Mainz University houses internationally prominent library for Turkic Studies

Collection covers all Turkic languages and includes rare works and valuable antiquities that are attracting visitors from around the world


With its very rare books, valuable antiquities, and an extensive collection of material, the Library for Turkic Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) is one of the best in the world. Unique in Germany, there are only a few other libraries worldwide that bear comparison with it in that it houses a comprehensive collection that covers all Turkic languages. Turkic constitutes a language family that, in addition to Turkish, includes more than 20 other languages spoken in an area stretching from Turkey to China and from Russia to Afghanistan. This family includes minority languages such as Salar, which today is spoken by only some 60,000 people in China, together with languages that use Arabic or Cyrillic characters, such as New Uighur and Yakut, respectively. The collection at the library includes some 50,000 items encompassing periodicals and publications such as grammar books, dictionaries, classic and modern literature as well as reference works.

"The library mainly contains linguistic works, as Turkic Studies in Mainz has traditionally concentrated on linguistics. However, the spectrum of material has been successively expanded," explained Junior Professor Dr. László Károly, Executive Director of the Department of Oriental Studies. The visitors to the library are thus primarily scholars and students doing research. However, foreign visiting scholars are also repeatedly surprised by the wealth of "treasures" held by the library.

One of the library’s jewels is a first edition of an Ottoman Divan, a collection of lyrical poetry published in 1889. The valuable antiquities collection includes several books dating to the period of the Ottoman Empire prior to 1923. "One of our oldest books is the 1595 account of the journey undertaken by Johannes Leunclavius," said Károly. Among the rare books are also publications by renowned scholars of Turcology on the language spoken by the Yellow Uighurs in China, which is threatened with extinction. "They are some of the very few language descriptions of Yellow Uighur that can be found anywhere in the world," emphasized Károly. Uighur doctoral candidates from China regularly come to Mainz University to learn about linguistic methodologies in seminars held at JGU. Here they do not only have access to the large primary collection but also to the collection's linguistic books.

As the cost of maintaining and expanding the turcological collection of the library is extensive, the library is more than happy to receive support, be it in the form of books on the subject or monetary donations.