Mediterranean Coastal Place Names on an Ottoman Manuscript Chart from the Sylvia Ioannou Foundation Collection

Agamemnon Tselikas - Head of the Historical and Palaeographic Archive, Cultural Foundation of the National Bank of Greece



The Ottoman chart of the Mediterranean belonging to the Sylvia Ioannou Foundation is a cartographic piece of evidence of exceptional significance. It is in ink and watercolour on paper, measures 112 x 256 cm and, according to the watermark, may date to the final quarter of the 17th century. The anonymous designer aimed to mark all coastal and island place names, starting in the west from the Strait of Gibraltar up to the Syro- Palestinian coast in the east, and from the northern coast of the Mediterranean and part of the Black Sea down to the northern coast of Africa. Eight hundred and thirty-four place names are recorded in total, indicating coastal cities, islands, islets, reefs, bays, capes and river mouths.

In comparison to contemporary European charts, exceptional accuracy of design is apparent in reference both to the recorded locations and the non-recorded ones; and also regarding the geophysical alterations along the coastlines and the height of the sea level. In the form in which this chart has survived, it seems that it was not designed as a nautical chart, but as a geographical one. It is not directly related to the Piri Reis maps in the recording of place names, which suggests that the latter constituted a remote model. The writing of the place names follows the standard Ottoman version and pronunciation. All place names on the chart are recorded in Ottoman script; in the interactive digital presentation of the chart, the corresponding international and local names are also indicated.



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