Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The First Printed Ottoman Map of Palestine, 1804

Today, more great Palestine maps from Zach Foster:

Mahmud Raif Efendi (d.1808) is well known to Ottoman history buffs, but few others.  He was behind the publication of the first Ottoman printed map of Palestine.  Raif Efendi was a Reis ül-Küttab, or Foreign Minister, as well as the first Ottoman diplomat stationed in London.

Raif Efendi penned a world Atlas in French sometime in the early 19th century, a genre of literature that did not exist in the Ottoman world.  His original French manuscript has since been lost, but we do have its Ottoman translation, produced by the Greek Ottoman polyglot, Iakovos Argyropoulos (a.k.a Yakovaki Efendi d.1850) at the behest of the Ottoman government and published in Istanbul (Üsküdar) as El-Ucaletü l-coğrafıyye in 1804. 

Yakovaki Efendi's transcription of the French names into Ottoman was certainly creative.  Those familiar with Arabic or Ottoman orthography need no convincing that Yakovaki must have struggled with the name 'Palestine,' which he spelled: فلاستان. He added an (ا) after the (ل), transliterated the French "t" to a (ت) rather than a (ط), and then added another (ا) before the final (ين).  Other names, such as Tiberias, Nablus, Mount Karmel, Beirut are also spelled wrong, at least according to modern orthographic conventions.  He transliterated the town Palmyra (in the Syrian Desert) as Palmyra, rather than its Arabic name, Tadmur.  All of this suggests that Yakovaki did not have recourse to an authoritative Ottoman map upon which he could base his transliterations.

Here is the entire map (available in higher resolution here):

The map also includes the following labels: Druzi (was is today Lebanon) Syria, Iraq of the Arabs (green), Jazira (pink), Kurdistan (blue) Armenia (yellow) and other regions.

Who saw this map?  This geography book, which prominently displays Palestine, may well have been used as a textbook in many Ottoman state schools during the nineteenth century.[1] 

[1] See Johann Strauss, “Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Americana,” pp. 259-281 in Frontiers of the Ottoman Imagination: Studies in Honour of Rhoads Murphey, Marios Hadjianastasis (ed.) (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 261-3; George Larpent (ed.), Turkey; its history and progress from the Journals and Correspondences of Sir James Porter (London: Hurst & Blackett, 1854), II, 162.