Medieval Islamic MapsAn Exploration

Medieval Islamic MapsAn Exploration

Karen C. Pinto

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780226126968

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


There are hundreds of cartographic images scattered throughout the medieval and early modern Arabic, Persian, and Turkish manuscript collections. The plethora of extant copies produced in a variety of locales across the Islamic world for eight centuries testifies to the enduring importance of these medieval Islamic cartographic visions. This book examines the rich corpus of Islamic maps to show that they can be read as iconographic representations of the way medieval Muslims perceived their world and that, just like text, they can be analyzed to reveal insights into the history of the period in which they were constructed. In these maps we see images informed by the work of other societies, by myth and religious belief, and by physical reality. This work disentangles the Islamic maps, traces their inception and evolution and reveals their picture cycles. It shows how these maps can be deconstructed to reveal the identities of their constructors, painters, and patrons. This book draws on complex debates in the realms of art history, history of science, and world history of cartography, as well as the philosophy of aesthetics, symbolic anthropology, and visual theory. It explores the applicability of newer and more innovative techniques for approaching the visual record of Islamic history. The author aims to bring Middle Eastern maps into the orbit of modern and postmodern theoretical paradigms. This is achieved through a series of analytical lenses that present alternate ways of viewing Islamic maps.