Was there a ban on printing in Islam? I saw the following claim online here:
Printing was banned by Islamic authorities because they believed the Koran would be dishonoured by appearing out of a machine. As a result, Arabs did not acquire printing presses until the 18th century.
UPDATE: Geoff Carter in the comments has been tracking it down. There is some substance to this. The urls given refer to an article by Muhsin Mahdi, From the manuscript age to the age of printed books, in The Book in the Islamic World, ed. G.N.Atiyeh, State University of New York Press (1995), pp.1-16. This is not a study, as far as I can see, but rather a series of questions. So we still haven’t reached bottom of this one.
UPDATE 2: Searching Google books, I found this link, J.G.Taylor, Indonesia, Yale (2004), p.68 in support:
Although the printing press reached Muslim lands from Europe in 1492, Muslim kings banned setting Arabic into type until the early nineteenth century.
No footnotes, tho. A little light comes from the Quarterly Review, p.475:
An attempt of the same kind had been made by Achmet III., so early as the year 1727: the oulemas gave their consent, but it was rendered nugatory, by excepting the Koran, for a reason, as Mr. Walsh observes, ‘ characteristic of the people—they said it would be an act of impiety if the word of God should be squeezed and pressed together; but the true cause was, that great numbers of themselves earned a considerable income by transcribing those books, which would be at once destroyed, if suffered to be printed.’ As Turks read nothing else but the Koran, the printing-office was soon discontinued. Its renewal by Selim had no better success; it languished and declined on the death of its patron, ‘ who fell a victim to the rage of the Janissaries, for attempting to innovate upon their ancient and venerable ignorance.’
This tends to suggest that any ban originated with the Ottomans, and, as with so much in that miserable state, under a pretence of piety sought to financially benefit certain individuals. Once the Koran began to be printed, Karpat remarks in The politicization of Islam, p. 231, entrepreneurs quickly issued defective Korans as fast as possible, for profit.
However I have just seen a reference to a specific ban on the Koran in 1727.
In Chambers Edinburgh Journal p. 44, (1848) I find the following:
The Sultan Bajazet II. issued a decree in 1483 forbidding the use of printed books by the Turks, under penalty of death. This decree was afterwards confirmed by his son Selim I. in 1515, and implicitly obeyed by the Mohammedans, with equal ignorance and fanaticism, until the eighteenth century, when, in the reign of Achmet III., Seid-Effendi, who had accompanied his father, the ambassador, to the court of Louis XV. in 1720, was so much struck with the advantages of printing, that he determined his own country should participate in them. For the attainment of this object he employed the services of a Hungarian renegade, who was subsequently surnamed Basmadjy—’ the Printer.’ A memorial was drawn up, by means of which the grand vizier, Ibrahim Pacha, an enlightened protector of literature, obtained a favourable edict from the sultan. But fearful of wounding the religious scruples of his subjects, and of alarming the numerous class of copyists, Achmet forbade the printing of the Koran, the oral laws of the Prophet, the commentaries on these works, and books on jurisprudence—leaving to the industry of the printers philosophical, medical, astronomical, geographical, historical, and other scientific works. The renegade was placed at the head of the new establishment, but the national character was against him ; and notwithstanding his activity, at the time of his death, which happened in 1746, he had not been able to print more than sixteen works. The first was a Turkish and Arabic dictionary, 2 vols. folio, of which the impression was completed in 1729; the price was fixed at thirty- five piastres, by order of the sultan. In the following year a Turkish grammar appeared, a copy of which, with each leaf of a different colour, is still in existence.
Again, no references.
UPDATE: (12th May 2009)
A most interesting paper by John-Paul Ghobrial addresses the lack of proper references for this story. I have written to the author asking for some more details.
The sources given for the ban in this paper are two:
Nicolas de Nicolay, The navigations, peregrinations and voyages, made into Turkie by Nicholas Nicholay Daulphinois, Lord of Arfeuile. conteining sundry singularities which the author hath there seene and observed;devided into foure books, with threescore figures, naturally set forth as well of men as women, according to the diversitie of nations., T. Washington trans. (London, 1585). p.130.
…Maranes [Marranos] of late banished and driven out of Spaine & Portugale, who to the great detriment and damage of the Christianitie, have taught the Turkes diverse inventions, craftes and engines of warre, as to make artillerie, harquebuses, gunnepouder, shot, and other munitions: they have also there set up printing, not before seene in those countries, by the which in faire characters they put in light divers bookes in divers languages, as Greek, Latin, Italian, Spanish, and the Hebrewe toungue, being to them natural, but are not permitted to print the Turkie or Arabian tongue.’
The other is “Busbecq”in 1560. This turns out to be The Life and Letters of Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq By Ogier Ghislain de Busbecq, tr. Charles Thornton Forster, Francis Henry Blackburne Daniell. Published by C. K. Paul, 1881. Volume 1 is online here, and on p. 255 we find this text:
No nation in the world has shown greater readiness than the Turks to avail themselves of the useful inventions of foreigners, as is proved by their employment of cannons and mortars, and many other things invented by Christians. They cannot, however, be induced as yet to use printing, or to establish public clocks, because they think that the Scriptures, that is, their sacred books – would no longer be scriptures if they were printed, and that, if public clocks were introduced, the authority of their muezzins and their ancient rites would be thereby impaired.
John-Paul Ghobrial suggests that the first reference refers not to a general ban on printing, but to restrictions on dhimmis (=you and me) in an Islamic state doing so in the language of the ruling Moslems. But of course that may or may not be so.
UPDATE: (31st October 2018): A kind commenter (below) has drawn my attention to a relevant article. It is Kathryn A Schwartz, “Did Ottoman Sultans Ban Print?” in: Book History 20 (2017) p.1-39. This article really consists of a literature search, trying to find the origins of the claim. Few will have access to this, so I will summarise what she found.
1. The firmans of Bayezid II and Selim I, which created the ban on printing
She tells us that no such firmans have reached us. Unfortunately it is unclear whether this lack is significant – do we have that many firmans from that period? But she has found what she believes to be the source for the claim that these two Sultans banned printing:
It appears that the first person to publish this assertion was the French Franciscan priest and cosmographer Andre Thevet (1502–90).
Thevet wrote about the firmans in the second volume of his eight volume work entitled The True Portraits and Lives of Illustrious Greek, Latin, and Pagan Men.  Printed from Paris in 1584, the book comprised chapters on distinguished historical figures. In Thevet’s chapter on “Jean Guttemberg, Inventor of Printing,” he compared the invention and adoption of printing in Europe to the absence of the technology in the East: What I know for sure is that the Greeks, Armenians, Mingrelians (Mingrelias), Abyssinians, Turks, Persians, Moors, Arabs & Tartars do not write their books except by hand. [And] that among the others, the Turks are constrained by the ordinance (ordinance) of Baiazeth, second in name, their Emperor [i.e., Bayezid II], published in the year fourteen hundred eighty-three, carrying the prohibitions (defenses), on the pain of death to not consume (de n’user) printed books, which was the ordinance confirmed by Selim, first of name [i.e., Selim I], his son, [in] the year one thousand five-hundred fifteen.
88. André Thevet, Les vrais pourtraits et vies des hommes illustres, Grecz, Latins, et payens, recueilliz de leurs tableaux, livres, medalles antiques, et modernes (Paris: Par la vefue I. Keruert et Guillaume Chaudiere, 1584), Vol. 2, 515 verso. [Both vols are on Google Books: Vol.1; Vol.2]
Here it is:
Thevet, therefore, is writing in 1580. Selim’s firman was in 1515, Bayezid II’s after 1492. Schwartz points out various problems with Thevet’s testimony, and attempts to suggest that in general he is not a reliable witness.
2. Statement by Marsigli that no ban existed as such
Moreover, other early modern European reports contradicted Thevet’s claim. Count Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli (1658–1730), for example, challenged the notion that the sultans banned printing. Marsigli had first-hand dealings with the Ottomans for twenty years from the 1680s. He travelled in the empire, battled against it in service to the Habsburgs, and lived amongst Ottoman janissaries as a prisoner of war.96
In Marsigli’s book on the Ottoman military, he refuted the notion of the Ottoman printing ban: “The Turks, it is true, do not print their books at all. But this is not, as is commonly believed, because they are prohibited to print, or because their books are unworthy of printing.”97
Marsigli’s statement ought to carry significant credibility due to his fluency in the Ottoman language and his abiding bibliophila. He amassed more than six hundred oriental manuscripts during his travels.98 And beyond that, Marsigli was himself a printer who worked with Medici oriental typefaces at the press that he established in Bologna.99
The reference is: Luigi Ferdinando Marsili, L’Etat militaire de l’empire ottoman, ses progrès et sa décadence, 1732. Vol. 1, p.40. Italian with French translation. This too is online here. The full paragraph is:
Les Turc ne sont point à la verité imprimer leurs ouvrages mais ce n’est pas comme on le croit communement parceque l’Imprimerie leur est défendue ou que leurs ouvrages ne méritent pas l’impression. Ils ne veulent pas empêcher tant de Copistes au nombre de quatre-vingt dix mille lorsque j étais à Constantinople de gagne leur vie ; & c’est ce que les Turcs ont dit eux-mêmes aux Chrétien & aux juifs qui vouloient introduire l’imprimerie dans l’Empire pour en faire leur profit.
The Turks indeed never print their works, but this is not, as is believed commonly, because printing is banned or because their works are not worth printing. They do not wish to prevent so many copyists, to the number of 86,000 when I was at Constantinople, from earning a living; and it is this that the Turks have said themselves to Christians and to Jews who wished to introduce printing into the empire to make a profit.
3. The first extant firman – Murad III
Murad (r. 1574–95) issued the earliest extant firman concerning print in 1588. It survives at the back of the 1594 Arabic edition of Euclid’s Elements published by the Medici Oriental Press in Rome.42 The firman asserted the rights of two European merchants to their trade of “valuable printed books and pamphlets in Arabic” within the empire.43 It ordered that the traders were to henceforth be left unmolested by those who “are opening up their shipments by force, and with little or no payment at all are taking their wares and interfering with their trade.”
- Euclid, Euclidis Elementorum geometricorum libri tredecim (Rome: In typographia Medicea, 1594), verso of last page.
43. Christopher M. Murphy, trans., “Appendix: Ottoman Imperial Documents Relating to the History of Books and Printing,” in The Book in the Islamic World: The Written Word and Communication in the Middle East, ed. George N. Atiyeh (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995), 283.
Let’s have that firman, in Murphy’s translation. It was issued in October 1588:
A COPY OF A DECREE ISSUED BY HIS IMPERIAL MAJESTY THE PADISHAH MURAD HAN
Be it hereby known to all governors, sea captains, judges, and other officials stationed in the Imperial domain that two European merchants by the name of Anton and Orasyu [Horatio] Bandini, being bearers of Imperial permission to conduct trade, are buying and selling and doing business by importing certain goods and valuable printed books and pamphlets in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. Some persons are opening up their shipments by force, and with little or no payment at all are taking their wares and interfering with their trade. It is therefore directed that the said merchants and their agents and employees be allowed to carry on their business in safety and that their merchandise be not seized, and that whosoever disobeys this decree of mine be reported immediately. It is also ordered that their books and goods be purchased in return for the payment of the correct price and that there should no longer be any complaints in this matter. Written in Constantinople on the first of Zilhicce in the year of the Hijrah 996.
4. The second extant firman – Ahmed III
This is the firman that allowed a Hungarian renegade who called himself Ibrahim Muteferrika – his original name is unknown – to print secular texts. Schwartz writes:
Ahmed’s 1727 firman endowed a permit to print to the aforementioned Muteferrika, a Unitarian convert to Islam who reached prominence in the imperial court. As the Medici Press did with their firman from Murad, Muteferrika printed this firman in the first book that he reproduced, the 1729 Ottoman-Arabic dictionary Kitab-ı Lugat-ı Vankulu….
47. For the full English translations of “Vesiletu’t-Tiba‘a” and the Imperial firman granted to Muteferrika by Ahmed III, refer to Murphy, “Appendix,” 284–92. For their reproductions, along with the endorsements, or taqarız , of the text, refer to Gdoura, Debut de l’imprimerie Arabe, 276–80.
Apparently the book starts with a lengthy essay explaining why printing is a good idea; the firman drew upon it. The firman, issued in 1727, is rather long: again let’s have Murphy’s translation of it.
AS IT BECOMES NECESSARY IT WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED
(A COPY OF THE IMPERIAL RESCRIPT, A COPY OF THE NOBLE IMPERIAL ORDER)
This exalted royal order is given to that pinnacle of illustrious persons and notables, the official of the Grand Vezir, Sait, and to that educated select servant of the Palace, Ibrahim, may his nobility increase. It is known that upon the establishment of the rising sun of the religion of Muhammad and that with the brightness of the dawn of Ahmed’s religious community, may God bless him, and it is understood that since that time the enlightened and meritorious masters of religion, God bless them, wrote books and tracts of science and knowledge in order to protect and conserve the verses of the Koran, the traditions of the Prophet, and the entirety of knowledge. And these words served to maintain the good order of the people, and make known the laws of religion and state, and the organization of the state and community. Editing books and writings and collecting eloquent collections of poetry, they progressed and wrote histories and accounts and worked for the preservation and defense of knowledge and works of culture, facilitating and disseminating sciences and arts. People knowledgeable in Arabic and Persian profited from their explaining and teaching, and organizing the regulations for each of the particular sciences and disciplines. This being proper, in order that they would possess eternal happiness in this world and the next and gain a good reward, they did not cease writing valuable and knowledgeable books and tracts. However, with the passing of days and with the years going by as the Chingizids, created chaotic disturbances and Hulagu rose to power, and with resplendent Andalusia in the hands of the Europeans, and with the convulsions of wars, killing, and destruction, most literary works have disappeared with their authors. Therefore, today in the Muslim lands the dictionaries of Cevheri and Van Kulu in the Arabic language, and books of history and, copies of scientific works which were burned are rare. Also, people did not give proper care and attention, and lacked concern about copying, so works were not carefully copied. These rare books are an inspiration to students of the arts and sciences and to seekers of knowledge.
Among the technical processes, printing is like coining money and impressing paper with a signet ring. Books produced by printing cause several thousand volumes to be produced from a single volume, all of which are accurate copies. With little effort there is great return, making this a desirable activity to pursue. By virtue of your having composed a learned tract about, and having expertise in, the various above-mentioned activities, you will see to the necessities and expenditures without loss of time, so that on a fortunate day this Western technique will be unveiled like a bride and will not again be hidden. It will be a reason for Muslims to say prayers for you and praise you to the end of time. Excepting books of religious law, Koranic exegesis, the traditions of the Prophet, and theology, you asked the Padishah’s permission in the aforementioned tract to print dictionaries, history books, medical books, astronomy and geography books, travelogues, and books about logic. The aforementioned tract was referred to that very learned religious scholar, that most meritoriously pious mariner on the stormy sea of religious questions, that wellspring of the river of legal opinions, that wearer of the garment of piety, the Seyh-ul-Islam and learned jurisconsult, Mevlana Abdullah, may Almighty God increase his goodness. The question was asked: Zeyd claiming expertise in the science of printing, illuminating, and producing copies of the letters and words of dictionaries, logic, philosophy, and astronomy texts, and like works, thus being able to produce exact copies of these books, is there not permission in the Holy Law for this good work? The one who is an expert at printing seeks a legal opinion because producing an accurate edition of a work in a short time, with no errors and many copies, results in there being an increased number of books, which is a benefit to the community. The answer is: Being able to produce this great benefit, this person receives permission with the condition that several educated persons be appointed as proof readers. Great benefit will come from the order based on that legal opinion, allowing for the exception of the religious subjects mentioned in the tract written with the pearl pen of wisdom. This legal opinion is well prepared and it stands out in a vast ocean as exemplary in the Seyh’s career. What falls from his pen in the form of authoritative opinion is an overflowing garden, a basin of sweet water, a river which waters the desert with springs. The Imperial permission becomes proper on account of this well-explained authoritative declaration, this perfectly eloquent and noble opinion. Copies will be printed of dictionaries, and books about logic, astronomy and similar subjects, and so that the printed books will be free from printing mistakes, the wise, respected and meritorious religious scholar specializing in Islamic Law, the excellent Kazi of lstanbul, Mevlana Ishak, and Selaniki’s Kazi, Mevlana Sahib, and Ghalata’s Kazi, Mevlana Asad, may their merits be increased, and from the illustrious religious orders, the pillar of the righteous religious scholars, the Seyh of the Kasim Pasha Mevlevihane, Mevlana Musa, may his wisdom and knowledge increase, will oversee the proofreading. With the actual setting up of the press, the above-mentioned books in history, astronomy, geography, logic and so forth, after they pass the review of the learned scholars, shall become numerous. However, you will take special care to see that the copies remain free from error and depend on the noble learned men for this. Ordered in the middle of Zulka’de in the year 1139 in Istanbul the protected.
The remainder of the article is dedicated to the references to the ban in European writers; and ends with a curious statement that, whether or not there ever was a ban, the important thing is to remove from the question the opinions of contemporaneous westerners.
What do we make of this? It comes down to a few statements.
- We don’t have copies of the firmans of Beyazit II (1493?)and Selim I(1515), nor any real evidence for their existence. But we don’t know whether our lack of knowledge is significant.
- We have a statement by Thevet (1584) that such a ban was brought in. But Thevet may not be reliable.
- We have a firman by Murad (1588) allowing a foreign merchant to sell printed books. But this doesn’t really bear upon the question.
- We have the statement by Marsigli (1680) that no legal ban existed but that printing simply did not happen because there were thousands of people earning a living by copying books.
- We have a firman by Ahmed in 1727, permitting the printing of books other than those connected to Islam. The terms of the firman, and the long book before it, make clear that no printing had ever taken place, as far as the authors knew.
This is all useful data. This data seems to make quite clear that printing was not allowed to take place before 1727, despite the repeated importunity of foreigners who could see the opportunity to make a fortune.
Whether the ban was effectuated by a firman by Beyazit II and Selim I – and a firman only lasted for the reign of the Sultan – or by some other extra-legal process – is perhaps a technical detail. The point is that there was plainly a ban in practical effect.
20 thoughts on “Printing banned by Islam?”
It is quite possible; I recently covered a similar issue in my blog.
In a world were only god is perfect, art and architecture are obliged to be imperfect, and craftsmen will deliberately put errors into their work.
The beautiful geometric decoration typical of Arab art usually contains irregularity to avoid offending god.
Maybe, but I’ve read enough anti-Christian hate-literature to know the sort of thing that gets passed around in that genre of writing, and this rings those bells. I doubt the story is this simple. Who precisely are these “authorities” referred to, one wonders? It seems wrong to me.
From a historical perspective I do not have a problem with the article, it argues that a failure to create a strong ‘secular’ component in society stifles progress. It can be argued that pre-reformation Christianity had a similar effect in Europe, and while printing was not banned, – not for the want of trying, it was kept under strict control.
It is ironic that in the ‘dark ages’ much pre-Christian learning suppressed by church was preserved by early Islam.
Any religion, with the power to do so, will attempt suppress aspects of society that threaten its power and authority.
“They suffer, and they know it, from their failure in most cases to create modern standards of society”.
He is referring mainly to Arab states, unfortunately, (western) “standards of society” are often incompatible with traditional Islamic culture, in particular with regards to the status of women, and this poses a threat to traditional religious authority, and more broadly the status of men in Islamic society.
I think we need to check the specific statement alleged, tho. If true, it would be interesting; if false we need to recognise a legend.
The story checks out, see;
As usual, it is more interesting and complex storey than it first appears.
Well done for persisting and getting towards the bottom of this, the Islamic world is not as well referenced as classical culture, at least from the western perspective, although language and general unfamiliarity is an obvious issue.
I had trouble getting good references for the practice of creating deliberate imperfection in art and architecture, which, as noted above, seems consistent with the rejection of printing technology by the Ottomans.
It can be difficult to appreciate the unconditional reverence for the Koran, and since the book is so absolutely central to the religion, control of it, and its reproduction, was vital for the authorities. The situation is analogous to the attempts to control reproduction and translation of Holy Scripture by the catholic authorities during the C15th 16th, although the different ‘religious’ reasons may be cited.
Thank YOU for your efforts. I don’t think we have reached the bottom; merely obtained more references. But the story does start to become clearer, I think.
We simply don’t have the handbooks to work on Islam. We need an English translation of Brockelmann’s massive tomes on Arabic literature; we need one of Graf’s volumes on Arabic Christian literature. I did try to get permission to make one of the latter, but got nowhere.
I would also suggest one consider the following information:
Control was not really an issue when it came to the printing press, but rather it was quality, reverence and authenticity which were of upmost important to the Muslims when it came to the distribution of the Holy Quran.
Understanding symbolism and reverence is necessary when dealing with this topic.
Perhaps. But most important are first hand references to original sources. Until we know what happened, we can’t discuss motivation.
An interesting observation; religious piety, superstition, and the practice of adding ’holiness’ to objects and situations, seems naturally tend to the extreme.
Trying to determine motivation in terms of contemporary events is contentious and difficult enough, but a distance of half a millennium, it is going to be tough.
Motivation is invariably multidimensional; Religion may be our only salvation and way to paradise – but it is also one ways that elites control and manipulates the rest of the population, – if Jesus had not said “render unto Caesar . . “ – someone would have had to said it for him.
Incidentally, Caesar tells us that the Celtic priesthood were anti-literacy, as keepers of an oral cultural tradition; it is easy to see why they might be opposed to new methods of disseminating information.
One of the key arguments deployed by authorities against ‘freedom of information’ are concerns about quality.
Well, it’s bound to. After all, any opposition to superstition must be opposition to the True Faith! At least, that is what those peddling superstition will try to say; and it will be a brave man who risks being branded as a heretic, however religious he is.
Think of modern anti-racism/anti-semitism/anti-homophobia
; suggest ever so mildly that the hate is not justified, and the first retort will be to question whether YOU are a “racist/etc.”
This is why ideologies are so dangerous, particularly if they manage to shut down freedom of speech. (Not that this is all that relevant to this thread, but it’s on my mind because I wrote a post today objecting to a recent law here in the UK and realised that I risked 7 years in prison if I published it and some activist decided to accuse me of inciting hate).
There are issues some related to faith and printing of the holy Quran that is a different issue and serious and lot of merit in it sure. It is s long story. Later.
But printing in general was never banned.
Again there are two issues – prepress and printing. Prepress is all about the content and making plates. That was there in The Muslim world all along.
Prepress also included type setting, yes that was difficult to achieve in Arabic letters as one letter is joined by the next – technical issues.
However Turkey was the first to solve this problem by converting their letters from Arabic Persian letters to Roman or Latin characters. To blame the Turks they stopped printing is absurd and malicious. Let’s set the record straight.
There was never ever an edict from any where to block introduction of printing press. People who do not understand printing can only talk like this.
Do you have any sources for this?
Hi Roger, have you found out anything new about this subject?
Toby E. Huff writes this in his book ‘Intellectual Curiosity and the Scientific Revolution’ (2011, page 307): ‘Edicts were issued against [book printing] by Sultans Bayzid II in 1485 and Salim I in 1515’. He refers to J. Pedersen: ‘The Arabic Book’ (1984, page 133). The latter book is a translation from Danish of the book ‘Den Arabiske Bog’ (1946).
By the way, J. Pedersen shows (page 131) that Arabic printing in EUROPE existed from the beginning of the 16th century onwards. Even the Quran was printed in Arabic in Venice in 1530. This shows the bogusness of Sain’s argument above that Arabic printing in the Islamic domain didn’t exist because of ‘technical issues’.
I recommend checking this great article: “Did Ottoman Sultans Ban Print?” by Kathryn A. Schwartz. The article elaborately traces the origin of such claims and the way they transferred among researchers that followed (including some comments already included in this discussion). The origin of the claim appears to be a bias and unreliable one. Many other facts refute this claim as well especially, for example, 1) the establishment of printing presses for other languages since the 15th century in the Ottoman lands and 2) the permission given to European printers to distribute secular Arabic books in the Ottoman lands since the 16th century. For further related sources I would recommend:
* J.R. Osborn, Letters of light: Arabic Script in Calligraphy, Print, and Digital Design, Harvard 2017. This source gives a very good comprehensive insight about the complex factors that collectively led to a long delay in adopting the printing press.
* Barbarics-Hermanik, Zsuzsa, “European Books for the Ottoman Market”, In: Specialist Markets in the Early Modern Book World, Brill (2015) pp 389-405.
* Orlin Sabev’s articles. (You can figure out the related articles from their titles)
* The book in the Islamic world edited by George N. Atiyeh.[George N. Atiyeh, The Book in the Islamic World: The Written Word and Communication in the Middle East, NY (2015).] This also includes several good articles which can allow a deeper understanding of the case.
I hope this helps!
Note: I’ve added biblographic details.-RP
Thank you so much for this. For some reason this went into the spam box, from which I have just rescued it.
The article that you refer to is Kathryn A Schwartz, “Did Ottoman Sultans Ban Print?” in: Book History 20 (2017) p.1-39.
The Orlin Sabev articles that must be relevant that I can find are:
* Orlin Sabev, “The First Ottoman Turkish Printing Enterprise: Success or Failure?”, in: Ottoman Tulips, Ottoman coffee: Leisure and lifestyle in the eighteenth century, 2007, p.117-132.
* Orlin Sabev, “Formation of Ottoman Print Culture (1726–1746): Some General Remarks”, New Europe College, p.293-333.
* Orlin Sabev, “Rich Men, Poor Men: Ottoman Printers and Booksellers Making Fortune or Seeking Survival (Eighteenth-nineteenth Centuries)”, Oriens 37, p.177-190.
* Orlin Sabev, “Waiting for Godot: The formation of Ottoman print culture”, in: Historical aspects of printing and publishing in languages of the Middle East: Papers from the third symposium on the history of printing and publishing in the languages and countries of the Middle East, University of Leipzig, 2008-9, 101-120.
If a decree was required to permit the use of the printing press then does it not follow that a ban therefore must have existed?