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Esma İbret Hanım

Esma İbret Hanım

First female calligrapher with the largest production in the Ottoman Empire
"Though it is not as artful as yours"

Date of Birth: 1780

Place of Birth: Istanbul

Date of Death: 1831

Place of Death: Istanbul

Burial Site: Murad-ı Buhari complex (Murad-ı Buhari Dergâhı), Vefa, Istanbul



Esma İbret Hanım Esma İbret Hanım

Field of Activity


Because Esma İbret had mastered the art of calligraphy, she was titled İbret (object lesson) at the age of 15. At 25 she was the best-known female calligrapher in the Ottoman Empire.

Esma İbret wrote two Korans whose fine decorations attracted much attention. The first Koran, which she wrote in 1796 at the age of 16 was on sale at Christie's in 2008.

The second Koran, written in 1827, When she was 47, is in the Topkapı Palace Museum. Among her works which has survived is, two "hilyes", one is in The Topkapı Place Museum, the other in The Cairo Museum.

Some of her calligraphies written in the "sülüs" and "nesih" styles and one of her "hilye" are to be found at the Museum of Turkish and İslamic Art (Museum of Evkafı İslamiyye).

Esma İbrets work in The Topkapı Palace Museum, the Hilye-i Şerif, is the work which brought her recognition of her ability and her art in wider circles as well as the appellation "İbret". The explanations on the back of the Hilye-i Şerif tell us that Esma completed this work when she was 15 and also about who commissioned it .

İt was Kaftancı Salim Ağa who commissioned the art work. Kaftancı Salim Ağa gave this Hilye-i Şerif as a present to Sultan Selim The Third (1761-1808) and to the Sultan's Mother. In recognition of her achievement Sultan Selim III awarded Esma 500 kuruş and a pension of 40 akçe a day. Both in appreciation of her work and in order to encourage other women Kaftancı Salim Ağa gave Esma the appellation İbret.
(Şevket Rado, Türk Hattatları [Turkish Calligraphers], Istanbul, 1980, p.168)

One of Esma İbrets extant "Hilye", was sold on 26 May 2002 in an auction organized by Antik A.Ş. at The Ritz Carlton Hotel, for TL 80.000.

In 2003, hitherto unknown works by Esma İbret Hanım were found in the estate of her husband Mahmud Celalettin.
Abdullah Kılıç, "Hattat Mahmud Celaleddin'in Terekesi bulundu" [Calligrapher Mahmud Celaleddin's Estate Has Been Found], Hat Dergisi, 25.11.2003, access 1.12.2011.

Collections With the Works of Esma İbret
  • The Topkapı Palace Museum, Istanbul
  • Cairo Museum, Cairo
  • Türk ve İslam Eserleri Müzesi (Turkish and Islamic Art Museum), Istanbul


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(No information available)


Calligrapher Esma İbret was an only child of her family. Special attention was given to her education and she took lessons from the best teachers of her time. When she was 10, her father Ahmet Efendi sent her to Sheikh Murad Derwish Lodge to learn calligraphy. There she became a pupil of such calligraphy masters such as İsmail al Zühdi, İbrahim Şefik and Mahmud Celaleddin.

Contributions to Society

(No information available)

Family and Friends

  • Mother:(No information available)
  • Father:Ahmet Efendi (palace employee)
  • Marriage:Mahmud Celaleddin Efendi (Calligrapher, established own calligraphy school, creator of the "celi sülüs" calligraphy method, teacher of Esma İbret before their marriage)

Commemorative Projects

(No information available)

Further Reading


Quoted Sources:
  • İbnül Emin Mahmud Kemal İnal, Son Hattatlar [Last Calligraphers], Istanbul, 1970, p. 87
  • Şevket Rado, Türk Hattatları [Turkish Calligraphers], Istanbul, 1980, p.168
Source of Visual Images:

Translation into English: Çetin Alanya, Istanbul, Turkey
Editing: David Heath, Nuremberg, Germany

©2012 Meral Akkent
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