"The Messenger for Children"

Messenger CoverBeginning in the 1820s, when its first personnel arrived in Izmir, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions made publishing a fundamental aim of its work in Turkey. The ABCFM printed a wide range of religious and educational books, tracts, and periodicals in various languages and alphabets: Turkish, Armenian, Greek, Arabic, and others. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the American Board’s presses served as a conduit through which new types of publications (both in content and style) were introduced into Turkey from North America and Europe.

This is evident especially in publications for youth, including serials. The ABCFM’s monthly children’s periodical in Turkish, “The Messenger for Children”—printed in Armenian script as Avedaper Çocuklar İçin and in Greek letters as Angeliaphoros Çocuklar İçin—commenced in 1872, at the outset of serials publishing for children in Turkey. 1 (An Armenian-language edition of the journal was issued simultaneously.)

“The Messenger for Children” in Armeno- and Greco-Turkish remained in print until 1897, and the Armenian-language edition continued up to 1915. Richly illustrated, and with a mix of content (though primarily focused on religious topics and moral lessons), the twin Turkish serials stand out uniquely among their mostly image-free, graphically austere contemporary Ottoman Turkish counterparts. Undoubtedly, the visual appeal of the former publications contributed to their longevity. Their emergence at the inception of periodicals for youth in Turkey, as well as their steady output for over 20 years, deserves note in the early history of Turkish children’s publishing.

The ARIT Istanbul (ARIT-I) Library contains nearly complete runs of the Armeno-Turkish and Armenian editions of “The Messenger for Children,” in addition to a partial set of the Greco-Turkish version, Angeliaphoros Çocuklar İçin. This latter collection has been captured digitally and placed on the web. It is accessible on Internet Archive, at the following link: http://www.archive.org/search.php?query=angeliaphoros%20AND%20mediatype%3Atexts.

“The Messenger” (for Adults)

The American Board also issued weekly editions of “The Messenger” for adult readers. The Armenian-language version of Avedaper commenced in 1855, and it was supplemented by an Armeno-Turkish edition five years later (1860). A Greco-Turkish version, Angeliaphoros, appeared in 1872. All three newspapers remained in print up to the second decade of the twentieth century. Joseph Kingsburgy Greene served as editor from 1862 to 1884, when he passed on the editorship to his colleagues Otis Dwight and Ira Pettibone.

Roughly two-thirds of the content was the same in each edition. Besides religious articles, there were sections for political news and educational and general subjects, as well as correspondence and commentary by readers; the text was printed without leading, to fill each page with as much reading matter as possible. The American Board distributed the “The Messenger” throughout Turkey, and in a time when few newspapers circulated in the region, the journal was an important channel through which contemporary local and international news reached remote areas of Anatolia.2 "The papers are in fact a necessity to the people," Greene wrote in his diary. "To many of our subscribers the Avedaper is the only medium thro' which they get either secular or religious intelligence." The paper was distributed not only in Turkey but also in Persia, Egypt, and the United States. By the 1880s, its circulation had reached around 2,100 subscribers.

In his final days as editor, Joseph Kingsbury Greene reflected on the paper's growth over his twelve years there. He was pleasantly surprised by the growth in circulation, despite the paper's seemingly prohibitive cost: "How can poor men in such a country subscribe for a newspaper whose price, tho' less than a dollar and a half, is equivalent to a week's wages? It is a wonder that under present circumstances so many throughout the interior are desirous to subscribe for the papers and pay in advance."

The ARIT Istanbul Library contains extensive holdings of the three separate editions of “The Messenger.” Currently, the newspapers are only accessible on site, at the Istanbul Center; however, ARIT plans to eventually scan this significant historical periodical and offer it publicly on the web, via the ARIT Istanbul Digital Library.

1. The first Ottoman Turkish children’s periodical in Arabic script, Mümeyyiz, was launched in 1869 but ceased publication the following year. The second, Hazine-i Atfal, appeared in 1873, as a single issue. Sixteen more children’s journals were produced over the next two decades, but all were short-lived (most surviving less than a year). Çocuklara Mahsus Gazete, published between 1896 and 1908, was the first truly enduring Turkish children’s serial in Arabic script.
For information on the origins and development of Ottoman Turkish children’s periodicals in Arabic letters, see
İsmet Kür, Türkiye’de Süreli Çocuk Yayınları, Ankara 1991 and Cüneyd Okay, Eski Harfli Çocuk Dergileri, Istanbul 1999.

2. For further details about the weekly editions of Avedaper and Angeliaphoros, see “Missionary Periodicals at Constantinople,” The Missionary Herald 70 (1874), 298-302; Joseph K. Greene, Leavening the Levant, Boston 1916, 140-2.