A tughra  is a calligraphic monogram  seal or signature of a sultan that was affixed to all official documents and correspondence. It was also carved on his seal and stamped on the coins minted during his reign  Very elaborate decorated versions were created for important documents that were also works of art in the tradition of Ottoman illumination  such as the example of Suleiman the Magnificent in the gallery below 

The tughra was designed at the beginning of the sultan's reign and drawn by the court calligrapher or nişancı on written documents  The first tughra belonged to Orhan I (1284–1359)  the second ruler of the Ottoman Empire and it evolved until it reached the classical form in the tughra of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent 1494–1566   

Tughras served a purpose similar to the cartouche in ancient Egypt or the Royal Cypher of British monarchs  Every Ottoman sultan had his own individual tughra

Visual elements of a tughra  

The tughra has a characteristic form  two loops on the left side  three vertical lines in the middle  stacked writing on the bottom and two extensions to the right  Each of these elements has a specific meaning  and together they make up the form that is easily recognizable as a tughra 

The name of the sultan is written out in the bottom section, called a sere  Depending on the period, this name can be as simple as Orhan  son of Osman in the first tughra in 1326  In later periods honorifics and prayers are also added to the name of the tughra holder and his father 

The loops to the left of the tughra are called beyze  from Arabic meaning egg  Some interpretations of tughra design claim that the beyzes are supposed to symbolize the two seas the sultans held sway over  the outer larger loop signifying the Mediterranean and the inner, smaller loop signifying the Black Sea 

The vertical lines on the top of the tughra are called tuğ or flagstaff. The three tugs signify independence The S-shaped lines crossing the tugs are called zülfe and they, together with the tops of the tugs that also look to the right, signify that the winds blow from the east to the west, the traditional movement of the Ottomans 

The lines to the right of the tughra are called hançer and signify a sword, symbol of power and might