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ISLAMIC MECCA-CENTRED WORLD MAP--A rare and important 17th-century Safavid brass world map from Isfahan [International Instrument Checklist #8024], the finely-engraved circular map plate with a centrally-pivoted brass diametrical rule rotating over it, with a compass box inset into the plate, 2 turned brass feet attached to the underside of the plate. (One foot a skilful modern replacement, lacking needle, glass, folding dial, and latitude arc). Diameter: 225mm.

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ISLAMIC MECCA-CENTRED WORLD MAP--A rare and important 17th-century Safavid brass world map from Isfahan [International Instrument Checklist #8024], the finely-engraved circular map plate with a centrally-pivoted brass diametrical rule rotating over it, with a compass box inset into the plate, 2 turned brass feet attached to the underside of the plate. (One foot a skilful modern replacement, lacking needle, glass, folding dial, and latitude arc). Diameter: 225mm.

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ISLAMIC MECCA-CENTRED WORLD MAP--A rare and important 17th-century Safavid brass world map from Isfahan [International Instrument Checklist #8024], the finely-engraved circular map plate with a centrally-pivoted brass diametrical rule rotating over it, with a compass box inset into the plate, 2 turned brass feet attached to the underside of the plate. (One foot a skilful modern replacement, lacking needle, glass, folding dial, and latitude arc). Diameter: 225mm. A RARE AND IMPORTANT MAP OF THE ISLAMIC WORLD, WHICH EMPLOYS A SOPHISTICATED NON-POLAR PROJECTION BASED ON 9TH-CENTURY ISLAMIC MATHEMATICS TO PRESERVE DIRECTION AND DISTANCE TO MECCA AT THE CENTRE. No Islamic map of this type was known before the present example appeared in 1989, and it 'vie[s] with any of the spectacular instruments and manuscripts located during this century as major discoveries in the history of early science in general and the history of medieval cartography in particular' (King World-Maps p.371). Exhibited at both the Musée du Louvre and the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, this map on brass, with a second example discovered in 1995, is the subject of Professor David A. King's major study World-Maps for finding the Distance and Direction to Mecca, and these two world-maps remain the only examples known. The Qur'an enjoins Muslims to turn towards the Kaaba in their prayers: 'So turn towards the Holy Mosque, and turn towards it wherever you may be. And those who are recipients of the Book surely know that this is the truth from their Lord; and God is not negligent of all that you do' (2:144). The purpose of the map is to display this sacred direction (qibla in Arabic and all languages of the Islamic commonwealth) and the distance of Mecca from any given locality in the Islamic world. The qibla direction was normally determined using information about the direction and distance of Mecca supplied in astronomical handbooks with tables (called in Arabic zijes), which gave results of variable accuracy. The ideal was a technique that would give an accurate qibla for any location in the Islamic world (i.e. was universal), and it was only natural that a culture that was capable of producing astronomical instruments far in advance of anything created in Western Europe in the period before the Renaissance would wish to develop a map or instrument that could show this information simply and accurately. The majority of maps and instruments devised to achieve this aim employed cartographic projections that, in common with all projections of a spherical surface onto a plane, suffered distortions that precluded the uniformly accurate representation of these values for all locations. The difficulty of devising a universal Mecca-centred map was further complicated by the non-integral value of Mecca's longitude, 77°10', according to the mediaeval reckoning. Although numerous world maps on paper or cloth with cartographic grids (usually square or rectangular) and localities properly marked according to their (mediaeval) latitudes and longitudes were produced by Muslim scholars between the 9th and the 16th centuries, none have survived the vicissitudes of time. The present world map features 'a highly distinctive grid, of a kind not attested on any other known map before the 20th century' (King World-Maps p.236). The mathematics underlying the grid were developed by Muslim scholars in 9th-century Baghdad (cf. op. cit. pp.61-64 and 350). The longitudes and latitudes of the localities marked on the grid are derived from a Timurid geographical table compiled in the Samarqand region in the mid 15th century; the data in this table was used in the gazetteers on later Persian astrolabes. Thus the map is entirely within the tradition of mediaeval mathematical geography and cartography. A recension of this lost Timurid table was discovered in 1993 in an 18th-century manuscript treatise on the astrolabe by 'Abd al-Rahim ibn Muhammad, titled Maqsad al-talib wa-muntaha 'l-matalib (London, BL add. ms. 7489, ff.53r-58v). The table gives qibla values, distances in farsakhs (a Persian unit of distance equivalent to about 6 km.), and coordinates for 274 localities. The present map uses an elegant orthogonal projection which maintains uniform and accurate distance and bearing from Mecca for 149 of these localities (see King World-Maps Appendix C, pp.552-563 for a full analysis of these locations, their coincidence with those in the recension of the source table in the manuscript cited, and the degree of error). Thus the process is simplified so that, as the cartouche illustrated below states, 'When you put the diametrical rule at [the point corresponding to] the latitude and longitude of any city you will be shown the qibla and distance of the city from Mecca' (King World-Maps p.204). The localities marked on the map span the Muslim world and adjacent regions from Cordoba in al-Andalus, through Constantinople and Athens (illustrated above), Iraq and Iran, to China and Sarandib (Sri Lanka, also illustrated above). The map extends vertically from Europe, the tribes along the Volga River, and Northern China, down to Ethiopia and the Yemen. Cities in Greater Iran are particularly generously represented. As one would expect on a map in the mediaeval tradition, the relative positions of, for example, Constantinople and Athens, and of India and Sarandib, correspond to mediaeval geographical notions rather than to geographical reality. Similarly, no attempt has been made to mark physical features such as coastlines, mountains and rivers, since these do not feature in mediaeval geographical tables. This world map was in all probability made in Isfahan, a city well-famed for its exquisite metalwork, not least its elegantly-fashioned astronomical instruments. Whilst the instrument on which the map is engraved is unsigned, the piece was clearly executed by one of the leading instrument makers of that milieu. The decoration of the instrument is typical of the finest late-17th-century Iranian metalwork. The present instrument originally had a universal inclining sundial fitted at the cut-outs on the perimeter of the map plate, and such a dial is still present on the second known example (King World-Maps map B). This dial, which like the windrose in the compass box appears to be derived from European models, would have given the time for any latitude between 0° and 50°. However, as King notes, although the dial would be a 'handy device for reckoning time in hours relative to midday for any latitude, it cannot be conveniently used for measuring time relative to sunrise or sunset, and it cannot be used at all for measuring time relative to 'asr prayer, the most important time in the Islamic day' (World-Maps p.331). Indeed, 'for [the maker's] religious purpose, [the dial] was cumbersome and ineffective' (op. cit. p.331), and its absence, whilst unfortunate, in no way diminishes the map's importance. A modern equivalent to the Isfahan world map was only developed in the West in the early 20th century, namely by Carl Schoy, who was the first Westerner to study Muslim writings on the determination of the qibla. THE PLATE: is engraved with 2 perpendicular axes, intersecting at Mecca. The vertical axis forms the prime meridian at 77°10' (the longitude of Mecca): beside this is engraved a second vertical axis at 77°, from which are projected out 24 parallel meridians to East and West at intervals of 2° of longitude, running from 29° to 125°. The lines of latitude are projected out from an engraved line parallel to the horizontal axis at 0° as a family of 21 curves at intervals of 2° of latitude from 8° to 50°, forming a map grid of cells 2° x 2°. The positions of 149 localities are marked by punched annuli, and the names are given in thuluth script in the adjacent cells: see illustrations opposite for Athens and Constantinople on the left and Sarandib (i.e. Sri Lanka) on the right (a full listing of the localities is given in King World-Maps pp.552-563). The grid incorporates a longitude scale in thuluth script in the band between latitudes 50° and 52°, and a latitude scale in thuluth script in the band between longitudes 51° and 53°. Parallel to the latitude scale runs a 'climate' scale in nashki script, following the classical division of latitudes into 7 'climates' (illustrated above). In the spaces surrounding the cartographic grid are 3 cartouches in thuluth script which bear instructions for the use of the different elements of the instrument. The first cartouche, to the right of the compass box and illustrated on the previous page, describes the purpose of the world map; the second, the function of the compass (illustrated and translated below); the third, the use of the sundial previously attached (illustrated on the facing page). The circumference of the plate is divided into 360°, the scale divided into 10° increments with markings in thuluth script, each increment further divided with an engraved 5° marker, and sub-divided with punched dots to mark each degree. Two sections have been cut from the perimeter, to mount a hinged sundial ring, and a third section has been cut to mount a latitude arc (vide supra). Next to these cut-outs are countersunk holes which have been drilled for the associated mounting screws. Diameter: 225mm. THE DIAMETRICAL RULE: is fixed to the plate by a central round-headed bolt and a nut on the underside of the plate, which allow it to rotate freely over the plate. The rule is bevelled on the fore-edge, and engraved on the upper face with the name of Mecca on one side of the pivot, and with a non-uniform distance scale calibrated in farsakhs from 44 to 1022 on the other, illustrated above. This scale is divided by engraved lines, each part further subdivided into quarters by engraved lines on the fore-edge. Length: 210mm. THE COMPASS BOX: is formed from a circular brass base set into a short brass cyclinder, and attached to the circular cut-out in the plate by 2 L-shaped brackets, with 2 screws running through the plate into the brackets and 2 screws running through the brackets into the compass-box wall. The base of the compass box is engraved with an eight-pointed wind rose, the pointers for the cardinal points with engraved longitudinal half-shading, the upper edge of the compass box wall and the lower edge of the cut-out in the plate bevelled to form a bezel to retain a glass cover. The cartouche to the left of the compass - illustrated below - describes it thus: 'In this stone [i.e. the needle] is significance on land and sea: it moves towards the south pole like a blue-feathered bird' (King World-Maps p.205). Internal dimensions: 69mm. diameter, 11mm. deep. EXHIBITED: (i) 'Focus Behaim Globus', Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, December 1992-February 1993 (described and illustrated in G. Bott, ed. Focus Behaim Globus (Nuremberg: 1992), volumes I, pp.169-171 and II, pp.686-690, item 2.43). (ii) 'Al-Andalus y el Mediterráneo', Casa de la Cultura, Algeciras, May-July 1995. (iii) 'L'Apparence des cieux--Astronomie et astrologie en terre d'Islam', Musée du Louvre, Paris, June-September 1998 (described and illustrated in Sophie Makariou, ed. L'Apparence des cieux ... (Paris: 1998), pp.79 and 92-93, item 66). LITERATURE: J.L. Berggren Episodes in the Mathematics of Medieval Islam (New York: 1986). M. Chebel Symbols of Islam (Paris: 1997). Chapters 5 (prayer), 9 (Mecca), 10 (the Kaaba), 11 (the qibla), and 12-13 (mosque and mihrab). The Encyclopaedia of Islam, 10 volumes (Leiden: 1960 to present). Articles 'Kibla', 'Makka as Centre of the World', 'Samt [i.e. direction]', and 'Tasa [i.e. magnetic compass]'. J.B. Harley and D. Woodward ed. The History of Cartography, 2 volumes (Chicago and London: 1987 to present). D.A. King and R.P. Lorch 'Qibla Charts, Qibla Maps, and Related Instruments', volume II, book 1, pp.189-205. D.A. King 'Two Iranian World-Maps for finding the Direction and Distance to Mecca', in: Imago Mundi volume 49 (London: 1997), pp. 62-89. D.A. King World-Maps for finding the Direction and Distance of Mecca: Innovation and Tradition in Islamic Science (Leiden: 1999). A.S. Melikian-Chirvani Islamic Metalwork from the Iranian World, 8-18th Centuries (London: 1982). C. Schoy 'Die Mekka- oder Qiblakarte (Gegenazimutale mittabstandstreue Projektion mit Mekka als Kartenmitte)' in: Kartographische und schulgeographische Zeitschrift 6 (1917), pp.184-185 and map. PROVENANCE: sale, Sotheby's, London Islamic Works of Art, 12 April 1989, lot 156.
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No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.
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