The Tughra of Sultan Abdülaziz (1861-76)
by Andreas Birken ©
This article first appeared February, 1991 in the journal of the Oriental Philatelic Association of London (OPAL)
The tughra of the Ottoman sultans in the documents of the Ottoman Empire had the function of signature and seal together. Only with the tughra a document was valid. The tughra was also often used like the European coat of arms or signet on coins and stamps. The latter is of special interest to the philatelist. The tughra is composed of the calligraphically shaped letters of the reigning sultan's name and title. Because of this calligraphic form some philatelists may have doubts, whether the tughra really consists of those letters but rather some other forms of adornment. The following figures demonstrate that this is really the case. They show the tughra of sultan Abdülaziz, who reigned 1861 to 1876, which was used for the first Ottoman stamps. The figures were drawn by computer and are inspired by the outstanding book by Suha Umur, Osmanli Padishah Tugralari, Istanbul 1980. In this book the tughras of all Ottoman sultans since Orhan bin Osman (1324-60) are illustrated and analyzed.
Sultan Orhan's tughra was still rather plain and composed only of the words Orhan bin Osman. Through the centuries the title became more voluminous, and the form, got more ornate. Since the 16th century it obtained it's final shape.
The title han (khan) was first included in the tughra by Bayezid I (1389-1403). Murad II (1421-51) added el-muzaffer (the Victorious). Mehmed II the Conqueror (1451-81) supplementeddaima (the ever Victorious). From Selim I (1512-20) to Ahmed III (1703-36) the tughra included also the title shah. Therefore the tughra of Abdülaziz is composed of the words Abd ül-Aziz han bin Mahmud el-muzaffer daima.The figures show how these words are combined to the form of the tughra. It is completed by some supplementary lines.