STRIKINGLY DETAILED WORLD MAP BY THE FOREMOST GEOGRAPHER OF THE 12TH CENTURY.
Abu 'Abdallah Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Sharif al-Idrisi (c.1100-1165), was born in Sabta, Ceuta, and educated in Cordoba. He travelled widely in North Africa, Europe and Anatolia. In about 1138 the Norman king of Sicily, Roger II, invited al-Idrisi to his court in Palermo, and commissioned him to compile a description of the entire contemporary world. In collaboration with other scholars in Roger’s court, al-Idrisi produced a large circular world map engraved on silver, a map now lost, and a book, which was to provide the supplementary text. Written in Arabic and accompanied by seventy regional maps and one world map, the book divided the world into seven climates, in keeping with the Ptolemaic system. Each region was thoroughly described in its physical, political, economic and cultural conditions. The book proved to be a great success in the Arabic world, and was copied and translated for centuries. In the western world, it was first printed in Rome in Arabic characters in 1592, then partially translated and published in Latin in 1619. The book served as major tool for Italian, Dutch and French mapmakers from the only ten manuscript copies of the book survive, dating from the early 1300s to the late 1500s; of these, eight contain the maps.
The map is oriented with south at the top and shows the world from Spain to Korea. A large continent stretches out from eastern Africa, landlocking the Indian Ocean except for the eastern side. Mountains, lakes, rivers and towns are represented, as well as roads and distances.