“Words from the East” exhibition displays rare medieval maps of the ancient world

The Words from the East exhibition, hosted by the Sharjah Book Authority at its headquarters during the last period from April 27 to May 3, provided a distinguished space to display samples of the most famous ancient maps globally, along with Quranic manuscripts, editions of old books and posters.

The exhibition represented an opportunity for the public to view treasures of collectibles, and a meeting point for map lovers that contain artistic aesthetics such as perfection and accuracy in drawing their details, and many people are interested in collecting them, in addition to attracting researchers in history and geography in universities, institutions and museums that are concerned with this type of documents and drawings.  

“Words from the East” presents, in addition to several paintings and collectibles, a group of maps, including the famous “Mapa Mundi” map drawn by Fra Mauro, a Venetian monk and cartographer born in the year 1400, Which the sources mention that it was painted on commission by King Afonso V of Portugal, and it took years to complete it until it was completed on April 24, 1459 AD, then it was sent from Venice and from there to Portugal.

In introducing the map, it was indicated that it is the largest map drawn in the Middle Ages, and its original copy covers more than five square meters, and is still considered an amazing achievement in the history of cartography.

It is reported that its original copy is preserved in Venice and another copy of it was prepared for preservation in the British Library in 1804 by British archaeologist William Fraser. In 1869, the Venetian bookseller Munster produced the first photographic copy of the map with a scale of 62 x 68 cm only, while the copy displayed at the headquarters of the Sharjah Book Authority is from photographs taken by Italian photographer Carlo Naya in 1871, and matches the original size of the map 223 x 223 cm.

The Fra Mauro map contains hundreds of detailed illustrations and about 3,000 descriptive texts, and considered one of the last maps that prevailed in Europe during the Middle Ages, before scientific methods of cartography were adopted.

The strange thing is that the south side appears at the top of the map, and the north side is below it, in identification with the map of the famous scholar Abu Abdullah Muhammad bin Muhammad al-Sharif al-Idrisi (1100 – 1165 AD), who preceded Mauro and completed his map in the twelfth century, and it is likely that Mauro had seen it.

The map section in “Words from the East” also presents a group of maps from different historical periods, including a photocopy of the famous map of al-Idrisi, who toured North Africa, Europe and Anatolia, and then completed his detailed map of the world at that time in 1138 at the request of King Roger II of Sicily Who invited him to his court in Palermo, and commissioned him to compile a description of the entire contemporary world. Al-Idrisi drew his large map depicting the world from Spain to Korea.

Source: Sharjah Book Authority