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Number: 3925
Continent: Africa
Region: Continent
Place Names:
Year of Origin: 1732
Title: [Arabic, Illustration of Africa]
Language: Arabic
Publish Origin: Isanbul
Height: 15.0
Width: 20.0
Units: centimeters
Size Class.: Small
Color Type: No Color
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Cartographer: Katip CELEBI Mustafa bin Abdallah, (1609-1657)
Publisher: Ibrahim MUTEFERRIKA (1674 - 1745)
Other Contributors:
Northernmost Latitude:
Southernmost Latitude:
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Notes: Dasa Pahor, Alex Johnson source, the original specimen is not in Afriterra Collection; First Arabic printed map of Africa; [Illustration of Africa] Istanbul: Muteferrika Matbaas, 1732. Copper engraving ( full sheet: 22 x 32 cm (8.6 x 12.6 inches), platemark: 15 x 20 cm (5.9 x 7.9 inches). Very Rare - The first printed map of Africa employing Arabi characters, made for the 'Cihannumai', the first geography book published in the Islamic World, issued in Istanbul by the press of Ibrahim Muteferrika, predicated upon a 17th century manuscript by the Ottoman scholar Katip Celebi in this instance an intriguing example with very wide blank margins, seemingly issued separately from the book. This very rare work is the first map of Africa printed employing text in Arabic script (in this case in the Ottoman Turkish language). It was printed to be part of the Cihannumai (meaning 'View of the World'), the first geography book published in the Islamic World, issued in Istanbul in 1732 by the pioneering press of Ibrahim Muteferrika. Interestingly, the present example features very wide blank margins, and was clearly never bound within the book; clearly Muteferrika separately issued some of Cihannumai maps, but surely in only very small quantities. The present map outlines the African continent in a manner that is reasonably familiar to the modern viewer, although South Africa is excessively pointed. All major regions are labelled, while the Nile is shown to descend from a pair of large, mysteries lakes in the southern heartland. Critically, the mapping of Africa was not an 'armchair academic' matter for the Ottomans. The Sublime Porte had de jure rule over Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, while its trading networks extended throughout the continent. Muteferrika predicated his printed Cihannumai (which was illustrated with 36 maps) on a now-lost eponymous manuscript drafted in 1648 by the Ottoman scholar Katip ?lebi Mustafa bin Abdallah (1609 - 1657). ?lebi, in turn, predicated most of his maps (including the present map of Africa) upon the cartography of Jodocus Hondus. Celebi's work was ground-breaking, in that it represented the first time that modern Western cartography was applied in a sophisticated and comprehensive manner to the Islamic sphere. Importantly, the fact that printing employing Arabic characters was slow to develop was not due to ignorance or to technical backwardness but was entirely the intentional result of political policy. Traditionally, the Sublime Porte absolutely forbade printing using Arabis script within its empire; it did not want the press to affect the general Muslim population. That being said, Non-Muslims had long been allowed to operate presses producing works in their own scripts in Istanbul (a Hebrew press was founded in 1493, an Arminian press in 1567 and a Greek press in 1627), on the proviso that they did not gear their titles towards a Muslim readership. Moreover, some works were printed outside the empire (notably by the Vatican in Rome) using Arabic charters, but these works tended to focus upon language translation or Christian religious topics and did not include maps. The Sublime Porte had sound reasons for banning printing geared towards the Muslim population. First, the Ottoman hierarchy was aghast at how Martin Luther and the other Protestant figures successfully used the press the undermine the Roman Catholic Church during the Reformation; they were determined not to give 'troublemakers' any opportunities to similarly threaten the Islamic faith. Second, Turkish and Arabic culture had long maintained a distinguished manuscript tradition, closely associated with Islam. The 'scriptoria' lobby was highly influential, while its efficiency ensured that even incredibly complex works could be quickly reproduced by hand to exquisite quality, obviating the need for the press. As such, the Sultan?'s court considered the printing to be an unnecessary liability. However, during the early 18th century, there developed tensions at the Sublime Porte between traditionalists (conservatives) and modernizers (liberals), the latter of whom wanted to adapt the latest Western technologies, as well as some customs, in order to prevent the empire for falling behind its rivals. This set the scene for many, often vivid, court dramas, upon which the conservatives usually (but not always) maintained the upper hand. However, in the 1720s, a pair of distinguished Ottoman figures came to the fore, who lent unusual credence to a bid to convince Sultan Ahmed III to permit printing in Ottoman Turkish, employing Arabic script, albeit on a limited basis. Mehmet Said Efendi was a young and ambitious Ottoman nobleman, who in 1721 accompanied his father, the Ottoman Ambassador to France, to Paris. There he became enamoured of printing technology and the resulting books, especially those on science, technology and history. Upon his return to Istanbul, he teamed up with Ibrahim Muteferrika (1674 - 1745), an esteemed Ottoman courtier and diplomat, who maintained an incredible knowledge of geography, philosophy, astronomy and theology. A Hungarian Christian by birth, who had converted to Islam, he long possessed an appreciation for how Western concepts could best be adapted to the Ottoman Empire. While Mehmet Said Efendi and Muteferrika were certainly members of the ?'iberal' party at court, they were implicitly trusted by the Grand Vizier, who granted their request to establish as press, but only under strict conditions. The proposed press could publish pretty much any work it wanted to, if its content never ventured upon religion. This not only ensured that the books would not be a threat to imperial authority but would also reserve the religious realm to the scriptoria lobby and the conversative elements of the court, who remained deeply suspicious of Mehmet Said and Muteferrika's designs. Muteferrika, who was to personally oversee the press, enlisted the assistance of Istanbul's Jewish and Christian printers, and in due course imported presses from France, typefaces from the Netherlands and skilled personnel from Austria. The Muteferrika Matbaası, the first press of the Islamic world, commenced operation in 1727, and over the next sixteen years, it issued 17 books (in 22 volumes), on a variety of subjects, including history, contemporary affairs, languages, science and the New World; of which the Cihannumai was its most technically sophisticated and heavily illustrated work. All these works were issued in relatively small print runs and were exceedingly expensive, such that they were only enjoyed by the top-rung of the empire's liberal elite. Muteferrika, then an elderly man, closed the press in 1743, and from that point onwards, owing to pressure from the conservative lobby, the imperial ban on printing in Arabic script was reimposed. While a revived Muteferrika press published seven books between 1756 and 1794, significant printing in the Ottoman language would not recommence until 1796, when the modernizing Sultan Selim III authorized the establishment of a state press to issued secular works. As such, all products of the original Muteferrika Matbaası are today considered to be 'Ottoman Incunables' A Note on Rarity The present work is a great rarity; we are not aware of any example of the ?lebi-Muteferrika map of Africa as appearing separately on the market during the 2000s. The book Cihannumai is also very rare; we cannot trace an example as appearing on the market since one was sold at Sotheby's in 2003. References: cf. Orlin SABEV, Waiting for Muteferrika: Glimpses of Ottoman Print Culture (2018).
Last updated: Sep 28, 2021