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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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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 18 May 2022

The Rectangular World Map

The Rectangular World Map

(p.75) Chapter Three The Rectangular World Map
Lost Maps of the Caliphs

Yossef Rapoport

Emilie Savage-Smith

University of Chicago Press

This chapter is focused on the the rectangular world map, the most enigmatic of all the images in the Book of Curiosities. This world map is unusual in its rectangular, rather than circular, shape. It also has a calibrated scale visible near the top of the map, making it the oldest surviving world map carrying a scale from any cartographical tradition. This chapter argues that the rectangular shape, the scale bar and other designs on the edges of this map all point to a tradition of mathematical geography that had its roots in Antiquity. The world map here contains vestiges of a Late Antique prototype map attributed to Ptolemy, which was also known to the ninth-century Abbasid mathematician al-Khwarazmi. The interior of the world map, however, is dominated by a later, more consciously Islamic, abstract and non-mathematical cartographic tradition, commonly known as the “Balkhi School” of cartography that flourished in the tenth century. The combination of these two cartographic traditions in the world map here reflects the hybridity of the intellectual culture in which it was formed, indebted to Antiquity and to Islam in equal measures.

Keywords:   World map, Ptolemy, al-Khwarazmi, Mathematical geography, Abbasid Empire

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