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Lost Maps of the CaliphsDrawing the World in Eleventh-Century Cairo$
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Yossef Rapoport and Emilie Savage-Smith

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226540887

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226553405.001.0001

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The View from the Sea

The View from the Sea

Navigation and Representation of Maritime Space

(p.125) Chapter Five The View from the Sea
Lost Maps of the Caliphs

Yossef Rapoport

Emilie Savage-Smith

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the cartographical representation of Mediterranean maritime spaces in the Book of Curiosities. In the Book of Curiosities, the Mediterranean is shown as a perfect oval, dense with hundreds of harbors and islands, but unrecognizably abstract. Other perfectly abstract maps present the island of Cyprus as a rectangle, and the Aegean Sea as a series of elongated finger-like arches. Paradoxically, this absolute abstraction is accompanied by unprecedented wealth of material on quality and size of anchorages and harbors, sailing distances, water sources and wind directions. Taken together, these texts and diagrams are of major interest for the history of Mediterranean navigation and maritime charts. The intentional abstraction of the maritime maps is directly tied to their origin in navigation records, and the straight lines reflect coast-hugging mariners’ view of the Mediterranean shores. The abstraction of the maritime maps of Book of Curiosities stands in stark contrast to the late medieval portolan charts. Thus, the Mediterranean maps of the Book of Curiosities lends support to those, like Ramon J. Pujades, who argue that the portolan charts were a radical break with cartographical tradition, whether European or Islamic.

Keywords:   Mediterranean, navigation, Cyprus, Aegean, Portolan charts

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