Bey’s collection of fossiles, which, at that time, was the largest collection of fossils in Turkey.

We were not able to locate drawings of the same fossil specimens in other documents of Abdullah Bey’s collection. These drawings are different from the fossils in the other collection we are in posession of and that depicts the specimens which won him the gold medal in the Paris exhibition of 1867 (although the place of collection often overlaps). This means these drawings were most likely made on another ocassion and by another person, possibly by Abdullah Bey himself. It is already known that he has made drawings of the specimens in his collection before – there are manuscript drawings by him in the posession of the Natural History Museum in Vienna. Since the drawings lack any form of classification – other than by where they were collected – we can assume this collection of drawings shows rare, at that time unidentified specimens. The manuscript seems to have been done intentionally with the purpose of serving as a kind of catalogue for the unidentified species of those respective areas.

Abdullah Bey, originally Karl Eduard Hammerschmidt, (1800-1874) was an Austrian-born Ottoman scientist and physician. He specialized in mineralogy, geology, and fossil science.Engaged in the Vienna Uprising of 1848, Abdullah Bey sought refuge in the Ottoman Empire following its suppression, adopting Islam and the name „Abdullah“ upon arrival in Istanbul.
He represented the Ottoman government at the Paris Exhibition of 1867. He brought 3 collections to the Exposition Universelle: the first one was formed of around 1200 Devonian fossils from the Bosporus region and earned him the gold medal of that year’s exhibition. At that moment, this was the greatest and largest fossile collection from Istanbul. Part of this collection ended up being gifted by Abdullah Bey to the Paris Natural History Museum. The other two collections were: one of entomology (for which he received another gold medal), and a herbarium of 20 leaves (for which he received the bronze medal).
In 1872, Abdullah Bey decided to donate another part of his collection of Devonian fossils from the Bosphorus area to the Cabinet of Natural History of Madrid, a collection now located in the „Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales de Madrid“. The reason for this was most likely his wish to foster international connections between museums. On the way from Turkey to Madrid, some parts of the shipment have been lost: most importantly, the inventory list of the specimens, but also 1 of 3 other publications regarding his collection, as well as – possibly – 26 plates with illustrations pertaining to one of the 2 publications that have been delivered. Other parts of his collection have been donated to museums in St. Petersburg, Italy and Austria.
He is unanimously considered a pioneer in the areas of Turkish geology, entomology and paleontology, having first introduced the terms and concepts of geology to Turkey. Geological mappings and findings in Turkey were scarce and significantly delayed. The first crude geological map of the city was created by French entomologist Guillaume-Antoine Olivier in 1801. The second geological map, produced by Philippe Edouard Poulletier de Verneuil, appeared in 1837, while the first modern colored geological map was made years later by Russian Prince Piotr Alexandrovich de Tchihatcheff (1856-1869). This highlights the significance of Abdullah Bey’s contributions, as his work provided crucial insights into an area that, at the time, was largely geologically unexplored.
At the Imperial School of Medicine in Istanbul, in 1871, the Ottoman Empire inaugurated its first natural history museum under the name ‚Le Musée d’Histoire Naturelle d’École Impériale de Médecine de Constantinople‘. Dr. Abdullah Bey facilitated the transportation of thousands of samples to Istanbul through his collaboration with European naturalists. Not only did he establish a prestigious museum in the Ottoman Empire, but he also cemented his place in history as a pioneer of one of the most significant impacts of the French Enlightenment on scientific endeavors within the Islamic world.
After Abdullah Bey’s sudden death in 1874, the museum’s activities slowed, and the collection was moved to Istanbul University’s Geology Faculty. Unfortunately, the collection was destroyed in the Vefa Fire of 1918, leading to the permanent loss of Istanbul’s only natural history museum.

The fact that specimens of fossils from the Bosporos Strait are so scarce – mainly due to the consequent poor luck of the geology museums that housed them – makes the present collection even more valuable. This offers important insight into the early days of the development of the paleontology and geology fields in Turkey, of which little evidence remains.

EUR 6.500,-