Afitap - Ece Ajandası

1892

Afitap

The Story of a Paper Seller from Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the commercial building known as Büyük Valide Han situated between Çakmakçılar Hill and Fincancılar Hill in the district of Mahmud Pasha was home to numerous Iranian merchants. Among them was a young bookseller named Mehmed Sadık Efendi who, in 1888, opened a modest shop at No. 95. He was only twenty years old at the time. The Şark Ticaret Yıllıkları (Oriental Commercial Yearbooks) mention him as a “Persian bookseller”; when he opened a shop in the paper sellers’ neighborhood of the district of Bayezid, he came to be known as Kâğıtçı Mehmed Sadık (Mehmed Sadık the Paper Seller), an appellation that eventually became his surname. The commercial yearbook for 1898 puts another wrinkle in the story of Afitap and Mehmed Sadık Efendi, for it lists a certain “M. Sadık” at No. 90, Sahaflar (Booksellers’) Avenue. The shop is described as supplying curiosités orientales, a term generally reserved for shops that sold eastern goods to western tourists —a practice not too far removed from the occupation of our “Persian bookseller.” We cannot know for certain whether or not the “M. Sadık” mentioned in Annuaire Oriental and Kâğıtçı Mehmed Sadık Efendi were one and the same, but the similarity in the recorded names and the places of business suggest that there certainly is a strong possibility that they were.

Reşad Ekrem Koçu, the editor and part author of the prodigious İstanbul Ansiklopedisi (Encyclopaedia of İstanbul), mentions Mehmed Sadık Efendi and his enterprise in terms that confirm his Persian origins as well as his base of operations:

It was a well-known place of commerce, active in the 1890s and 1900s at the far end of the shops known as “ink sellers” and “paper sellers” that occupied the row of shacks at Bayezid in front of the Madrasa (religious school) of Bayezid, now the Museum of the Revolution. ... The Afitap stationery shop was opened about half a century ago by M. Sadık, a Persian stationer whose new shop is on Ankara Avenue and now publishes the Ece agendas (day planners). It was known at the time for selling the best and most expensive materials.

Unsurprisingly, it was not long before this enterprise became one of the principal purveyors of office supplies for the Ottoman government. Such documents as invoices, receipts, and payment orders preserved in the Ottoman Archives sometimes just mention “miscellaneous stationery,” but then again some are itemized, making it possible to determine which of Afitap’s products were in demand by the Ottoman bureaucracy. These included manila folders, notebooks, pens, paper, envelopes, and signature books.

Next to these, however, were certain items that would become, over the course of the following century, both an area of specialization for Afitap and virtually synonymous with its name: note pads, pocket books, and day planners.

The 1910s were years of war for the Ottomans, and it was Hacı Kâğıtçı Mehmed Sadık Efendi who supplied institutions with stationery throughout that painful period. From pencils to note pads, pocket books, and even cardboard envelopes, all manner of stationery could be purchased at No. 109, Bâb-ı Âlî Avenue. Some of the orders issued for purchases from Afitap are noteworthy for giving an idea of the economic conditions prevailing at the time: nearly every order, even the most modest, instructed the buyer to complete the purchase “through bargaining.” For example, one document reads as follows: “For use by mobile police officers accompanying inspectors of the Directorate of Security, twenty pens purchased through bargaining from, and delivered by, Hacı Kâğıtçı Mehmed Sadık Efendi of the store Afitap at No. 109, Bâb-ı Âli Avenue...” Furthermore, materials purchased from Afitap were not all consumed locally; rather, the stationery needs of the entire country were met here, as evidenced by another document that reads: “Payment is ordered for ten pocket books purchased from Kâğıtçı Mehmed Sadık Efendi, proprietor of the store Afitap, for shipment to the countryside...”

Archival documents concerning Afitap indicate that the shop often changed locations, and thus frequently appears with different street numbers; the practice of bargaining with Kâğıtçı Mehmed Sadık Efendi, however, did not change, much as he disliked it. Described as “young, black mustachioed, handsome, very serious, and extremely averse to bargaining,” his place of business was certainly not known for its low prices. Indeed, Reşad Ekrem Koçu noted that penniless students seldom frequented the establishment. “Afitab,” the name chosen for his Bayezid store by Mehmed Sadık Efendi, is Persian for “sun,” and indeed the store used to shine among its peers with “decorated colorful paper, landscape postcards, and sundry paint sets.” Moreover, his reputation was greatly enhanced by the fact that he was the first in İstanbul to import and sell such products as fountain pens.

Following the great fire of Bayezid in 1905, Afitap relocated to Reşid Efendi Han in Sirkeci. Now on Bâb-ı Âlî (Sublime Porte) Avenue, Kâğıtçı Mehmed Sadık Efendi thus found himself at the heart of politics during the transition from Empire to Republic. What made Afitap both an Ottoman and a Republican brand, however, was the day planners that began to be marketed in 1910. This was a time when many printers applied for licenses to publish such booklets, known then as muhtıra (memorandum). Afitap’s agendas soon became the favorite among many Ottoman public institutions such as the jandarma (militia), the police, and the Special Secretariat of the Grand Vezirate.

Needless to say, it was not only public institutions that used the muhtıra even at that early date. Indeed, the Empire’s struggle to survive and the birth pains of the young Republic are all hidden in the pages of these day planners. Thus, for example, the young Brigadier General Mustafa Kemal Pasha made his first entry in his muhtıra on 25 Teşrin-i Evvel 1332 (on the Rûmî calendar, equivalent to 7 November 1916 CE). The publisher’s information in this booklet reads as follows: “1331-1332/1915-1916, Printed and Published by the Afitab and Hurşid Stationery stores on Bâb-ı Âlî Avenue. Şems Printers, 1331.”

Many yearbooks that record the prominent businesses of their day mention the Afitap Stationery store. Its address changed when Bâb-ı Âlî Avenue was renamed Ankara Avenue, apparently in 1929, but Afitap remained one of the first names that came to mind for stationery. Neither its former, nor its current locations were ever far from people’s minds; on the contrary, they were often identified with the brand itself. Thus, as the author Sermet Muhtar Alus recalled Divanyolu Avenue in the early 1900s, his eyes sought out the old paper sellers and Afitap:

You couldn’t find any of the old paper sellers even if your life depended on it. There used to be some among them who also did calligraphy and manuscript illumination. Sadık Efendi, owner of the stationery store Afitap —which is currently located on Ankara Avenue— used to own the fanciest shop among the Bayezid paper sellers.

Likewise, when İbn’ül-Emin Mahmud Kemal İnal set out to describe the location where a calligrapher used to work, he wrote “the building that houses the stationery store Afitap,” thus indicating the degree to which this institution had become part of İstanbul’s everyday life. Afitap’s window continued to sparkle into the Republican period, and its merchandise were featured in newspaper advertisements. Among them were cigarette cases and boxes, nickel and plated desktop calendars, pens, desk sets, pen sets,14 and Edison fountain pens. Of all its products, the muhtıra day planners virtually became a brand all to themselves and were sold at the store that moved from No. 109 to No. 111 throughout the 1920s under the names Yeni Muhtıra (New Agenda) and Zafer Muhtırası (Victory Agenda). During the second decade of the Republic, a sad love story intervened in the history of the popular day planner:

Mehmed Sadık Efendi’s son Ahmed fell in love with and sacrificed his life for a young woman named Ece in Afghanistan. As a result, “Ece” became the new name of the agendas, and they were marketed under the brand “Ece Muhtırası” from 1934 on. Moreover, when the Surname Act was passed by Parliament that same year, the surname Ece (Queen) was given to Keriman Halis (who had been elected Miss World in 1932), whereupon the entre 1934 edition of the agenda was dedicated to her.

During the 1930s, a new Ece Agenda was excitedly awaited every New Year. An announcement like “The Ece Agenda for 1936 has been published,” for instance, would be enough to send everyone to their shopping list in order to add the item. Of course the most important aspect of the purchase would be to avoid pirate products by heeding the warning “Watch out for the name Ece.” The day planners were multifunctional, including, for example, “useful information and a detailed table for bond maturation dates.” Over the years, new formats appeared; thus, the agenda was published in four different sizes in 1937, while there were 12 different types of agendas by 1976. Even for the penurious years that followed World War II, the price of an agenda was reasonable: of the two types that were published in 1947, the one that measured 17x23 cm cost five Turkish Lira, and the one that measured 17x33 cm cost six.

Over the years, Afitap’s product line grew beyond stationery, so that by 1945, numerous products of use in the printing industry were also offered for sale, for example flexible glue for printing presses. That same year, Afitab purchased the famed printshop that had once belonged to Ahmed İhsan Tokgöz. Having chosen his former nickname as his surname when the Surname Act was passed, Mehmed Sadık new address was No. 14, Türbedar Street, off Nuruosmaniye Avenue.

The shop remained in the Cağaloğlu district for a long time, before eventually moving to Karaköy. Afitap introduced numerous products into the Ottoman and Turkish markets, notably Hermes typewriters, Mont Blanc, Sheaffer, and Parker fountain pens, Pelican ink, and Edison bulbs. They also printed Kars bus tickets as well as promissory notes for İş Bankası. The collection of invoices in the Ottoman Bank archives shows what a large number of businesses Afitap dealt with over the years: Ali Asgar Tebrizi, the Marifet press; K. Mokosyan, printer and engraver; the Antalya general transportation company; Kanaat bookbinders; the Bayburt Çoruh flour factory; the Matbaacılık ve Neşriyat (printing and publishing) joint stock company; the Hilal press; the Ferdi Tevfik advertisement and billboard company; the Fevzi-Vahit optometry, stationery, school boards, paper, and printing joint stock company; the Papağan ink factory; Hacı Abbas Kehnemuyi; Hanri Mitrani; Haskel Abr. Schemtob; Hrant Hıdışyan, bookbinder; the Hüsnütabiat press; İlâncılık (advertising) Ltd.; İsmail Hasan boxes and packaging; the Mehmet Arif envelope and binder factory; Kınalı Zade Zühdü paper and stationery as well as banking, office, and school supplies; the Kitab-Kâğıd (books and paper) market; Medhi Tevfik; the Mıhcı Oğlu Halil Naci paper and printing company; S.A. Horasancıyan… The Afitap stationery store and the Ece agenda were born and grew together. Their reflections in the literary world indicate the degree to which the Afitap store became an İstanbul landmark, particularly in the historical peninsula:

In Sirkeci, the wind would pick up some ship smoke and sea scent and dive into the first free street it encountered, then stop for a while to look at the window of Afitap, decorated as it was with rows of Ece day planners of all sizes and colors, and elegant European stationery. Was it to admire the Ece agendas that the wind would stop there?

Using Ece day planners gradually became a popular habit. One could write the history of banks, offices, and law firms just by looking at their agendas; and the history of Turkey by combining them all. Notable users included the well-known politicians and sometime prime ministers İsmet İnönü (1965) and Nihat Erim, as well as common folk who used them now as memoranda, now as log books or diaries.

A collection of used day planners collected from old customers is preserved at the Karaköy headquarters of Ece agendas. It constitutes a unique source for social history, and such entries as “It rained hard today, the younger boy has caught a cold, he was sick to his stomach all day” or “Today is the eleventh anniversary of my father’s death” show the singular relationship that people had with the Ece brand. It is precisely for this reason that during the 1970s, the Ece agendas used the motto “everything is better new, friends are better old.” Color coupons were given to those who purchased the New Year agendas, allowing them to enter lotteries awarding “22-carat bracelets and fashionable jersey fabric to 100 winners”; this is evidence of the warm relationship between the firm and its customers.

A new-generation member of the Ece agenda executives as well as of the founding family, Sedef Günşıray described the joy and pride they derive from the fact that numerous important people, from the national leaders Mustafa Kemal and İsmet İnönü, to the novelist Oğuz Aral and the public relations diva Betül Mardin, have all used their products, adding: “That such people use Ece makes us feel that, yes, we are doing something right. But I also very much value the fact that ordinary people love Ece, for instance it makes me happy that the nut seller uses Ece too.”

This is the spirit that has animated the Afitap stationery store and the Ece day planners for more than a century. The shop now stands, with its windows that sparkle like the sun, at No. 30, Necatibey Avenue in Karaköy, where winds that blow from the Bosphorus still stop by to admire the multicolored agendas.

Contact

Kemankeş Mah. Necatibey Cad. No:30 Karaköy-İstanbul
T: 90 212 522 55 44
+90 212 511 71 30

www.eceajandasi.com
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