Name of Object:

Surname-i Hümayun (‘Book of the Imperial Circumcision Festival’)


Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Holding Museum:

Topkapı Palace Museum

Date of Object:

Hegira 991–7 / AD 1583–8

Artist(s) / Craftsperson(s):

In the Surname, the writer Intizami describes the preparation of the work in a section entitled ‘Description of the painter and his qualities’, stating that it was prepared by Naqqash Osman (who, like himself, was from the town of Foça in Herzegovina) and his team, although he does not give the names of the members of the team. A document dated 997 (AD 1588) written by the court panegyrist Sayyid Loqman on the subject of raising the salaries of the team working on the Hünername and the Surname, though, does list the names of the team members. Although it is impossible to determine from this document who was working on the Hünername and who on the Surname (or on both), the document is important because it gives a general idea of which painters (naqqash in Turkish) and other artists might have been working on Naqqash Osman’s team. The names that appear in this document are:

Calligraphers: Seyyid Kasım; Mustafa; Feramruz?; Ali; Abdurrahman.

Bookbinders: Abdi Şaban; Mehmet Haydar; Kara Mehmed; Mehmed …; Recep Abdullah.

Painters (naqqash): Osman; Lütfi; Ali; Mehmed Haydar; Velican; Mehmed Musavvir; Molla … ; İbrahim; [another] Osman; Ahmed Abdullah; Hüseyin Zergub; Mahmud Müzehib?; … Abdullah …

Illuminators: Musa Ahmed; Yahya; Seydi; Abdi Zergub; Şaban; Hızır Gazi; Mehmed Abdullah; Mehmed Mustafa; Nasuh bin Abdullah; Perviz Abdullah; Abd … Yakub; Davud Abdullah; Yusuf Abdullah.

Museum Inventory Number:

H. 1344

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Finished (aharlı) paper, ink, watercolour, gilding, leather (binding).


Height 33.5 cm, width 23.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Istanbul, Turkey.


The Surname-i Hümayun ('Book of the Imperial Circumcision Festival') is a work dealing with the celebrations held for the circumcision festival of Prince Mehmed, son of Sultan Murad III, which lasted for 52 days and 52 nights in AH 990 / AD 1582. It documents, in both word and image, how during the festivities the craft guilds paraded their various products, how a variety of entertainments were organised, how banquets were held and food distributed to the public every day, how the sultan would scatter gold and silver among the people from time to time, how poor children were circumcised and given new clothes, how beggars were made happy, and how people who had been imprisoned for debt were granted their freedom by having their debts paid. For this reason the Surname is an important historical source providing for us a record of the AH 10th- / AD 16th-century Ottoman lifestyle; its economy, social life, culture, art and entertainment.

The celebration was held in the Hippodrome, i.e. the 'Horse Square'. The Ibrahim Pasha Palace is depicted here, and the three-storey wooden spectators' gallery erected at one of its corners for the use of palace officials and representatives of foreign governments, is an indispensable element of the scenes in the Surname.

One of these scenes represents the parade of the glassmakers' guild. Here the sultan, seated on the enclosed balcony of the audience hall in the Ibrahim Pasha Palace, watches the glassmakers' guild along with the assembled people and the guests sitting in the spectators' gallery. The glassmakers present the glass objects they have made, even showing the stages of glass production and the tools they use with the help of a furnace mounted on a wheeled wagon.

Another painting in the Surname shows the procession of architects and engineers with a faithful replica of the Süleymaniye Mosque made of wood and ivory. This picture is noteworthy because it represents Ottoman art in all its splendour, celebrated in both the depiction of the architect Sinan, who was still alive in this period and probably participated in this parade, and, through his most monumental building: the Süleymaniye Mosque.

The celebrations of the circumcision festival are transformed into a painted story through 250 double-page miniatures with compositions generally similar to the two seen here.

View Short Description

Surname is a magnificent manuscript telling the story of the circumcision festival of Prince Mehmed, son of Sultan Murad III, held at the Hippodrome in front of the Ibrahim Pasha Palace in AH 990 / AD 1582. The setting, processions and events are depicted both in writing and in miniatures.

Original Owner:

Sultan Murad III (r. AH 982-1003 / AD 1574-95)

How date and origin were established:

Since some pages of the manuscript are missing, including the colophon, it has been ascertained from the Kepeci Ruus register in the archives (3 Safar 997/1583 no. 250, 37) that it was completed in 997 / 1588.

How Object was obtained:

The Surname was made for Sultan Murad III in the Topkapi Palace atelier and is still in the palace library.

How provenance was established:

It is known that this manuscript was prepared by the team of artists in the Topkapi Palace atelier, and that it was therefore produced in Istanbul.

Selected bibliography:

And, M., Kırk Gün Kırk Gece, Istanbul, 1959.
Atasoy, N., Surname-i Hümayun, Istanbul, 1998.
Atasoy, N., “Tarih Konulu Minyatürlerin Usta Nakkaşı Osman”, Sanat Dünyamız, 73 (1999), pp.213–21.
İpşiroğlu, M.Ş. “Das Hochzeitbuch Murats III”, Deutsch-Türkische Gesellschaft, Bonn, 1960.
Tansuğ, S. Şenlikname Düzeni, Istanbul, 1961.

Citation of this web page:

Şebnem Tamcan "Surname-i Hümayun (‘Book of the Imperial Circumcision Festival’)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;tr;Mus01_A;49;en

Prepared by: Şebnem TamcanŞebnem Tamcan

Şebnem Tamcan is a research assistant at the Department of Art History of the Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir. She was born in Izmir, Turkey, in 1978. She graduated from the Department of Art History, Ege University, in 2000. She completed her Master's in 2005 with a thesis entitled “The Depictions in the Zigetvar Campaign History Manuscript H.1339 at Topkapı Palace Museum Library”.

Translation by: Barry WoodBarry Wood

Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.
, İnci Türkoğluİnci Türkoğlu

İnci Türkoğlu has been working as a tourist guide and freelance consultant in tourism and publishing since 1993. She was born in Alaşehir, Turkey, in 1967. She graduated from the English Department of Bornova Anatolian High School in 1985 and lived in the USA for a year as an exchange student. She graduated from the Department of Electronic Engineering of the Faculty of Architecture and Engineering, Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, and the professional tourist guide courses of the Ministry of Tourism in 1991. She worked as an engineer for a while. She graduated from the Department of Art History, Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir, in 1997 with an undergraduate thesis entitled “Byzantine House Architecture in Western Anatolia”. She completed her Master's at the Byzantine Art branch of the same department in 2001 with a thesis entitled “Synagogue Architecture in Turkey from Antiquity to the Present”. She has published on art history and tourism.

Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez

Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.

True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.

MWNF Working Number: TR 79


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