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CYPRUS / OTTOMAN CARTOGRAPHY: قبريس آطه سى [Kıbrıs Ada-sı / Island Cyprus]


Colour lithograph, 19,5 x 26 cm (7.6 x 10.3 inches) (soft fold, otherwise in a good condition).


A detailed map of Cyprus was published in the atlas Memalik-i mahrusa-i şahaneye mahsus mükemmel ve mufassal atlas.

This very rare and historically important work is the first portable printed administrative atlas of the Ottoman Empire, and was used during the rule of the ‘Young Turks’ as they led the empire into World War I.  The atlas focuses on the internal political geography of the empire, with the boundaries of the vilayets (provinces) as they were reformed in 1884 (and which remained valid in 1909).  The atlas consist of 35 coloured maps, each of which focuses upon a different vilayet or region of the empire, labelling all major administrative centres, cities and towns, internal and international boundaries, as well as the routes of railways.  The maps correspond to the lengthy and informative text that systematically outlines the political geography of the empire as applicable to taxation, the census and infrastructure development.

Importantly, the atlas embraces all of the de jure Ottoman Empire, the so-called ‘Protected Countries’, including regions that were part of the empire in name only.  For instance, since 1878, Bulgaria was in essence an independent state, while Cyprus was, in effect, a British colony; meanwhile, since 1882, Egypt was governed by a joint Anglo-Local administration.

The atlas, dedicated to Sultan Abdul Hamid II, notes that the empire then covered 7,338,035 km², spanning parts of three continents.  The atlas is dived into three parts.  Part I, ‘Avrupa-yi Osmani’ [Ottoman Europe] notes that the empire possessed 325,766 km² of land on that continent and corresponds to the first 11 maps (nos. 1 to 11), which cover Istanbul, Rumelia, Northern Greece, the Aegean Islands, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Crete.  Part II, ‘Asya-yi Osmani’ [Ottoman Asia], notes that the empire covered 1,776,869 km² on that continent.  It corresponds to 23 maps (nos. 12 to 34) covering Anatolia, Syria, Iraq, Cyprus, Lebanon, the Holy Land and a map of the Arabian Peninsula (with the Ottoman possessions of Hejaz and Yemen).  Part III, ‘Afrika-yi Osmani’ [Ottoman Africa], concerns the empire’s 5,235,400 km² de jure territory on the continent and corresponds to a single map (no. 35), depicting Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria.

The colourful and well-designed maps, many of which fold out to a larger size, clearly convey all the salient information that and accord to the important details explained in the text.  The atlas is today much valued as a resource for historians.  In 2003, the entire work was republished as modern facsimile for academic study purposes, as the Osmanlı atlası: XX. yüzyıl başları (İstanbul: Osmanlı Araştırmaları Vakfı, 2003).

References: Library of Congress: G2210 .N3 1909; OCLC: 42595895.

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