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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 Book of Curiosities and the Islamic Geographical Tradition

The Book of Curiosities and the Islamic Geographical Tradition

(p.229) Chapter Ten The Book of Curiosities and the Islamic Geographical Tradition
Lost Maps of the Caliphs

Yossef Rapoport

Emilie Savage-Smith

University of Chicago Press

This chapter sets the geographical sections of the Book of Curiosities in the context of the rich geographical literature of the Islamic world, and argues that it offered radically novel approaches to the organization and presentation of geographical material. First, the organisation of the treatise follows the logic of water, not land-based units. It provides maps for three great seas (Mediterranean, Indian Ocean and the Caspian), and cartographic and textual descriptions of major islands, peninsulas, lakes and rivers. A second distinctive feature is the author’s unprecedented confidence in the power of maps to convey geographical information. Maps are no longer there mainly to explicate the geographical data conveyed in prose, but become the centre of attention, and are often independent of any textual material. Finally, the last six chapters of the Book of Curiosities consist of an encyclopaedic catalogue of natural wonders or mirabilia, chapters that demonstrate an innovative approach to classifying and engaging with the exotic and the extraordinary. This approach anticipates the more famous mirabilia work of al-Qazwini (d. 1283).

Keywords:   geography, maritime spaces, cartography, mirabilia, al-Qazwini

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