The curators of this exhibition are Ayşe Kasap of the Nail Bayraktar People’s and Children’s Library and Nusret Sönmez of the Aydos Library. Kasap has herself always been interested in children’s literature, and when she began working in a library specializing in children’s books, she decided to set up an exhibition of some of Turkey’s first children’s magazines, some of which had been sitting neglected on dusty shelves for years. As many of the magazines were written in Ottoman Turkish, she sought the help of Sönmez, and together the two worked hard to prepare 60 children’s magazines for public viewing. With the magazine presented in a careful chronological order, visitors to the exhibition can better appreciate the changes over the years and get to know what children were into in the past.
The first magazines had no pictures
The first children’s magazine published in Ottoman times was called Mümeyyiz (The age of majority). Printed by Sıtkı Efendi, this children’s magazine had 49 editions in all and every edition came out in a different color, but there were no photographs. With regards to the content of the magazine, it is mostly devoted to education and the bringing up of children. Children are told how to speak to their mothers and fathers and how to behave. Not that the early Mümeyyiz magazine was unique in this sense; as we looked around the exhibition, we noted that many of the other magazines also focused on these topics. Of course, some of the social changes that were beginning to unfold in Turkey around the Tanzimat (the era of re-organization) are also reflected in the pages of these magazines.
As for the children’s magazines published between 1869 and 1923, they focus on providing children with scientific and technical information, examples from Western lifestyles, the lives of Western scientists and scholars and matters connected to the arts. In this sense, these magazines aimed to encourage children in a wide range of areas. Aside from this sort of content, these magazines also had puzzles, stories, descriptions of objects and animals, and recommendations for books.
And, of course, words of advice from adults to young ones can also be found in the magazines, one example of which comes from Mümeyyiz and is as follows: “Children, if you say, ‘We are going to school, we read, we work,’ here is our answer to you. We see you. There are times when you go to school, read your Quran, read your books and then work as hard as you can until the evening. But while the children of other people head off to school and sit and read their books so well, we do not like all the loud noises you make when you get the chance, nor how you behave in the streets after school.”
The longest lasting of these children’s publications was the “Çocuklara Mahsus Gazete” (A Newspaper for Children). This magazine began circulating on May 9, 1896, and by the time publication of the magazine stopped in 1903, there had been 626 editions. The second longest lived children’s magazine from these years was the “Çocuklara Rehber” (Children’s Guide), with 166 editions. This magazine was first published in 1897 in Thessaloniki, and it said in its first edition that its aim was to show children how to play and have fun.
Children’s magazines with photographs began circulating in 1875 with the magazine Etfal (Kids), known as the first magazine for children to have pictures. In fact, every magazine for children to be published following Etfal was to also contain photos, pictures and cartoons. The most popular of them was Resimli Dünya (Illustrated World), which first sprang up in 1924. And in swift succession came Sevimli Mecmua (Amiable Journal). These magazines had very lively and colorful covers, and both had slightly different content to the ones prior to them focusing on natural events, and introducing animals from the world of nature to children.
Famous writers in children’s magazines
Starting from the end of the 19th century, some well-known writers of the era, such as Tevfik Fikret, Ziya Gökalp and Mehmet Emin Yurdakul, began contributing to children’s magazines, with stories and poems intended for younger audiences.
Most of these magazines were weekly, though some were bi-monthly. One in particular came out every month: Türk Çocuğu (Turkish Child). Most of these magazines were bought by people with subscriptions and most went out to homes in İstanbul. Interestingly, most of the magazines would come out right before the weekend, either Thursday or Friday, so as to not affect schoolwork.
A look inside the magazines
One can see many interesting details looking through the children’s magazines, for example, Sevimli Mecmua (The Loveable Magazine) used to provide cutouts and maquettes of children’s outfits from that era. Many magazines offered cutouts of the shadow puppet Karagöz at the time as well. By cutting out the puppets, children could even act out the whole Karagöz and Hacivat show. There were even sections in the magazine devoted to tell children how to do this.
One particularly interesting page on display at this exhibition is again from Sevimli Mecmua, a column bearing the headline “What do children in other countries do?” In every edition, this column would talk about what children in other countries wore, how they lived, what sorts of games they played and so on. There was also information and photographs provided in this column about subjects such as world capitals.
One can see caricatures in almost all of the children’s magazines that came out between 1869 and 1928. Many of these magazines had book recommendations for children in each edition. One magazine of the era devoted a page to information about the children of the sultans, and puzzles were also highly featured. Every edition of Çocuk Dostu (Children’s Friend) offered a “spot the difference” picture puzzle.
Globally speaking, the first children’s magazine was published in 1722 in Leipzig, titled Das Leipziger Wochenblatt für Kinder (Leipzig Weekly for children). It was followed later in the same century by the British Juvenile Magazine. And in the same vein, another children’s magazine began being circulated in America, The Children’s Magazine. The longest running magazine was to be The Child’s Companion, first published in 1824.