Corvinas "returned home" from Turkey and newly found 19th century photographs in our online content services

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On 5 February 2024, the exhibition hall on the 6th floor of the National Széchényi Library hosted a festive event during which, within the framework of the Hungarian-Turkish Cultural Year, the NSZL announced that it had received and made available to everyone on the website the complete digital copies of two corvinas kept in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, and published Baron Ferenc Révay's travel photo albums from the Eastern Mediterranean in its content service platform called Fotótér.

After the welcome speech of Dávid Rózsa, Director General of the Hungarian National Library, Péter Hoppál, Government Commissioner of the Hungarian-Turkish Cultural Year, and C. Gülşen Karanis Ekşioğlu, Ambassador of Turkey, gave speeches at the event.

The 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Hungary and Turkey was the occasion to celebrate Hungarian and Turkish cultural traditions.


The NSZL has among its priorities the preservation of cultural memory, thus preserving, researching and presenting the unique and priceless values related to Hungarian identity. The two corvinas that "arrived home" from Istanbul to Budapest digitally in the framework of the Hungarian-Turkish Cultural Year will strengthen cultural relations between Hungary and Turkey and support the preservation of shared values and stories for the future.

The unique press conference was further enriched with a true speciality, as our photo collection contained an outstanding photographic treasure. This unique series of photographs from the library of Baron Ferenc Révay (1835–1914), dating back more than 150 years, invites us to travel back in time, including a view of Istanbul taken in 1869 from the famous Galata Tower.

The event also marked the world premiere of a free, high-quality online service at the NSZL, making documents of outstanding value available to all.


Dávid Rózsa, Director General of the NSZL, emphasised in his welcome speech:
"The National Széchényi Library has obtained a complete digital copy of the two corvinas preserved in the Topkapi Palace Museum. This is a milestone not only for our virtual corvina reunion programme but also for international corvina research. In addition to their scientific value, the digital copies can be included in the series of gifts that the Turks made in 1869 and 1877. Hungary received four corvinas on the first occasion and thirteen on the second."

Péter Hoppál, Government Commissioner for the Hungarian-Turkish Cultural Year, said in his speech:
"It is a century and a half old idea that the scattered corvinas should be reassembled in some form. The intention to share and research the corvinas on a single platform is further enriched today, with two more pieces added to the digital corvina collection in the virtual space."

C. Gülşen Karanis Ekşioğlu, Ambassador of Turkey, underlined:
"This event today enriches the 2024 Hungarian-Turkish Cultural Year and highlights the history and depth of our relations. We consider the two digital corvina presented here today to be of great importance for both Turkish-Hungarian relations and the history of Turkey."


Two corvinas "return home" digitally from Turkey
The National Library of Hungary considers it an important task to preserve the intellectual heritage of King Matthias of Hungary (1458–1490), the memory of the Corvina Library. The renowned Renaissance royal library, which was the earliest of its kind, was declared a Memory of the World by UNESCO in 2006.
One of the codices now available is Ptolemy's Geographia with many maps, which was made in Florence and was probably the work of János Vitéz, but was later added to the royal library.
The other work is a sermon by Rannusius Crispus, delivered in the presence of Ulászló II in Buda. This codex is unique in that it was made in Buda, and thus reflects to some extent the state of book production in Buda after the death of Matthias.

The earliest panoramic view of the old Istanbul 
During the digitisation of the photo history section of the Historical Photo and Video Collection of the NSZL, i.e. photographs taken before 1945, eleven photo albums were recently found which, according to the collection stamp, once belonged to the library of the well-travelled, educated and art-collecting Baron Ferenc Révay (1835-1914).
The eleven photo albums, made by professional photographers, contain some 800 photographs of Ferenc Révay's travels in the Eastern Mediterranean in the years around the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867. The large books, with their sophisticated design, give an insight into the architecture of Algeria, Egypt, Palestine, Istanbul, Mecca and Medina, and the distinctive world of the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
The eleven albums include a view of Istanbul a century and a half ago. The 1869 leather-bound, copper-clasped volume, initialled by Ferenc Révay, contains a total of 41 photographs of the city. The series includes 10 views, which, when juxtaposed, form a panorama of almost 300°. To the best of our knowledge, the panorama series in the album is the earliest panorama of the city to have been preserved in its entirety. It can be said without any doubt that the Ferenc Révay legacy is a photographic curiosity of international importance.


Access the two new digital corvinas:

A section of the panorama of the Ferenc Révay's bequest:


Further images