My article in The Journal of Ottoman Studies

World map in the Ali Macar Reis atlas (click for higher resolution image)
World map in the Walters Sea atlas (click for higher resolution image)

Versión en español

The first part has just been published of a special issue of The Journal of Ottoman Studies (nº39) dedicated to Thomas D. Goodrich, the admired pioneer of the study of Ottoman Empire maps in the U.S. I have had the honor of contributing to it with a study of two Ottoman world maps that share a unique characteristic: they are the only two known maps where the Ecliptic is depicted as two straight lines.

I had the chance of virtually ‘meeting’ Tom Goodrich a couple of years ago via the MapHist listserv. Despite the fact that we have never seen each other in person, Tom has very kindly advised me and generously helped me by sending images, articles, and even a copy of his most important book.

My article’s abstract is as follows:

Two Ottoman world maps contained in the Ali Macar Re’is atlas and the Walters Sea atlas share the unique characteristic of showing the Ecliptic line (the Zodiac) as two straight segments. Both maps were drawn in the sixteenth century in a so-called “oval” cartographic projection that was quite popular at the time. The Zodiac must have been important to the authors of the atlases because it was given a prominent graphical treatment in both maps and was one of the last elements to be drawn.

However, a geometric survey has found that the shape of the Ecliptic on both maps is inaccurate, particularly in the Walters Sea atlas, whereas several coetaneous terrestrial and celestial planispheres from Western Europe displayed the same astronomical line in a geometrically correct way. This difference suggests that the Ottoman authors’ intentions had to do more with symbolism or aesthetics than with geometric accuracy. Given that drawing the Zodiac on a world map is of little practical application, the authors may just have wanted to simultaneously represent the Heavens and the Earth. This likens the two Ottoman world maps to cosmographical diagrams, on which the Zodiac often appears.

In addition, the coincidence of the same erroneous shape of the Ecliptic on two different maps hints that their authors shared a common source of inspiration. The existence of an Arabic cosmographical diagram that depicts the Zodiac as a set of four straight segments reinforces the possibility of a common prototype diagram.

The complete table of contents of the issue can be found in this link.


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