Lot 155
  • 155

Piri Reis

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
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  • Piri Reis
  • Kitab-i Bahriye [Book of navigation]. [AH 1131/ AD 1718]
  • paper
Manuscript on paper in Ottoman Turkish script in black ink with titles in red ink (320 x 225mm.), 21-25 lines, 225 folios, 121 numbered hand-coloured manuscript maps (7 double-page), bound in contemporary Turkish brown morocco with folding flap, sides with blind-tooled central floral medallion and border, preserved in a modern black buckram box, binding very slightly rubbed


Sir Thomas Phillipps, 1st baronet, (1792-1872), ink stamp on preliminary blank ("Sir T.P. / Middle Hill" surmounted by his crest), Phillipps MS 3974; H.P. Kraus: Bibliotheca Phillippica: Manuscripts on vellum and paper from the 9th to the 18th centuries from the Celebrated Collection formed by Sir Thomas Phillipps, catalog 153 (New York: H.P. Kraus, 1979), p.116, item 106


Harley, J.B. and D. Woodward. The History of Cartography, vol.2, book 1, Cartography in the Traditional Islamic and South Asian Societies (Chicago and London, 1992), pp.272-292. This manuscript listed in Appendix 14.2 (Preliminary list of extant manuscripts of the Kitab-i Bahriyei), as number 22 (of a total of 38 listed of both versions)

Catalogue Note

A very rare and fine illustrated manuscript of the Kitab-i Bahriye based on the original version of the great Ottoman admiral, geographer and cartographer Piri Reis (d.1554).

The Kitab-i Bahriye (Book of navigation or maritime matters) is an important portolano or book of sailing directions. The charts are based on the tradition of the isolario, introduced by Cristoforo Buondelmonte in 1420 and developed later by Bartolommeo dalli Sonetti and Benedetto Bordone. The work is divided into chapters, each detailing a specific location or region of the Mediterranean and accompanied by a chart. In the prologue Piri Reis explains that he chose to produce this work following the enthronement of Sultan Suleyman in 1520, when many individuals chose to present works to the monarch to gain favour, fame and honour. Piri Reis produced two versions, the first in 1521 (the version present here) and a second revised version in 1526. Both versions survive in a small number of manuscripts by different copyists (see literature below), although none in the hand of Piri Reis are known. The number of charts in the extant manuscripts varies owing to later copyists omissions or inclusions of new charts and views. "The attention given to the elaborate script and decorative charts in this manuscript is more common to manuscripts of the second version. Perhaps it was transcribed to commemorate one of the treaties between Turkey and the European powers in the early eighteenth century." (Harley & Woodward, p.291, n.18)

This work provides important information to naval commanders to enable them to navigate safely around the Mediterranean. Each chapter describes landmarks and the layout of harbours, warns of dangerous rocks, shoals or reefs, and occasionally includes distances or depths. Along with anecdotes and local histories, Piri Reis describes winds and informs the sailor where to find shelter and fresh water, together with military information regarding castles and the fortifications of ports.