Skip to main content
School of English and Drama

Dr Nil Palabiyik, MA (York), PhD (London)


Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern Studies



I grew up in Turkey in what was then a small seaside town on the Mediterranean coast. Like the itinerant historical figures I studied, academic life took me to many places. I began my studies in Istanbul, then came to the UK to read English at York. It was there that my interest in medieval manuscripts and early printed books began. I still get excited when catch sight (and smell) of a vellum binding with the anticipation of a new discovery.

After a short stint in the publishing industry in London, I taught Renaissance literature at an American Studies department in Istanbul. In 2014, I completed my PhD on early modern printing at the Hellenic Institute of Royal Holloway, University of London. My doctoral thesis examined the first Greek books published in the Ottoman Empire by a monk and scholar who commenced his publishing activity in London in the 1620s. My investigations at the local archives in Cephalonia, Athens, London, and Istanbul triggered a reappraisal of Metaxas’ role as an editor and publisher.

My love of old books and archives led to extended stays at the finest libraries in Europe and fellowships at the John Rylands Research Institute (Manchester), the Scaliger Institute (Leiden), and the Herzog August Library (Wolfenbüttel).

I was Humboldt Fellow at Middle Eastern Studies Institute of LMU Munich and worked at the History department of University of Manchester before joining Queen Mary in 2021.

Undergraduate Teaching

I am currently teaching

  • ESH 267: Renaissance Literary Culture
  • ESH 296: The Thousand and One Nights
  • ESH 6081: Love Poetry in the Medieval and Early Modern Worlds

Postgraduate Teaching

I also contribute to the MA module

  • ESH 7001: Production of Texts in Context


Research Interests:

  • Early modern book history, manuscript and print culture
  • Intellectual history and history of scholarship
  • Oriental learning in early modern Europe
  • Annotations, marginalia and marks on books and manuscripts
  • Migration, dissemination of knowledge and cultural encounters between East and West

Recent and On-Going Research

My research is at the crossroads of intellectual history, printing history and manuscript culture, focusing on the interactions between the Ottoman Empire and Europe in the early modern period. In particular, I have worked on the transmission of Greek printing techniques to the Ottoman Empire, and the role of Ottoman scholarly traditions in the emergence of Oriental Studies in Europe.

My recent monograph Silent Teachers: Turkish Books and Oriental Learning in Early Modern Europe, 1544–1669 (Routledge, 2023) considers the humanist engagement with Ottoman literature. Through annotations, study notes and correspondence of European scholars, I tell a story of not only conflict and rivalry but also curiosity and cooperation between scholars across a Republic of Letters that encompassed Istanbul, Aleppo and Damascus as well as Paris, Leiden and Vienna. 

At present, I am working on a trade book to tell the fascinating story of the first Greek printing press of Constantinople (1627–28) for the wider public. This seemingly small and short-lived enterprise was at the centre of political scheming, diplomatic rivalry, religious conflict, and the race for looting indigenous artefacts and manuscripts between European powers on Ottoman soil. Giving a global historical account through the focused lens of microhistory, the book will capture the complexities of Ottoman society’s multi-religious, multi-ethnic fabric.

Between 2015 and 2022, I was engaged in a project to examine the role of Ottoman learned practices and reference tools in the study of oriental languages in early modern Europe. Funded by the British Academy and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, this project led to a number of paradigm-shifting outcomes: first, that the Ottoman methods and sources formed the basis for European study of oriental languages; second, that leading scholars such as Jacobus Golius (1596–1667) and Joseph Scaliger (1540–1609) took a keen interest in Turkish literature, ranging from belles-lettres, poetry, musicology, to horticulture and astrology; and third, that manuscripts played a far more significant role than printed books for the study of Turkish. My archival research brought to light a pivotal scholar named Anton Deusing (1612–66), who previously had been a mere footnote in the history of oriental studies, even though he compiled the richest Persian and Turkish dictionaries of the early seventeenth century. This research culminated in the publication of several journal articles, a special issue and a monograph.



2023       ‘Silent Teachers’: Turkish Books and Oriental Learning in Renaissance Europe, 1544–1680, Routledge Studies in Renaissance and Early Modern Worlds of Knowledge in association with the Society for Renaissance Studies (London and New York: Routledge, 2023), nominated for the British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding

Edited special issue

2019       Empires of Knowledge: How Ottoman Scholarship Shaped Oriental Studies in Seventeenth-Century Europe, Lias: Journal of Early Modern Intellectual Culture 46.2 (2019): 137–325


Peer-reviewed journal articles

2020      ‘A Public Debate on Cyril of Alexandria’s Views on the Procession of the Holy Spirit in Seventeenth-Century Constantinople: the Jesuit Reaction to Nicodemos Metaxas’s Greek Editions’, International Journal of the Classical Tradition 27.3: 427–48


2019       ‘An Unsung Hero of Oriental Studies in Leiden: Anton Deusing and his Turkish Dictionaries’, Lias: Journal of Early Modern Intellectual Culture 46: 157–200

2019       ‘Introduction’, Lias: Journal of Early Modern Intellectual Culture 46 (2019): 137–56

2019       ‘Justus Raphelengius’s Latin Translation of Turkish Folk Tales’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 139.2: 333–60


2018       ‘The Last Letter from Étienne Hubert to Joseph Scaliger: Oriental Languages and Scholarly Collaboration in Seventeenth-Century Europe’, Lias: Journal of Early Modern Intellectual Culture and its Sources 45.1: 115–46


2016       ‘Redundant Presses and Recycled Woodcuts: The Journey of Printing Materials from London to Constantinople in the Seventeenth Century’, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 110.3: 273–98


2015       ‘An Early Case of the Printer’s Self-Censorship in Constantinople’, The Library: Transactions of the Bibliographical Society 16.4: 381–404 [editor’s choice]


2015       ‘The Beginnings of Printing in the Ottoman Capital: Book Production and Circulation in Early Modern Constantinople’, Osmanlı Bilimi Araştırmaları/Studies in Ottoman Science 16.2: 3–32


Book chapters

2023       ‘Glossary of Printing Terms (Turkish)’, in Printing and Misprinting: A Companion to Mistakes and In-House Corrections in Renaissance Europe (1450–1650), ed. by Geri della Rocca Candal, Anthony Grafton, and Paolo Sachet (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 556–8


I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research.

Public Engagement

Some of the blog posts I have been invited to write include

Rylands Library and Institute blog, ‘Rylands Persian MS 913: Oriental Studies between Leiden and Constantinople’,

Biblia Arabica blog, ‘Oriental Languages and Scholarly Collaboration in Seventeenth-Century Europe: Étienne Hubert and the Arabic Gospels’,

Rylands Library and Institute blog, ‘Conversations with an Ottoman Gentleman: Nathaniel Bland’s Paris Notebooks’,

Elsevier Connect blog, ‘Re-discovering the Orient through 17th-century Elzevier books’,

Back to top