Constantinople (now Istanbul) was a key city for late 19th and early 20th century British archaeologists. The city and surrounds was, and continues to be, a major tourist destination too. In the late 19th century John Murray issued a guidebook specifically for Constantinople and environs – Brusa and the Troad in northwestern Anatolia, Turkey. (The Troad is the area where from the 1870s Heinrich Schliemann with his wife Sophia Engastromenos and the workers they employed had been busily occupied in digging for the remains of ancient Troy at Hisarlik just south of the Dardanelles, a watery highway separating “Turkey in Europe” from “Turkey in Asia”.)
I recently found a 1907 copy of Murray’s Handbook to Constantinople, Brusa and the Troad in an Oxfam bookshop. I couldn’t resist buying it, as guidebooks like this are usually pretty expensive, and this one was relatively reasonable. I was already excited about it as I took it home, only to discover on having a closer look at it that there was something even more exciting tucked away inside.
By the early 20th century Murray’s Handbooks were designed with an envelope opening in the cover, a thin “pocket” between the red cloth covering and the paper endpapers. It’s easy to miss if you don’t know it’s there. The pocket usually holds a separate fold out map – in this case a detailed plan of Constantinople. This pocket, however, to my delight also contained a postcard and a tram ticket.
The delicate paper ticket is not in great condition; it was crumpled near the edge of the bottom of the pocket and is now in two pieces. But enough of it remains to show that on one side is a map of the tramways and on the other ticket particulars: tariffs, carriage classes and sections. The text is in French and Turkish.
Just after this copy of the handbook was published the Young Turk revolution began initiating a period of upheaval in Ottoman Turkey. The archaeologist William Mitchell Ramsay, his wife Agnes Dick Ramsay and one of their daughters (who is not named) contextualised and recorded this period from a British point of view for a British readership in The Revolution in Constantinople and Turkey (1909). The Ramsays’ “diary” begins in Germany in April 1909. On hearing that the Young Turks are marching on Constantinople, “Miss Ramsay” hopes she and her parents will “go straight on and be there when the fighting begins”. And they do.
Like many bits of ephemera, the tram ticket’s delicacy almost guarantees that it won’t survive long beyond the use for which it was created. I’m very glad though that in this case, the previous owner of Constantinople, Brusa and the Troad hung onto the ticket long enough to forget about it.
You can learn more about archaeology in John Murray’s Handbooks in Archaeologists in Print, my forthcoming book with UCL Press!
Geyikdagi, V. N. 2011. Foreign Investment in the Ottoman Empire. International Trade and Relations 1854-1914. London: I. B. Tauris.
Ramsay, W. M. (with A. D. Ramsay and Miss Ramsay). 1909. The Revolution in Constantinople and Turkey: A Diary. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
Wilson. C. (Ed). 1907. Handbook to Constantinople, Brusa and the Troad. London: John Murray.