The Atıf Efendi Library was completed by Köprülü Fazil Ahmet Paşa, the son of Köprülü Mehmet Paşa, in 1678. It was the second library to have its own independent building after the Köprülü Library in the Ottoman State. The Atif Mustafa Efendi Library was established in the Vefa Quarter of Istanbul in 1741 by Atif Efendi, a divani poet who worked as Chief Registrar during Sultan Mahmut I’s rule. During this time, three hafiz-i kutub [book memorizers], one seyh ul-kurra, one suyolcu, one mucellit [binder] and one ferras [cleaner] were employed. The Hafiz-i kutubs were required to stay in three lodgings on the libraries grounds. They were required to be duty five days a week (except for Tuesdays and Fridays) and to lead the congregational prayers as imam or to assist as muezzin.
The library is one of most beautiful examples of Turkic Baroque style, reflecting 18th century Turkish Civil Architectural Art. The conditions for studying using the library are inscribed on a marble foundation [waqf] charter near the entrance of the library. The library’s mission was stated as: “…talebe-i ulumun ifade ve istifadesi mülahazasiyle [for the consideration of the expression and benefit of all students]” in its charter. According to the charter, librarians were to be chosen for their aptitude and religiousity and were required perform their own duties and not to pass them on to their assistants or deputies. Handing over the position to an under-aged person, who had not attained the age of discretion, was strictly prohibited. Taking out no book for istinsah (copying and photocopying) or for benefiting from it even against any warrant or pawn was included in the charter. Moreover, there is a section containing the full list of works donated by Atif Efendi Library.
There is a small “hafiz-i kutub” room near the entrance of the library. A small gap, a hexagonal reading hall, a book depot lead to this room. Underneath the building is the repertory. The library is comprised of five rooms and two halls, and as such, does not have sufficient space to provide for proper library services. Radiators heat the 5 rooms have 42, 18, 10,10, and 5 square meter room sizes in the same order; halls, however, 187 and 132 square meters. Its last restoration was complete in 1992, but the library is in need of another.
Over time, the Atif Efendi Library has expanded its collection to 2,857 books. There are many manuscripts, several authors’ calligraphy works, several copies of old book, nice binders, ornaments, miniature works, and signet albums. The collection of Mehmet Zeki Pakalin is among the collection of the library. Including its 3,228 manuscripts and 6,358 printed books in the old Ottoman alphabet, the library’s collection is currently comprised of a total of 25,905 works.
Currently, one library chief, one librarian (who is a graduate of the Library Department under the Literature Faculty of Istanbul University), two security guards, and a total of five technical personnel, are on duty. Although it is working in affiliation with Suleymaniye Library, the digitalization of the manuscripts found in Atif Efendi Library has not begun.