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Medieval Islamic maps of the world

by on October 14, 2010

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These are some of the painted maps illustrating two manuscripts of Muhammad al-Idrisi’s Kitab nuzhat al-mushtaq, a description of the known world from the latitude of the Equator to the Baltic Sea. The work was composed in the 12th century, and the earlier of the Bodleian manuscripts, MS. Greaves 42, was made in the 14th or 15th century. This is a partial manuscript, containing the first three of seven ‘climates’ described by al-Idrisi. The later one, MS. Pococke 375, was made in the 1550s and contains descriptions and maps of all seven climates.

All of the maps from the two manuscripts, MS. Greaves 42 and MS. Pococke 375, are available to view in the Bodleian’s image library, at Masterpieces of the non-Western book. Search ‘al-Idrisi’ to find them all.

Remember, these maps are drawn facing south — upside-down from the modern orientation.

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