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New Worlds to Explore

If you have read other Library of Congress blogs, in particular the Prints and Photographs Division’s Picture This, you may recognize my name. I am now working in the Geography and Map Division and will be an active member of the Worlds Revealed blog team. I am excited for the opportunity to share my findings as I learn more about the collections!

I have always been captivated by maps, especially world maps and seeing how they have changed over the centuries. As I have explored the drawers of world maps over the last few weeks, two early maps in particular caught my eye.

First, the world map below, created by Konrad Miller in 1928 from a map drawn by Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn al-Idrisi in 1154, captured my attention. Around 1138, King Roger II of Sicily commissioned al-Idrisi, an Arabian geographer and cartographer, to map all known information of the world. Al-Idrisi drew on earlier works by Ptolemy and other Arabic sources, but also gathered first hand information from world travelers, as well as his own experience, to compile what became one of the most detailed geographical works written during the 12th century.

Weltkarte des Idrisi vom Jahr, Charta Rogeriana. Originally drawn by Muhammad al-Idrisi, 1154. Facsimile by Konrad Miller, 1928. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Weltkarte des Idrisi vom Jahr, Charta Rogeriana. Originally drawn by Muhammad al-Idrisi, 1154. Facsimile by Konrad Miller, 1928. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

Written in Arabic with north oriented towards the bottom, al-Idrisi drew his map in 70 separate sections with accompanying text. When laid out, the original sheets would have created a rectangular map 9 feet and 5 inches long! The item in our collection, as seen above, was recreated by Konrad Miller in 1928 from al-Idrisi’s original work.

The other world map that grabbed my interest is the map below, created by Ferrando Bertelli in 1565. This map is a re-engraving on a larger scale of a 1546 map by Giacomo Gastaldi, an Italian cartographer. Gastaldi’s 1546 map was his first in a series of world maps and shows America joined to Asia. One of the things that struck me about Bertelli’s rendering of this map is its distinctive coloring. I also enjoy the engraved animals scattered throughout the world, including what appears to be a unicorn in Antarctica!

"Vniversale descrittione di tvtta la terra conoscivta fin qvi." F. Bertelli, 1565. Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress.

“Vniversale descrittione di tvtta la terra conoscivta fin qvi.” F. Bertelli, 1565. Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress.

With many more treasures to discover, I am thrilled to be able to continue to explore the rich holdings of the Geography and Maps Division and to share my finds with you!

"Antiquissima orbis delineatio." Facsimile, 1911. Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress.

“Antiquissima orbis delineatio.” Facsimile, 1911. Geography and Maps Division, Library of Congress.

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