World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


ISLAMIC SCIENCE- HOMAGE TO PROFESSOR MERCÈ COMES - 2/3: Visions of Eastern and Western Lands in Medieval Cartography and Chartmaking (211) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: WED 21, 11.30 am-1.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: University of Barcelona (Spain)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Mònica Rius-Piniès, Mónica Herrera-Casais

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Cartography in Islamic societies is a subject of renewed interest among scholars in a number of disciplines, also including the history of science, geography, culture and arts. This panel aims to examine new research on ways of seeing Eastern and Western territories in Islamic maps and sea charts from the early medieval period until 1600 A.D. Speakers are invited to discuss significant products of Islamic cartography from Central Asia to the Western Mediterranean, how these maps approach the depiction of familiar, foreign and far-away places, and how they articulate the experience of encountering the other and the strange. Particular attention will be paid to the configuration of the Mediterranean image and the impact in the mapping of the region of cross-cultural communication between East and West. The framework will fuel further debate on the perception of Islamic lands and their inhabitants in the iconography of European cartography of the period.
The representation of geographic landforms –in addition to natural, ethnographic, architectural and political realities– by means of visual language involves a complex process of observation, conceptualization and elaboration of the surrounding environment. Gradual developments can be traced by the deconstruction of world and regional images, through the analysis of changing features (innovations, modifications, additions, omissions, etc.), and the interpretation of the message they convey. The intellectual and graphic shaping also depends on factors such as mapping trends, the purpose of the map, the demands and believes of society, and the mapmaker’s implication, as well as his command of the sources and drawing techniques. Mapmakers played a fundamental role in the process of spatial design, through their choice of cartographic models and of geographical and imaginary data. Their views attest to the continuity as well as the transformation of mapping ideas, and contribute to the ongoing updating of pieces of information. Their tastes and ideologies, which sometimes illuminate their work, project a deeper insight into their world.
Other topics for discussion are the following:
- Levels of spatial construction by means of visual elements (shapes, colours and miniatures) and geographical labels (place names and legends).
- Words underlying the forms: shared knowledge in Islamic cartography and geography, and the interrelation of texts and maps.
- Ways of transmission of cartographic concepts between the Islamic (Arabic, Persian and Ottoman Turkish) and European medieval traditions.
- Methodological questions and problems concerning research with non-cartographic sources, such as books on navigation, travelling accounts, scientific treatises, encyclopaedias, legal texts, etc.

Chair: Mònica Herrera Casais (University of Barcelona)
Discussant: : Mònica Rius-Piniès (University of Barcelona)

Paper Presenter: Thomas Goodrich (Indiana University), “The disconnection between the world maps and Mediterranean maps of the ottomans, 1450-1600”
Ottoman cartography started with Mehmet II, conqueror of Constantinople (reigned 1452-83). He collected maps and had maps made: Ptolemaic, Italian, and classical Islamic, including world maps and maps of the Mediterranean. A generation later a brilliant map maker, Piri Reis, appeared who produced both a world map and detailed maps around the Mediterranean. The two types of map had nothing to do with each other. The development of Ottoman cartography had two paths for the rest of the sixteenth century: one was exemplified by Matrakci Nasuh and his pictorial maps of towns and countryside, the other was to copy maps created in Italy and in other European states. This was a pattern that lasted until the 19th century.
To understand the causes for this pattern let us contrast the activities of the state and the men of commerce and intellect in the Ottoman Empire and in the other states active in the Mediterranean. The Ottoman State supported the mapping style of Matrakci Nasuh over that of Piri Reis, whose cartographic activities ended in 1528, though he lived until 1583, and his world maps were hidden in the palace for centuries, seemingly never looked at. The Mediterranean portolan of Piri Reis was often copied until about 1730, that is, about two centuries, but never improved upon. On the other hand Matraci Nasuh continued to produce maps of the military activities of the sultan both on land and at sea. For the rest of the sixteenth century other maps of a similar style appeared in the histories of the military exploits of the sultans, at least the successful exploits. Meantime the growth of cartographic activity in Western states continued to change ever more vigorously, by the states, by the commercial organizations, and by the scholars of various sorts. Their pursuits were marvellously furthered by the growth of printing.

Paper Presenter: Sandra Sáenz López (Post-doctoral fellow of the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation at the Warburg Institute (London)), “Portrayals and inventions of Muslims and the Islamic world in medieval Western cartography”

Some of the nautical charts made in the late Middle Ages in the main centers of cartographical production —Genoa, Venice and Mallorca— were not intended to be used as tools for sailing, but as informative objects of art to be studied and collected. Through a rich artistic decoration, these maps show the image of the world from an encyclopedic perspective, that is, showing not only the geography of the earth, but also various political, economical, religious and cultural aspects of various lands. Among these, the image of Muslims and of the Islamic world acquired a remarkable prominence in these maps.
The information regarding Islam provided in late medieval Western nautical charts is varied and ranges from portrayals of Muslim sovereigns with their symbols of power to the illustration of Mecca as the Muslim sanctuary of pilgrimage, and Muslims performing the Hajj. Through analysis of this information we can conclude that there was an interesting contact between the Western cartographers and the Islamic world; the Mediterranean Sea and the trade conducted upon it may have acted as the means of connection between these two worlds. The information provided by these Western cartographers was not always accurate, and in some cases it was influenced by their own prejudices. Thus, these maps are essential sources not only for studying the knowledge of Islam in the Middle Ages, but also for showing how the Islamic world was perceived in the West.

Paper Presenter: Chet Van Duzer (Member of the Research Project “Les sociétés méditerranéennes et l'océan Indien”, supported by the French National Research Agency –ANR)), “New evidence of the influence of Islamic cartography on Western cartography”

The subject of the influence of Islamic geography and cartography on medieval Western maps is of great interest in connection with the history of science and also with the history of intercultural knowledge transfer, but has generally received less attention than it deserves. In this paper I will present specific cases in which the evidence of the influence of Islamic geography and cartography on Western maps is clear. I will begin by looking at a well-know case, namely the presence of the mythical city of Arim on the maps of Petrus Alfonsi, John of Wallingford or Pierre d’Ailly. Then I will examine other cases that have received little or no attention, specifically some Latin mappaemundi of the thirteenth and fifteenth century which are translations of Islamic mappaemundi; the representation of Taprobana on the Catalan Atlas (1375), the Catalan Estense mappamundi (ca. 1460), and the Juan de la Cosa nautical chart (1500); the mappamundi painted by Giusto de’ Menabuoi ca. 1375-78, and an anonymous nautical chart of ca. 1430 in the Museo Correr in Venice.

Paper Presenter: Bilha Moor (The Hebrew University and University of Haifa), “The shape of the world in illustrated ‘ajā’ib manuscripts”
Manuscripts of the literary genre ‘ajā’ib al-makhlūqāt (wonders of creation) tell about the geographical, botanical, zoological and anthropological aspects of the world. This paper will focus on the representation of real and fanciful cities, islands, mountains and seas in maps and especially miniatures of the ‘ajā’ib manuscripts, mainly from the sixteenth century. Three treatises and their illustrated manuscripts will be examined. The most popular is ‘Ajā’ib al makhlūqāt by Zakariyā al-Qazwīnī, written in Arabic in the thirteenth century, and translated into Persian and Turkish in the following centuries. The second compilation bearing the same title was written in Persian by Muhammad al-Tūsī in the late twelfth century. The third treatise is Qānūn al-dunyā wa ‘ajā’ibu-hā (The Order of the World and its Wonders), which was composed, copied and illustrated by Ibn Zunbul in Ottoman Cairo of the year 1563.