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Stamboul Sketches: Encounters in Old Istanbul

Throughout the 1960's John Freely and Hilary Sumner-Boyd explored every alley, cove and monument of their adopted home of Istanbul in between their teaching jobs. They created a legendary guidebook, covering 1,500 years of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture, to a city that was still innocent of tourists. But the passages that were too personal, too capricious, too idiosyncratic, too indulgent of eccentric personalities, too melancholically obsessed with lost monuments, too wrapped up in the love of mid-afternoon banter, too indulgent of musicians, dancers, gypsies, dervish, drunks, beggars, fishermen, poets, fortune-tellers, folk healers, mimics and prostitutes were cut from their scholarly guidebook. Stamboul Sketches is a slim book compiled from these editorial floor off-cuts. Inspired by travelling in the footsteps of Evliya Celebi, the Puck-like Pepys who wrote about 17th century Istanbul, Stamboul Sketches is a beautiful, quirky portrait of a city caught like a bird on the wing, so much changed but so much the same.


John Freely was born into a dissident, hard-drinking Irish-American family in 1927. He dropped out of school aged 17 and joined the US Navy, serving as a marine in the last years of the Second World War and as a G.I. student discovered as genius for Physics. His postgraduate studies took him to All Souls, Oxford before taking up a teaching post in 1960 at Roberts College (later Bosphorus University) in Istanbul. Aside from his career as a Professor of Physics he has written forty books about the intertwined history and culture of Turkey and Greece starting with the guidebook he wrote with Hilary Sumner-Boyd, Strolling Through Istanbul.

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