European Cartographers and the Ottoman World

The exhibit explores how mapmakers came to know and map the Ottoman world between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries.

It opens with the intellectual and geographical discoveries of the fifteenth century that undermined the medieval view of the cosmos and illustrates how mapmakers sought to produce and map a new geography of the world, one that reconciled classical ideas and theories with contemporary information brought back by travelers and voyagers.

The authority of Ptolemy's Geographia, translated into Latin for the first time in the early fifteenth century, was at times stifling, but the world and regional maps constructed using Ptolemy's mathematical principles and geometric grid provided a radically different picture of the habitable world from earlier religious mappae mundi. Yet Ptolemy's geographical knowledge dated from the late Roman period, a world that was being transformed for European mapmakers by the discovery of new continents. The intellectual and scholarly excitement with Ptolemy's spatial order developed alongside a very different mapping tradition, one that had its roots in practical seafaring
and the navigational needs of sailors. The resulting tension between the old learning and the new, between geographical knowledge derived from classical cosmographical theories and texts and the practical knowledge of voyagers and travelers, is perhaps the defining characteristic of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century cartography (Campbell, Earliest Printed Maps, p. 1).

As part of this story, the exhibit points to the remarkably close relationship that existed between the new centers of intellectual and artistic inquiry in Renaissance Europe and the Ottoman world during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Indeed, the Ottoman empire was seen by contemporaries as very much part of Europe in this early modern period, not only as the successor to the Roman-Byzantine empires, but also as a polity directly involved in the struggle for power and influence in Europe.

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Article and Image Source: http://oi.uchicago.edu

Keywords: Cartography,Maps,Europe,Ottoman,Fortifications


Ian Manners

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