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Image of 1531 Oronce Fine map of two hearts
 Oronce Finé. Noua, et integra uniuersi orbis descriptio. 1531. Geography and Map Division.

With Love from our Cosmographic Heart

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image of Hajji Ahmad's heart-shaped map
Hâcı Ahmed. Kemâliyle nakş olunmuş cümle cihan numûnesi. 1795. Geography and Map Division.

This Valentine’s Day we wanted to do something romantic for our readers and bare our oversized heart-shaped map for all to see. This beautiful heart-shaped (or cordiform projection) map is one of 24 impressions made in 1795. The original map and accompanying geographic treatise were carved into six cherry wood blocks in 1559–60, but were confiscated and forgotten before they could be printed. It wasn’t until the late-18th century that the blocks resurfaced in the Council of Ten Archives and maps were printed in a Venetian workshop for us to enjoy. The original woodblocks are held in the Biblioteca nazionale marciana in Venice.

The map title, Kemâliyle nakş olunmuş cümle cihan numûnesi, translates into English as “the representation of the whole world depicted in its entirety.” It is commonly referred to as the Mappamundi of Tunuslu Hajji Ahmad (also Romanized as Hâcı Ahmed). This heart-shaped map is the earliest printed wall map in the Library of Congress collections and, at the time of its acquisition, it was the earliest evidence in the Geography and Map Division of the use of the cordiform projection. The cordiform projection system was originally conceptualized in 1514 by Johannes Werner in Nuremberg, and was favored by map makers because it showed both hemispheres, i.e., eastern and western, with less distortion than other projections.

Our handsome, heart-shaped map is surrounded by textual commentaries in Ottoman Turkish and the commentaries are bordered by lovely vines and floral arabesques. Within the heart, there are four named continents and many place-names of principal countries. The eastern and western hemispheres are separated by a graduated scale connecting the poles. Iqlim (pl. Aqalim), translated from the Greek word for inclination, are shown as horizontal bands. There are 20 legends on the map identifying vital nautical, astronomical, and commerce locations. Also depicted in the bottom margin are two celestial charts and an armillary sphere.

Our cosmographical heart by Hajji Ahmad was based on the 1534 map shown below by French cartographer Oronce Finé (1494–1555). However, Hajji Ahmad’s heart-shaped map includes more place-names and a more accurately drawn American coastline.

image of Oronce Finés 1534 heart-shaped map
This map is part of the Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville collection, physically held in the National Library of France, and preserved digitally by the World Digital Library.                   Oronce Finé. Recens et integra orbis descriptio. 1534. National Library of France.

If you are feeling lonely this Valentine’s Day, don’t lose heart, come out and meet one or two of our heart-shaped maps for a date in the Geography and Map Reading Room.

Learn more:

About the paper: Printing Maps on Oversized Paper: The 18th Century Paper Mills in the Toscolano District, part of the Topics in Preservation Series (TOPS).

About the text: V.L. Ménage, in the “The Map of Hajji Ahmed’ and Its Makers.” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London: 1958.

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