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Cyprus Cartography

It has been said, with some justice, that there are really only “four maps” (and two charts) of Cyprus published up to 1885. Yet, how can that be true, when there are some eighty different maps of Cyprus from that period mounted on this website?

The earliest printed atlas was that of Claudius Ptolemaeus, published in 1477. Claudius Ptolemaeus was a Greek cartographer living in Alexandria, Egypt, about 150 A.D. The ancient Greeks had proved the earth was round and even calculated its circumference with some precision, hundreds of years before Christ, let alone Columbus. They mapped the “oecumene” (the then known world, from Gibraltar to the Indies) with commendable accuracy, given their rudimentary tools.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the scientific arts declined during the so-called “Dark Ages”. In the Renaissance, the publication of Ptolemaeus’ work by Chrysoloras caused a sensation among Western scholars, and numerous reprints followed over the next hundred years. But Ptolemaeus’ opus had become hopelessly out-dated. Within forty years, successive Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and English seamen, explorers, adventurers or even pirates filled in many of the blank spaces on the map - adding the Americas, Southern Africa, China and the Far East, the East Indies, Australia and the Pacific Ocean - while new skills enabled the re-mapping of Europe.

It was unfortunate for Cyprus that the island lay at the furthest extremity of Europe, far away from the new cartographic centres and also under the control of the Ottomans - the enemies of the Christian West. This inaccessibility meant that the mapping of Cyprus developed spasmodically. The maps which constituted landmarks in the development of the cartography of Cyprus, and were used as prototypes by main-stream publishers, are the following:


The map prototypes:

1485: the first separately printed map of Cyprus, by Bartolommeo dalli Sonetti. It was copied by Bordone, Camocio and Ortelius (1570) - with the addition of a good number of new names - as well as by many publishers of travel accounts.

1570: Giacomo Franco's map of Cyprus, used by Ortelius in 1573. It became the basic model for printed maps of Cyprus throughout the 19th century.

1762: the map of Cyprus by Jean Baptist d’Anville. A significant new map of the Island, based on a Turkish manuscript. However, due to a geographical misunderstanding, it is not considered to have been a significant improvement.

1885: Horatio Herbert Kitchener's map of Cyprus, the first scientific survey of the island. It was published on sixteen sheets and became the model map of Cyprus up to the mid-20th century.


The charts (sea maps):

1618: Willem Janszoon Blaeu's nautical chart; not really superseded before 1849.

1849: Thomas Graves' nautical chart; a new chart for the British Admiralty, published in 1851 and used in the 20th century as well.

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