The First “Little Prince” Museum of Turkey Opens

Long time collector of The Little Prince books, Yıldıray Lise is getting ready to open a Little Prince Books Museum in Eskişehir in 2020, together with his pals Mehmet Sobacı and Ali Lidar.

Lise says he believes that the main message of The Little Prince is peace: “The author never uses the word ‘peace’ while storytelling, yet you sense it in everything he tells. The things he tell gives me peace and hope.”  

Yıldıray Lise has been collecting the copies of the book “The Little Prince” since year 2008.  The number of the books in his collection is now over a thousand, and more than 360 of them are in different languages and dialects. 

After coming together with collector Mehmet Sobacı and Teacher and Poet Ali Lidar, the museum’s work gained momentum. Eventually, a venue for the museum was also designated. The Museum, which has been planned to be opened in Eskişehir Anatolian High School, will be named as “Eskişehir Anatolian High School The Little Prince Books Museum”. The team attaches importance to all children getting to know both The Little Prince and the languages of the world and calls for financial and book support for the museum.

Do you remember the moment you had decided to collect books of The Little Prince?

Yıldıray Lise: Yes, I do remember very clearly. On a cold Ankara night in December 2008, I decided to collect the books of The Little Prince in all languages of the world. The next day, when I asked Google, I realized that there were many people in the world who had been doing this. So I set out to be one of them. After a while, I met Mehmet Sobacı, whom I knew as the first Turkish collector and whom I became friends with over the years. We had built a friendship through this meeting and supported each other’s collections, established communication networks, made exhibitions and eventually dreamt of a museum.

I guess you only collect books but not objects that concern The Little Prince. Is there any special reason for you to only collect books? And what are your opinions about the Little Prince drawings being used everywhere including school bags and linen designs?

Yıldıray LiseYes, I only collect the books. There are some objects given to me as gifts, but my first dream was collecting the books of the Little Prince. I have given this book as presents to dozens of people on special occasions such as birthdays and Christmas for years. The book is more important to me and it is the main source. Sometimes it makes me uncomfortable that objects derived from a book putting the book in the shade. I like books. In recent years we have started to see the Little Prince drawings in many objects more often. I see this as a tool to spread the message of the book. It would be enough even if the ones who encounter those objects decide to read the book.

Can you inform us about the current status of your collection? How many books have you reached?

Yıldıray Lise: I had taken a break from my The Little Prince books collection for the last two years, however I regained the same old enthusiasm with our museum coming to realize. I have more than 1000 books for now. Up until today, the Little Prince book has been translated into 406 languages and dialects, and in my collection there are currently more than 360 languages and dialects. And I will be donating them all to be exhibited at The Little Prince Books Museum. The collection, contributed by dozens of friends, will take its place in this museum.

What do you think are the most special items of your collection? 

Yıldıray Lise: The most special piece for me is a book published in both French and English, specially designed for the visually impaired, which we call “The Little Prince Sensed By Fingers”. Then comes the one printed in Bambara Language which is spoken in Mali, with a black Little Prince on the cover. The Little Prince had been published in three different editions in 1953 for the first time in our language, and these editions are very important as well.

You supply the books collectively as well. Has anyone besides your friends contacted you and brought books in?

Yıldıray Lise: At first I was trying to retrieve all books by myself. Then some of my close friends started to find them at places they had been to and brought them to me. As communicating over the Internet got easier, we began exchanging books with collectors around the world. We share books among ourselves as the collectors in Turkey. Those people certainly have some of the books that were given as gifts.  Friends who give me books are usually people I know or collectors from other countries. There is a group of Little Prince collectors in Barcelona who regularly meet and share books among them like us. I always attend their meetings every time I go to Barcelona. If there are people who are reading this interview and have not yet read the Little Prince book, I wish them to read it as well. We would appreciate it if those who collect The Little Prince books will contact us. We look forward to everyone’s support for our museum.

As being both a biologist and a senior employee of nature conservation associations, what do you think is the most powerful message of The Little Prince about our nature and our planet’s protection?

Yıldıray Lise: The Little Prince travels from planet to planet and finally comes to our world. He lived in an asteroid, but he is one of those who best describe the planet Earth although he traveled it only for a year. He explains the life here, the people and their souls. As a French journalist put it, The Little Prince is the protagonist of the best answer given to Hitler’s book My Struggle. The author never uses the word ‘peace’ while storytelling, yet you sense it in everything he tells. The things he tells gives me peace and hope. I think the most powerful message is peace. I think if would be humanists and live in peace, everything will be great.

In 2013, you were present at the World’s The Little Prince Books Exhibition which lasted for 8 weeks at Ankara Tayfa Book Cafe. What were your observations from that exhibition? Have you had the opportunity to attend other exhibitions about The Little Prince afterwards?

Yıldıray Lise: That was our first exhibition and we had exhibited books from mine and my friend Mehmet Sobacı’s collections. Then we had other small or large exhibitions in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir and Eskisehir. We have had 9 exhibitions so far. I’ve been to all of them, and been behind most of them. We exhibited books in world’s different languages sorted according to continents. We exhibited all Turkish editions, mini books as well as special editions. Some of our exhibitions had set an example to the world and some of them were private. They all taught us a lot. These exhibitions led us to many collectors. Some friends decided to make collections after them. The growing family of The Little Prince collectors has now approached 200 people.

When you consider the books of The Little Prince being published in various countries of the world, what do you think about this? Do you think it is possible to get a clue here about the relationships that countries have with children and the importance they attach to them? I mean is it possible to make different implications regarding children or adults through the books of the Little Prince published around the world?

Yıldıray Lise: Some think of him as one of them. They see him as a child they’ve known. That’s why he sometimes appears as an African, South American, Asian child on various books. When you look at all the prints, you see that different editions have been published at Turkey, Brazil and South Korea as well as China recently, and that there has been a great interest out there.  I am happy about the editions being printed in different languages and glad to know that it reaches children as well as adults. I would like The Little Prince to be published in also all languages and dialects in our country, even in the least number. Our friends have been making arrangements in order to publish The Little Prince books in Pomak and Denizli dialects.

You are preparing to open a Little Prince Museum. And you are not alone in this dream. Where are you now in your journey that you started with Ali Lidar and Mehmet Sobacı?

Yıldıray Lise: Our dream of a museum has been shaped by the exhibitions we organized. The exhibitions reached many people, but there were those who wanted them to be exhibited continuously. We first thought of going on with mobile exhibitions, but we thought it would be better to exhibit both foreign and Turkish books. We accelerated our work for a museum where we will exhibit all the books and provide information about Exupery and the book. Our dream is limited by the venue but after this beginning, I have a dream of opening an interactive museum with larger content in larger venues. Our dream is coming true in Eskişehir with the support and leadership of Ali Lidar, and his, Mehmet Sobacı’s and with my collections of the books as well as the support of many others. 

Mehmet Sobacı: We became a family beyond being only friends with the other collectors… A family of almost 200 people… Our dream of The Little Prince Museum started as an initiative of a small number of collectors. Initially we planned to become a legal entity. However, this plan could not be realized due to legal and economic reasons. Then, teacher, writer and poet Ali Lidar pioneered the realization of the museum. He provided the first floor of a building in the garden of Eskişehir Anatolian High School for the museum. The name of our museum will be Eskisehir Anatolian High School Little Prince Books Museum. At the moment, the museum’s physical arrangements are being made by utilizing the donator resources. I hope that the museum, which we hope to open in 2020, will set an example for other cities. I would like to express my sincere thanks to all those who contributed to the process.

Ali Lidar: As you know, I had recently announced that we got the venue permit for the Little Prince Books Museum. We’ve hit the ground running now. You know that almost all of my collection was gathered with your support. I also need your support in the process of establishing the museum. Renovations, shelves, installations, etc. the costs are far above what we can handle as the school management. So we ask for your help without being hard up. The money you would spare will return us as bricks, paints, lamps or shelves. 

I will share it on my Instagram account when the friends who donate send me a screenshot. We don’t aim to Show off of course, we would like to attract the attention of more people and to keep a record. And for the first time, I want you all to share this message in as many platforms as possible. This will lead to the realization of a dream and to the introduction of thousands of children to The Little Prince and to the richness of the languages ​​of the world. I thank you all very much in advance.

You can make your donations to Eskişehir Anatolian High School Parent Association’s IBAN number that I will share below with the description: “The Little Prince Museum” (Let’s not leave the description part empty.)

TC Ziraat Bankası Tepebaşı Şubesi
Eskişehir Anadolu Lisesi Okul Aile Birliği
IBAN: TR 33 0001 0023 5688 5619 9950 01