Gazi Husrev Bey's Library in Sarajevo

When Gazi Husrev Bey, the Ottoman Governor and Sarajevo’s greatest and most important benefactor, arrived in the city on the Miljacka in 1521, he immediately set to work having the city’s most important structures built. There was the mosque, medresa, clock tower, covered bazaar, public bath, inn and many other facilities, and their upkeep was ensured through his endowment, to which he dedicated nearly all of his wealth.

Gazi Husrev Bey’s Medresa was established on January 8, 1537 (Rajab 26, 943) and the founding document contains the following directive: “Any remaining funds left over from the medresa’s construction should be put toward the purchase of some good books which will be used in the medresa, so that they may be read and so that scholars may copy what they need.”

Items with Gazi Husrev Bey’s signature and personal seal

When Eugene of Savoy’s army sacked Sarajevo in 1697, the many structures belonging to the endowment were damaged and a large number of books were taken from the library. However, those who took care of the facility managed to salvage some items, including a few that had Gazi Husrev Bey’s signature and personal seal.

The library operated as part of Gazi Husrev Bey’s Kuršumli Medresa until 1863, after which, Governor Topal Osman Pasha had the Endowment Committee build a larger place next to Gazi Husrev Bey’s Mosque

The library remained in this building until 1935, when it was moved to the Emperor’s Mosque. At that time, the closure of many libraries and Islamic institutions throughout BiH caused the library’s collection to grow significantly.

The library operated here until 1992 and the beginning of the last war. For security reasons, the collection was divided up and held at several locations throughout town.

The materials were moved a few times during the four years of war, allowing the entire collection to remain safe and intact.

After the war, and until 2013, the library was rehoused in a building next to Gazi Husrev Bey’s Medresa (for girls) in Drvenija, where it remained before being moved to the facility that was built specifically for it, as a gift from the State of Qatar.

Since January 15, 2014, the library has been fully operational in the multifunctional facility that covers 7,000 m2. It is located in Baščaršija, on Gazi Husrev Begova 46, right next to Kuršumli Medresa – the very place where it was first founded.

The largest collection of manuscripts written in oriental languages

The library is now home to the largest collection of manuscripts written in oriental languages in Southeastern Europe and includes 100,000 items (printed books, journals and various documents).

There are also manuscripts written in Bosnian and other European languages, as well as 10,500 codices that deal with Islamic sciences, belletristic works, philosophy, history, logic, medicine, veterinary science, mathematics, astronomy….

The oldest manuscript is a work on theology, Ihya' 'Ulum al-Din, by Ebu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali, which was copied in 1131.

The most valuable items have been selected by the Library’s Restoration and Digitization Department and are available in digital form.

The library museum also contains more than 1,200 items that testify to the rich cultural tradition of Muslims and other peoples of BiH.