Originally composed in 932 AH / 1525 CE and dedicated to Sultan Süleyman I ("The Magnificent"), this great work by Piri Reis (d. 962 AH / 1555 CE) on navigation was later revised and expanded. The present manuscript, made mostly in the late 11th century AH / 17th CE, is based on the later expanded version and has approximately 240 exquisitely executed maps and portolan charts. They include a world map (fol.41a) with the outline of the Americas, as well as maps of coastlines (bays, capes, peninsulas), islands, mountains, and cities of the Mediterranean basin and the Black Sea. The work starts with the description of the coastline of Anatolia and the islands of the Aegean Sea, the Peloponnese peninsula, and the eastern and western coasts of the Adriatic Sea. It then proceeds to describe the western shores of Italy, southern France, Spain, North Africa, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, western Anatolia, various islands north of Crete, the Sea of Marmara, Bosporus, and the Black Sea. It ends with a map of the shores of the Caspian Sea (fol.374a).
Poetry appears in all genres of Islamic literature. This book on navigation opens with an introduction in verse by the author, the celebrated naval commander Piri Reis, in which he explains the contents of the book and his reasons for writing it. Piri Reis’s Book of the Sea exemplifies the heights of early modern seafaring in the Islamic world. Here we see depicted the Bay of Salonica.
Paper with ink, paint, and gold
W.658, fol. 51a, acquired by Henry Walters
The islands of Pag (Pāghū) and Rab (Arbe) (Croatia)
Several islands of the eastern Aegean Sea including: Leros (Līrūs) and Patmos (Bāṭnūz)
Map of western Europe and North Africa