This article aims to explore the consequences of including Ottoman studies in the larger field of imperial studies. It strives to combine a close reading of the Ottoman imperial epithets with considerations of how the Ottomans may contribute to theorizing empire as a model. In particular, the article engages in a discussion of whether the "sublime sultanate" developed into a colonial pattern of empire over its final century of existence. As it turns out, the Ottoman practice of administration did not come down to a simulacrum of European colonialism; the article points instead to a semiotics of empire that took its cue from a multidimensional logic of governmentality. Accordingly, archival idiosyncrasies are taken to imply the contrary of an Ottoman exceptionalism. They serve rather to highlight that concepts carry with them a vast repertoire of meanings to be activated in practice.