The World Map That Launched Scientific Mapmaking to the Medieval Islamic World (1154 AD)


Solid your thoughts, if you’ll, to town of Ceu­ta. In case you’ve nev­er heard of it, or can’t fairly recall its loca­tion, you may eas­i­ly discover out by search­ing for it in your map appli­ca­tion of alternative. Again within the twelfth cen­tu­ry, how­ev­er, you might need needed to con­sult a picture of the identified world engraved on a 300-pound, six-and-a-half-foot large sil­ver disk — however then, should you had entry to that disk, you’d know full effectively the place Ceu­ta was within the first place. For it belonged to King Roger II of Sici­ly, who’d com­mis­sioned it from the geo­g­ra­ph­er, trav­el­er, and schol­ar Abū Abdal­lāh Muham­mad ibn Muham­mad ibn Abdal­lāh ibn Idrīs al-sharif al-Idrīsī — extra suc­cinct­ly often known as Muham­mad al-Idrisi — per­haps Ceu­ta’s most accom­plished son.

“Al-Idrisi stud­ied in Cor­do­ba and trav­eled large­ly as a younger man, vis­it­ing Asia Minor, Hun­gary, the French Atlantic coast, and whilst far north as York, Eng­land,” writes Huge Assume’s Frank Jacobs. In 1138, Roger II “invit­ed al-Idrisi to his courtroom at Paler­mo, pos­si­bly to discover whether or not he might set up the Mus­lim noble­man as a pup­pet ruler within the bits of North Africa below his domin­ion, or in Spain, which he hoped to con­quer.” The undertaking that consequence­ed from this meet­ing, fif­teen years of labor lat­er, was “a brand new and accu­charge map of the world.” In addi­tion to knowl­edge gained on his personal exten­sive trav­els, Al-Isidiri con­sult­ed historic sources like Ptolemy’s Geog­ra­phy and “inter­considered ship’s crews and oth­er sea­soned trav­el­ers, however retained solely these sto­ries on which all had been in agree­ment,” leav­ing out the parable­i­cal tribes and fan­tas­ti­cal crea­tures.

In addi­tion to the grand disk, Al-Idrisi cre­at­ed an atlas con­sist­ing of 70 detailed, anno­tat­ed maps referred to as Nuzhat al-mushtāq fi’khtirāq āl-āfāq. That Ara­bic title has been var­i­ous­ly trans­lat­ed — “the e book of pleas­ant jour­neys into far­away lands,” “the excur­sion of the one who yearns to pen­e­trate the hori­zons,” “the excur­sion of 1 who is raring to tra­verse the areas of the world” — however in Latin, the e book was sim­ply referred to as the Tab­u­la Roge­ri­ana. Alas, writes Jacobs, “the orig­i­nal Latin ver­sion of the atlas (and the sil­ver disk) had been destroyed in 1160 within the chaos of a coup in opposition to William the Depraved, Roger’s unpop­u­lar son and suc­ces­sor.” Nonetheless, Al-Idrisi did man­age to carry the Ara­bic ver­sion again with him to North Africa, the place it grew to become an influ­en­tial examination­ple of sci­en­tif­ic automobile­tog­ra­phy for the Islam­ic world.

A look at the Library of Con­gress’ Ger­man fac­sim­i­le from 1928 on the prime of the publish reveals that Al-Idrisi’s world map seems to be fairly in contrast to those we all know in the present day. He put south, not north, on the prime, the guess­ter for Islam­ic con­verts to ori­ent them­selves towards Mec­ca. “His Europe is sketchy, his Asia amor­phous, and his Africa man­ages to be each par­tial and over­sized,” Jacobs notes, however nev­er­the­much less, he obtained quite a bit proper, includ­ing such lit­tle-known areas because the king­dom of Sil­la (locat­ed in mod­ern-day Korea) and cal­cu­lat­ing — approx­i­mate­ly, however nonetheless impres­sive­ly — the cir­cum­fer­ence of the whole Earth. We’d con­sid­er pay­ing trib­ute to Al-Idrisi’s obtain­ments by mak­ing a visit to his dwelling­city (a Span­ish-held metropolis, for the file, on the very tip of Africa north-east of Moroc­co), which looks like a pleas­ant place to spend a couple of weeks — and a promis­ing begin­ing level from which to pen­e­trate a couple of hori­zons of our personal.

through Huge Assume

Relat­ed con­tent:

The His­to­ry of Automotive­tog­ra­phy, “the Most Ambi­tious Overview of Map Mak­ing Ever Underneath­tak­en,” Is Free On-line

How Did Automotive­tog­ra­phers Cre­ate World Maps earlier than Air­planes and Satel­lites? An Intro­duc­tion

The Evo­lu­tion of the World Map: An Inven­tive Data­graph­ic Reveals How Our Pic­ture of the World Modified Over 1,800 Years

40,000 Ear­ly Mod­ern Maps Are Now Freely Avail­in a position On-line (Cour­tesy of the British Library)

500+ Beau­ti­ful Man­u­scripts from the Islam­ic World Now Dig­i­tized & Free to Down­load

The Start and Speedy Rise of Islam, Ani­mat­ed (622‑1453)

Based mostly in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His initiatives embrace the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the e book The State­much less Metropolis: a Stroll via Twenty first-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video collection The Metropolis in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­e book.


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