A theologian of Debrecen turned simple hussar, Dániel Szilágyi (1831–1885) emigrated to Istanbul with Lajos Kossuth after the quelling of the Hungarian war of independence of 1848–49 and lived there until his death. He acquired an excellent command of Turkish and became an acknowledged interpreter. His interest was kindled in the records of Turkish literacy.
He opened a small bookshop and began collecting Turkish manuscripts. Soon the shop of the tercüman was famous for its rare manuscripts, and many scholarly hocas and ulemas visited it regularly. Ármin Vámbéry and Ignác Kúnos also called on the shop several times. Thanks to the efforts of Ármin Vámbéry, the manuscripts were acquired by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences after Szilágyi's death.
The collection was first described in some detail by Ignác Kúnos in an article entitled Collectio Szilágyiana. Dániel Szilágyi's library has 500 manuscripts, 438 of them in Turkish, the rest in Persian and Arabic. Up to this day, this material constitutes the core of the Turkish manuscripts in the Oriental Collection.
A large part of the manuscripts is devoted to the history of the Ottoman Empire, especially the period of Ottoman rule in Hungary.
Turkish version of Iskender-name
(Török O. 83, 18v–19r)
Excellent chronicles can be found here, including Tevarih-i Al-i Osman by an anonymous author (Török O. 204) and the Tarih-i Enveri (Török F. 36). A number of literary sources give valuable descriptions of the history of Turkish rule in Hungary, like the historical work of Ibrahim Pečevi, born in Pécs (Török O. 217), or the chronicle of Küčük Nišanji (Török O. 94) from 1578.
More than 200 manuscripts contain literary works, including several divans and tezkeres, among them Molla Hasan Čelebi's Tezkeret uš-šuara (Török O. 220) and Ašiq paša's divan (Török F. 1).
Famous works of Turkish literature are exemplified by two copies of the collection of tales Ferej ba'd eš-šidde (Török F. 17 and Török Qu. 5), the Turkish versions of the poems of Nizami and Fariduddin Attar, and the partly unique copy of the Suleyman-name, which tells the story of King Solomon.