By JAMES FLATNESS and CHRISTOPHER MURPHY
Six Library divisions joined together recently to purchase a copy of the very rare Cedid Atlas Tercümesi (New Atlas). In this cooperative effort, funds were provided by the African and Middle Eastern, European, Hispanic, Rare Book and Special Collections, and Overseas Operations divisions, as well as the Geography and Map Division, where the volume will be retained as part of the Vault Collection.
This leather-bound atlas was published in 1803 in Istanbul by the Ottoman Military Engineering School Press. Composed of 24 maps, it is the first Muslim-published world atlas based on European geographic knowledge and cartographic methods. Mahmud Ra'if Efendi's 80-page original geographic study, Icaletu'l-Cografiye, is appended to the atlas.
The atlas and geographic treatise are artifacts of the Nizam-i Cedid (New Order), the first effort by the Ottomans to implement reforms based on European models. Instituted by Sultan Selim III (1789-1807), the "New Order" attempted to incorporate European military, technical, economic and administrative achievements into the Ottoman system. The atlas was produced to provide modern geographic information for the students and teachers at the new military engineering school and for officials in the Ottoman War and Foreign ministries.
With the exception of the celestial chart, all the maps included in the atlas are based on cartographic works that appear in editions of William Faden's General Atlas. A number of editions of the General Atlas were issued in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but the specific edition used as the basis for the Cedid Atlas is unknown.
The recent publication of Kemal Beydilli's Türk Bilim ve Matbaacilik Tarihinde Mühendishâne ve Kütüphanesi (1776-1826) (Istanbul: Eren, 1995) provides valuable background information about the creation and compilation of the atlas. The copy of Faden's General Atlas used to compile the Cedid Atlas was acquired by Mahmud Ra'if Efendi when he was private secretary to the Ottoman ambassador in London.
Only 50 copies of the atlas were produced. One special copy was printed for Selim III, six others were given to important state officials, and two were placed in the library of the Engineering School. The rest were made available to the public. Prior to this purchase by the Library of Congress, only six complete copies of the work were known to exist, all of which are in Istanbul -- one at the Top Kapi Palace, two at the Engineering School, and three in the collections of Bogazici University. The copy acquired by the Library, which is also complete, is the only copy reported outside of Turkey.
A comparison of the contents of the Cedid Atlas with that of the General Atlas provides an understanding of what geographic regions were considered most important to the Ottomans. The atlas contains separate maps of each continent and the majority of the maps naturally focus on the lands adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea and maritime Europe. There is only one plate each for Africa (aside from the Mediterranean) and Asia, but four plates cover portions of the Western Hemisphere, including a map of North America primarily east of the Mississippi River (pictured, below) which shows the territorial claims of Great Britain, the United States, Spain, France (maritime rights) and Indian lands. In many cases, the Turkish maps employed title cartouche embellishments similar to those on the Faden engravings. An interesting study of the different social and cultural standards could be made based on what was included or omitted from the European original.
In addition to its rarity as a cartographic work, the Cedid Atlas documents the status of map making in the Ottoman world at the beginning of the 19th century and cartography's role in the proposed reform of that society. It also provides insight into the transfer of the Western cartographic model to another culture. With the purchase of the Cedid Atlas, the Library now holds copies of all of the cartographic documents published in book format by the Ottomans during the first 100 years of Muslim printing.
Mr. Flatness is cartographic specialist for acquisition in the Geography and Map Division. Mr. Murphy is a Turkish area specialist in the African and Middle Eastern Division.