The Book of Curiosities: A Newly Discovered Series of Islamic Maps

The Book of Curiosities: A Newly Discovered Series of Islamic Maps

By Jeremy Johns and Emilie Savage-Smith

Imago Mundi, Vol.55 (2003)

Abstract: A newly discovered Arabic treatise was acquired by the Bodleian Library, Oxford, in June 2002. The manuscript, compiled in the late eleventh century and copied in the early thirteenth century, contains several maps of considerable importance to the history of cartography. Of particular interest is a unique rectangular world map, incorporating a graphic scale, which may reflect a map known to have been made for the caliph al-Ma’mumacrn (reg. 813-833), but now lost, or a projection proposed by Marinus of Tyre and discussed by Ptolemy. A second world map, circular in form, is of the type usually misattributed to al-Idrīsī (fl.1154). The maps of the Mediterranean Sea and of Sicily, Cyprus, Tinnīs, and al-Mahdīya appear to be original to our treatise. The manuscript is the subject of a forthcoming major research programme, based at the Bodleian Library and The Oriental Institute, University of Oxford, and the present essay presents only our preliminary findings.

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