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A unique pair of an Ottoman manuscript atlas and a map, made by a student of the Military Highschool in Bitola, in 1891, as a project for his final exams.

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Monastir (Bitola, North Macedonia): Manastır Mekteb-i Rüşdiye [Manastir Military High School] 1307 [1891].

4°. [12 pp.] blank, 20 double-page maps in pencil, and red and black ink with blank verso, contemporary binding with embossed leaves, red corners and spine, old illustrated label with manuscript in black on the cover, original dark patterned endpapers, each map stamped with a name of the author (endpapers with small tears and tiny loss of paper, one map (Italy) loose, binding with minor scratches on the corners, but overall in a good condition).


Mahmud Efendi – Author of the Printed Map. Mehmed REFIK MANASTIRLI– Author of the manuscript additions.


Istanbul: [Imperial Military Office Press] 1304 [1888], printed draft – Monastir (Bitola, North Macedonia): Manastır Mekteb-i Rüşdiye [Manastir Military High School] [s.d., circa 1891] – manuscript additions.

Lithograph with manuscript additions in red and black ink, originally mounted on linen 38 x 51 cm (14.9 x 20 inches), (soft folds, hardly noticeable staining, but otherwise in a good condition).

A unique pair of an Ottoman manuscript atlas and a map, made by a student of the Military Highschool in Bitola, in 1891, as a project for his final exams.


This unique pair of an atlas and a map in Ottoman language was made by a student Mehmed Refik at the Military High School at Monastir (Bitola, North Macedonia) for an exam at the end of the third and final year of the program. Refik shows a tremendous confidence in his knowledge in geography, expressed through determined and flawless handwriting in black and red ink. The Manastir Military High School was one of the most venerable military institutions of the Ottoman Empire. Among others Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was schooled there from 1896 to 1898.

The atlas includes the following hand drawn maps: Balkans, European Russia, Austro Hungary, Germany with neighbouring countries, France, Italy, Switzerland, Benelux, Denmark, Scandinavia, Arabian Peninsula, Near and Middle East, China with Korea and Japan, Indian Subcontinent and Indochinese Peninsula, Egypt and North Africa, Central Africa, South Africa and Madagascar, North America, South America, Australia and Oceania.

Each map bears a stamp with the name of Mehmed Refik.

The titles of the maps follow the standard sequence of the Western atlases, which no doubt served Refik as guides for drawing the coastlines and contemporary borders. The maps of whole continents are omitted with an exception of Australia, and first empty pages were probably meant to be filled in with the map of the world and star charts.

Although the atlas seems crude at first, young Mehmed Refik possibly used all the contemporary knowledge to create this unique work. Until 1891, when this book was made, Ottoman atlases were still rare and only one large Ottoman atlas existed. It was printed in Paris in 1868 in small run and was by 1891 outdated. Refik’s manuscript atlas does not copy the maps from it.

In the same year Mehmed Refik created his work, a production of the first large format atlas, printed in the Ottoman Empire, Yeni Coğrafya Atlası, started, yet the atlas was not available on the market for another two or four years, making the Refik’s work unique and innovative, as many geographical names were not translated into Ottoman yet.

The separately published lithographed map of Asia with magnificent annotations in Ottoman language in red and black ink is a wonderful product of the late Ottoman period on the field of cartographic studies. The engraved blank map was printed by the Imperial Military Office Press in 1888 in Istanbul and the manuscript was added shortly after by Mehmend Refik, again for his third year exam at Monastir Military High School.

Blank maps and atlases were exceedingly popular in the last decades of the Ottoman Empire and were used for educational purposes at high schools and military schools. The student was supposed to annotate the maps as a part of the learning procedure.

Not much is known about Refik, whom we could not trace in any bibliography (one should not mistakenly confuse him with the first Ottoman electrical engineer with the same name, who was schooled in Europe and was only born in 1881). According to his signature “Manastirli” at the bottom of this map either he or his father was born in Monastir.

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