Introduction Maps in Manuscripts

In: Picturing the Islamicate World
Author: Nadja Danilenko
Full Access

Imagine you have travelled from Asia to the Middle East and want to capture your experience on a map. Since it is approximately 930, your tools are your memory, pen and paper. What would your map look like?

When setting out to picture the Islamicate world, al-Iṣṭakhrī took on quite a challenge. At the beginning of the tenth century,1 the territories ruled by Muslims stretched from al-Andalus in today’s Spain to Sindh in today’s Pakistan. Like many authors composing geographic texts in Arabic, al-Iṣṭakhrī decided to divide and conquer: After first describing the world known to him, he covered the Islamicate world in twenty chapters. To help envision the world he portrayed, al-Iṣṭakhrī added a world map and twenty regional maps to his text that became known as the Book of Routes and Realms (Kitāb al-Masālik wa-l-Mamālik). Except for his travels, which he shared in the text, we do not know anything about al-Iṣṭakhrī’s life or career. However, his work circulated in manuscript copies until the nineteenth century. By exploring what made al-Iṣṭakhrī’s work special and tracing the existing manuscripts, this book aims at unravelling the story of the Book of Routes and Realms.

Chapter 1 will set the stage for understanding al-Iṣṭakhrī’s contribution to Arabic geography. Due to the so-called translation movement and the Abbasid elites fostering knowledge in all areas, the literary output until the tenth century covered poetry, history, administrative manuals and many more. Accompanying the empire’s expansion, this output included a growing number of geographic texts dealing with the entire world as well as the Islamicate realm. Rather than following a clear-cut system in organizing the world, these texts applied various strategies in dividing, describing and promoting areas inside and outside the Islamicate realm – sometimes collecting several views as if to provide an encyclopedia of available geographic models. Using six texts that were composed before the Book of Routes and Realms, I will illustrate the array of choices al-Iṣṭakhrī built on. Moreover, I will reconstruct what maps had circulated before al-Iṣṭakhrī to help grasp his contribution. Although none of them have survived, geographic as well as historiographic texts tell us about maps showing the marvels of the world, maps used to settle disputes and even magic maps. Tracing the purpose(s) and possible designs of these maps will facilitate identifying al-Iṣṭakhrī’s novel approach to maps.

The Book of Routes and Realms will take center stage in chapter 2. Not only does al-Iṣṭakhrī’s work safeguard the first maps we have from the Islamicate world, the treatise is the first extant combination of a geographic text with maps. Before al-Iṣṭakhrī, al-Balkhī (d. 934) had already combined a text with maps, but his book has not survived. In fact, the original of the Book of Routes and Realms is still missing as well. While some events al-Iṣṭakhrī mentioned in the Book of Routes and Realms help place its creation in the first half of the tenth century, the earliest dated manuscripts come from the twelfth century.2 Building on the editions of the Book of Routes and Realms as well as the earliest manuscripts, I will outline that the treatise evolved in several stages thanks to the efforts of al-Balkhī, al-Iṣṭakhrī and a third geographer, Ibn Ḥawqal (fl. tenth c.). Subsequently, I will analyze both text and maps to show that the Book of Routes and Realms was designed as a reference book of the Islamicate world for an audience involved in the administration. Strictly organized by regions, the Book of Routes and Realms highlights cities, their infrastructure and products in the text and adds maps tailored for a general audience. Meant to help join the regions into a panorama of the Islamicate world, the maps present the space under Muslim rule as fragmented, yet connected and beautiful.

To make sense of al-Iṣṭakhrī’s maps, I will use approaches from Historical Cartography and Art History. Presenting each region from a different angle, the maps are not to scale. Moreover, the seas, mountains and cities al-Iṣṭakhrī placed on the maps create patterns rather than depict physical reality. While al-Iṣṭakhrī never intended for his maps to be physically accurate, their ‘diagrammatic’ character has often distracted scholars from delving into the message al-Iṣṭakhrī communicated.3 Although recent studies have addressed al-Iṣṭakhrī’s map design,4 it has not yet been explored in detail. Right from the start, al-Iṣṭakhrī emphasized that he put the maps at the heart of the Book of Routes and Realms. However, he did not include a guide to reading his maps, as though he considered them to be self-explanatory.

When dealing with maps, we need to remember they interpret space to convey a message.5 Informed by social, cultural or scientific ideas, a mapmaker reduces the world to a set of items intended to entertain, teach or facilitate memorizing spatial relations.6 Moreover, maps such as the medieval European mappae mundi framed the world according to Christian salvation history, which involved angels and apocalyptic symbols.7 In addition, European mapmakers legitimized conquests and imperial outlooks through maps.8 To decode al-Iṣṭakhrī’s message, I will examine what items he chose to display, how he arranged them and which items he emphasized.9

The mapmaker reveals both his knowledge and bias through the number and size of maps he uses as well as their orientation. Some mapmakers combined a world map with regional maps like al-Iṣṭakhrī. However, if the mapmaker only zooms into some areas from the world map on a regional map, he probably aimed at promoting this territory for political, cultural or religious reasons. Alternatively, he might also have been more familiar with these areas which indicates his geographic horizon. In orienting a map according to latitudes and cardinal points, the mapmaker not only relates locations to each other, he may hint at additional features. For instance, Greek latitudes (climes, see below) also marked the North as hostile and the South as filled with monsters. In mappae mundi, cardinal points connected with Biblical figures such as Adam or the four stages of human age.10

Furthermore, the mapmaker communicates his message through the way he handles the map’s center and margins. In mappae mundi, Jerusalem emerged as the center of a religiously framed world view. However, some mapmakers chose to put their homeland center stage instead.11 In addition to framing geographic entities, margins reveal where the mapmaker’s knowledge ends and his imagination begins. While some mapmakers downsized names and figures the closer they drew to the margins, others planted monsters or “here be dragons” at the edges.12 For the former, the information ebbed away towards the margins, acknowledging some regions were beyond the mapmaker’s reach. The latter, however, pushed the envelope by allowing room for the mysterious in remote locations.

In establishing a map’s top or bottom, the mapmaker arranges his data according to a hierarchy.13 Like a prominent center, the map’s top serves as a gateway into the image, promoting religion, politics or culture. To identify the map’s top, we can examine whether the mapmaker placed captions and symbols in a way that created one reading direction. Similar to reading texts, the mapmaker may attract the viewer’s attention from top to bottom, moving from most important to least. However, the Islamicate context includes other reading directions. Even though regular texts move from a page’s top downwards, Arabic calligraphy shifts the direction by starting from the bottom.

By distorting the map’s structure, the mapmaker also steers the viewer towards his idea about the world. Some early twentieth-century world maps magnified the size of the Soviet Union in an attempt to either amplify the Union’s importance or highlight its threat. In a similar vein, the mapmaker may manipulate the size of the characters on the map. While jumbling captions and characters increases the map’s complexity, putting them in order fosters the viewer’s understanding.14 Moreover, in repeating headings, shapes as well as captions, the mapmaker both facilitates grasping the map’s structure at a glance and instills spatial order.15

As for the items the mapmaker chooses, he places indexes, icons and symbols on the map.16 Stemming from semiotics, this trio facilitates pinpointing how a mapmaker translated cultural conventions to his cartographic design. Symbols are most determined by conventions because they do not resemble the object or cultural aspect they represent. Take numbers and flags, for example. Their shapes and colors only have meaning because a community agreed on it.17 In a similar vein, symbols relating to Alexander the Great or the Biblical creation in mappae mundi catered to individuals versed in both literary traditions. By contrast, icons rely more on resemblance than convention, which allows the viewer to understand them without a background in the respective cultural tradition. Miniature buildings representing cities are typical icons on a map, as well as lines representing routes or triangles referring to mountains.18 As for indexes, they merely point to an event or object rather than resembling it like the icon. Without captions, indexes may therefore elude decoding if we have no other clues linking them to events or places the mapmaker wished to highlight. The eleventh-century Collection of Turkic Languages (Dīwān Lughāt al-Turk) by al-Kāshgharī is a case in point: While the yellow dots on the accompanying world map do not make sense on their own, the text suggests they were meant to represent Turkic tribes.19

Although indexes, icons and symbols are not mutually exclusive categories, they nevertheless help identify the mapmaker’s cultural grounding as well as his target audience. The more he turns to symbols and unexplained indexes, the clearer he caters to a specialized group. To decode such a map, the viewer has to first identify the group and then scrutinize narratives as well as figures relevant in its context. However, if a mapmaker refrains from using symbols or unclear indexes, his audience may have lacked such narratives. Alternatively, the mapmaker might have preferred icons to get his message across to an audience from outside his own context. Either in plain sight or in absentia, symbols and indexes reveal to whom the mapmaker’s addressed his work.

By distributing items across the map, the mapmaker underscores his message.20 If the mapmaker disperses all items, he intends to highlight the world’s complexity. Alternatively, he may place the items evenly across the map, suggesting something sets the world in order. Semiotics has identified six principles of perceptual organization that help coordinating objects.21 To begin with, similar shapes suggest categories, such as cities represented by circles or polygons (principle of similarity). We usually identify these categories if the shapes appear against the backdrop of larger spaces (principles of surroundedness and smallness). To further connect items, the mapmaker may place them close to each other (principle of proximity). Additionally, the principles of symmetry and good continuity connect items by creating patterns based on closed features.

Coloring is another tool used to stress and connect items on the map. By repeating and contrasting shades, the mapmaker may distinguish between big and small cities or friendly and hostile regions. However, coloring operates on a symbolic level that may elude the viewer. While a golden Jerusalem in mappae mundi might have indicated the city’s importance to viewers from different contexts, the antique practice of associating the North with black, the South with white, the East with red and the West with yellow might not translate as easily. When trying to decode colors, we need to keep in mind that prices might have affected which hues the mapmaker chose.22 Moreover, if a map belonged to a manuscript, the illustrator’s work further raised the price of the final good (see below).23 Therefore, instead of a mapmaker, the client might have impacted the final design by opting for modest colors to compensate costs. When examining copies of maps that date from different periods, we further need to account for ‘transmission noise’ resulting from the illustrator’s choices. If the model map’s colors had faded, the illustrator may have had to choose a new palette. Even if the model had persisted, the illustrator may have preferred other pigments that were en vogue in his context. Considering the various factors swaying a map’s coloring, I suggest treading lightly when analyzing underlying codes.

In perusing the items on a map, we should note signs for the unknown. Not only did the margins allow the mapmaker to put his knowledge or imagination into effect, mapmakers also used symbols and icons to fill uncharted territory across the continents. For instance, the cartographer Pierre Desceliers (fl. sixteenth c.) furnished Africa with an elephant on his world map, whereas the coeval Cantino world map featured a red parrot in South America.24 Items representing the unknown thus captured how mapmakers handled limits in their geographic knowledge.

Rather than filling the unknown with symbols, some mapmakers silenced or omitted the unknown altogether.25 By leaving an unfamiliar region empty, the mapmaker at least acknowledged it existed. However, if the mapmaker decided against putting an unfamiliar region on the map, he revealed his bias. In case a text accompanies the map, we may single out such omissions by comparing which regions and items appeared in both media. When we trace what information the mapmaker left in the text and what he chose to put on the map, we can make out the rationale behind his map design.26 In addition, the way the text refers to the map(s) may point to their orientation as intended by the mapmaker. If the mapmaker mentions, for instance, cities at the top or left side, we know how to position the map to see it from his perspective.

Following the first in-depth study of the Book of Routes and Realms in chapter 2, the remaining chapters will make sense of the work’s transmission. In contrast to other geographic literature dating from the tenth century, the Book of Routes and Realms was later translated into Persian as well as Ottoman. Comprising 59 manuscripts today, the Book of Routes and Realms attracted attention for almost a millennium.27 However, in examining this manuscript tradition, scholars have so far singled out Arabic or Persian copies without ascertaining the tradition as a whole.28 By tracing manuscripts of the Book of Routes and Realms in libraries and archives worldwide, this book will shed light on who took an interest in al-Iṣṭakhrī’s work and why.

To make sense of changes as well as continuities in the transmission of the Book of Routes and Realms, I will take into account how manuscripts were created. After paper came to the Islamicate world in the eighth century, the material prevailed in the administration and book culture, especially in the Islamicate East. Coming from centers such as Baghdad and Damascus, paper remained an expensive commodity due to its lengthy production process. To economize, users sometimes recycled or reused sheets of paper.29 While some manuscripts were created off the rack, others were intended for prestigious clients.

Depending on the client’s wishes, a copy would pass through many hands. Although some individuals took on several tasks, most craftsmen specialized in copying, calligraphy, illustration, cutting or binding.30 To create a new copy of, for example, the Book of Routes and Realms, the copyist consulted a model manuscript the client supplied. Alternatively, the copyist could have found one or several copies in a library or on the market, allowing him to compare and collate the texts into one new version. Most copyists marked deviating passages in the margins to accommodate changes introduced by the author or transmitter of the text.31

When reproducing the model(s), the copyist wrote on loose sheets of paper (folded into folios).32 To facilitate binding the folios (or quires) in the correct order, the copyist would often place catchwords at the bottom of the right page that indicated which word was to follow on the left page (reading from right to left in Arabic, Persian and Ottoman).33 To help navigate the text, the copyist sometimes highlighted headings with colored ink. Alternatively, he left the spaces empty for the person who later used colored ink to fill in the headings or highlights. This division of labor explains why some manuscripts of the Book of Routes and Realms feature gaps instead of headings: If something disrupted the production process, the person responsible for putting in the colored ink did not get to do his work. In a similar vein, illustrated manuscripts sometimes come with empty pages. When reproducing the text, the copyist would leave empty spaces for the illustrator who took over afterwards. If the client ran out of money or the production broke off for some other reason, the copy remained without illustrations. Nevertheless, the manuscript might have still been cut and bound without the illustrations. While dedications on the title page may tell us for whom a manuscript was created, the colophon at the end of a copy sheds more light on who the copyist was, when and where he finished his work (sometimes also for whom). As we will see for the Book of Routes and Realms, many copyists either did not ‘sign’ their work or simply reproduced the colophon from their model.

Any person involved in creating a manuscript could have introduced changes, but not always on purpose. Considering some copyists were also scholars, they may have sought to improve the model’s style or content. Alternatively, if a copyist came across terms he did not recognize, he could ‘autocorrect’ them to words he was familiar with – a practice we sometimes see in copies of the Book of Routes and Realms.34 Moreover, dim light in the library or workshop might have caused the copyist to misread the model. No matter the copyist’s expertise, fatigue or distraction could have just as well led to involuntary changes. Keeping in mind that copyists were usually paid per page, they might have rushed to the finish to sustain their family rather than savor every word.35 The same applies to the binding. As we will see for the Book of Routes and Realms, some manuscripts have an unusual sequence. Rather than presuming an intentional rearrangement, I will first check whether human error might explain the change. If the copyist did not place catchwords in the manuscript, the binder might have mixed up some pages, therefore creating a new order. Particularly if catchwords were missing and damaged binding caused folios to fall out, the copyist might not have realized he was creating a new sequence based on an incomplete text.

While a manuscript’s look hints at its client, manuscript notes and seals help reconstruct who transmitted the Book of Routes and Realms and where. Throughout the Islamicate world, owners and readers left traces in manuscripts that reveal their trajectories. Using free space on the title page, the last page as well as in the margins, owners tell us when they bought or endowed a copy. Pages left empty for the illustrator also offer space for notes. While some readers revealed when and where they finished reading the copy, others commented on the text in the margins, supplying additional information or cross references to other literature.36 Moreover, some readers informed us they gained a license for transmitting the text, whereas others used the paper for recording deaths, sales or memorable events.37 Taking all of the above aspects into account, I will explore the manuscript tradition of the Book of Routes and Realms.

Chapter 3 revolves around the three Persian translations that appeared across the Iranian lands after the Mongols established the Ilkhanate in the thirteenth century. Not only did a continued interest in geography inspire the translations, but also the Ilkhans promoting book illustrations and Persian as the vernacular. With its beautiful maps and focus on the Iranian lands, the Book of Routes and Realms appealed to the new audience. However, considering al-Iṣṭakhrī’s text and the maps remained almost unaltered on three different occasions, the translations did not aim at updating the treatise to fit the new setting. They rather intended to open the Book of Routes and Realms to the new audience as part of the cultural heritage the Ilkhans aimed to continue.

Chapter 4 investigates the copies of the Book of Routes and Realms that surfaced in royal collections in Istanbul at the turn of the sixteenth century. After conquering Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II (r. 1444–46 and 1451–81) aimed at turning the new capital into the scholarly and artistic center of the Islamicate world. As the Ottoman expansion continued well into the sixteenth century, Istanbul became a hub for artists, scholars and hundreds of manuscripts that made their way into the treasury as booty and gifts – among them, Arabic and Persian copies of the Book of Routes and Realms. Not only were some of them copied, the Ottoman translation was also prepared for Sultan Mehmed III (r. 1595–1603) based on a Persian model. Out of the ten manuscripts of al-Iṣṭakhrī’s work that were collected and commissioned in Istanbul until the sixteenth century, seven maintained the text and maps of the Book of Routes and Realms. While this shows the audience cared for the treatise as part of a cultural heritage they wished to preserve, three manuscripts additionally embody the entanglement of cartographic traditions that circulated at the same time in Istanbul. Without changing the text, these copies (including the Ottoman translation) transformed al-Iṣṭakhrī’s maps through miniatures and landscapes we find in coeval historiographic and geographic treatises from the Islamicate world and Europe. While the text of the Book of Routes and Realms did not incite changes, the maps opened al-Iṣṭakhrī’s work to visual trends from Istanbul – a transformation that remained unique and uncopied within the entire transmission.

Outlining the entire manuscript tradition, the conclusion shows that the wish to preserve the Book of Routes and Realms fuelled its transmission. While particularly drawing attention in the Persianate world, most extant manuscripts reproduced al-Iṣṭakhrī’s work without major changes. In addition to Ottoman sultans collecting and commissioning copies, we find Qajar officials and European diplomats and scholars, the latter using the manuscripts for personal study. Although only few notes by readers attest an engagement with the content, some copies show that the Book of Routes and Realms was consulted and copied in libraries over the course of several centuries. Together with the showcase character of some copies, it seems the Book of Routes and Realms was displayed and cherished as a work of art and cultural heritage. Despite the conservative nature of the transmission, the Book of Routes and Realms mirrored cultural shifts in the Islamicate world – such as the aftermath of the Mongol conquests, the cultural buzz in Istanbul or the European presence in the Iranian lands. What started out a reference book of the Islamicate world, takes us through its history and reveals that an encyclopedic outlook with a timeless map design can outlast the greatest upheavals.

Two appendices complete this book. The first shows outlines of the maps I will discuss throughout the study. The second appendix lists the manuscript copies of the Book of Routes and Realms that I was able to find, first according to the (approximate) date of the copy with codicological details. This list is then reduced to the manuscript shelfmarks and organized by language as well as present locations to facilitate future archival studies about the Book of Routes and Realms and other literature. Moreover, the second appendix contains possible stemmata that show how the Arabic and Persian manuscripts of al-Iṣṭakhrī’s work might have related to each other in the transmission process.


If not otherwise indicated, all dates and centuries in this study refer to the Common Era.


Ms. Orient A. 1521 (1172 CE, Ar.), Gotha, Forschungsbibliothek. al-Iṣṭakhrī, Ibrāhīm b. Muhammad: Kitāb al-Aqālīm. Available online at; Ms. Or. 3101 (1193 CE, Ar.), Leiden, Universitaire Bibliotheken Leiden. al-Iṣṭakhrī, Ibrāhīm b. Muhammad: Kitāb al-Masālik wa-l-Mamālik. Available online at; another manuscript could have been created in the eleventh century, but the copy lacks a date: Ms. Ārif Hikmet Juhgrāfiya 910/7 (ca. 11th c., Ar.), Medina, Maktabat ʿAbd al-Azīz. al-Iṣṭakhrī, Ibrāhīm b. Muhammad: Ṣuwar al-Aqālīm; see also Ducène, Jean-Charles (2004): Un nouveaux MS du Ṣuwar al-Aqālīm d’al-Iṣṭaḫrī. Le MS ʿAreft Ḥakamt Ǧuġrāfiya 910/7 (Médine, Maktabat ʿAbd al-Azīz). In Folia Orientalia 40, pp. 279–311; Sayyid, Ayman Fuʾād (1997): Al-Kitāb al-ʿArabī al-Makhṭūṭ wa-ʿIlm al-Makhṭūṭāt. Cairo, p. 393.


Brauer, Ralph W. (1992): Geography in the Medieval Muslim World. Seeking a Basis for Comparison of the Development of the Natural Sciences in Different Cultures. In Comparative Civilizations Review 26, p. 91; Karamustafa, Ahmet T. (1992): Introduction to Islamic Maps. In Harley, John B. and Woodward, David A. (Eds.): Cartography in the Traditional Islamic and South Asian Societies (The History of Cartography, 2, 1). Chicago, p. 6; Kramers, Johannes H. (1932): La question Balḫī-Iṣṭaḫrī-Ibn Ḥawḳal et l’Atlas de l’Islam. In Acta Orientalia 10, p. 22; Kaplony, Andreas (2008): Comparing al-Kāshgarī’s Map to his Text. On the Visual Language, Purpose, and Transmission of Arabic-Islamic Maps. In Forêt, Philippe and Kaplony, Andreas (Eds.): The Journey of Maps and Images on the Silk Road (Brill’s Inner Asian Library, 21). Leiden, p. 140; Savage-Smith, Emilie (2003): Memory and Maps. In Madelung, Wilferd, Daftary, Farhad and Meri, Josef W. (Eds.): Culture and Memory in Medieval Islam. Essays in Honour of Wilferd Madelung. London, New York City, p. 112; for reproductions of maps from the Book of Routes and Realms, see also Kamāl, Yūsuf and Sezgin, Fuat (1987): Monumenta cartographica Africae et Aegypti (Veröffentlichungen des Institutes für Geschichte der Arabisch-Islamischen Wissenschaften, 3,3). Frankfurt a.M.; Miller, Konrad (1926): Mappae Arabicae (1,1). Stuttgart.


See for instance Antrim, Zayde (2012): Routes and Realms. The Power of Place in the Early Islamic World. Oxford; Pinto, Karen (2004): Surat Bahr al-Rum (Picture of the Sea of Byzantinum). Possible Meanings Underlying the Forms. In Tolias, Giōrgos and Loupēs, Dēmētrēs (Eds.): Eastern Mediterranean Cartographies (Tetradia ergasias, 25/26). Athens, pp. 223–241; Pinto, Karen (2016): Medieval Islamic Maps. An Exploration. Chicago, London; Rapoport, Yossef (2020): Islamic Maps. Oxford.


Halawa, Mark A. (2014): Anthropologie. Bilder als Bedingung des Menschseins. In Günzel, Stephan and Mersch, Dieter (Eds.): Bild. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch. Stuttgart, Weimar, p. 71; Harley, John B. (1988): Maps, Knowledge, and Power. In Cosgrove, Denis (Ed.): The Iconography of Landscape. Essays on the Symbolic Representation, Design and Use of Past Environments (Cambridge Studies in Historical Geography, 9). Cambridge, p. 300; Harley, John B. and Woodward, David A. (1992): Preface. In Harley, John B. and Woodward, David A. (Eds.): Cartography in the Traditional Islamic and South Asian Societies (The History of Cartography, 2, 1). Chicago, xix; Lewis, Malcolm G. (1987): The Origins of Cartography. In Harley, John B. and Woodward, David A. (Eds.): Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean (The History of Cartography, 1). Chicago, p. 52; Nöth, Winfried (2007): Die Karte und ihre Territorien in der Geschichte der Kartographie. In Glauser, Jürg and Kiening, Christian (Eds.): Text, Bild, Karte. Kartographien der Vormoderne (Rombach Wissenschaften. Reihe Litterae, 105). Freiburg im Breisgau, p. 65; Schöttler, Tobias (2014): Logik. Bilder als Argumente. In Günzel, Stephan and Mersch, Dieter (Eds.): Bild. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch. Stuttgart, Weimar, p. 141.


Buchholz, Amrei and Stahl, Lina M. (2014): Epistemologie. Bilder als Wissen. In Günzel, Stephan and Mersch, Dieter (Eds.): Bild. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch. Stuttgart, Weimar, p. 127; Crampton, Jeremy W. (2001): Maps as Social Constructions. Power, Communication and Visualization. In Progress in Human Geography 25 (2), p. 239; Ehrmanntraut, Sophie and Stefanov, Marti (2014): Strukturalismus und Diskursanalyse. Dispositiv, Apparatus und Simulacrum. In Günzel, Stephan and Mersch, Dieter (Eds.): Bild. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch. Stuttgart, Weimar, p. 108; Finke, Marcel (2014): Materialität und Praktiken. In Günzel, Stephan and Mersch, Dieter (Eds.): Bild. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch. Stuttgart, Weimar, p. 26; Goppelsröder, Fabian (2014): Hermeneutik. Verstehen von Bildern. In Günzel, Stephan and Mersch, Dieter (Eds.): Bild. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch. Stuttgart, Weimar, p. 77; Harley, John B. (1992): Deconstructing the Map. In Barnes, Trevor and Duncan, James S. (Eds.): Writing Worlds. Discourse, Text and Metaphor in the Representation of Landscape. London, p. 243; Korzybski, Alfred (1948): Science and Sanity. An Introduction to non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics. Lakeville, Conn., p. 58; Mersch, Dieter and Ruf, Oliver (2014): Grundlagen. In Günzel, Stephan and Mersch, Dieter (Eds.): Bild. Ein interdisziplinäres Handbuch. Stuttgart, Weimar, p. 1.


Arentzen, Jörg-Geerd (1984): Imago mundi cartographica. Studien zur Bildlichkeit mittelalterlicher Welt- und Ökumenekarten unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Zusammenwirkens von Text und Bild (Münstersche Mittelalter-Schriften, 53). Munich, p. 63; Schneider, Ute (2004): Die Macht der Karten. Eine Geschichte der Kartographie vom Mittelalter bis heute. Darmstadt, pp. 27–28.


Harley, Maps, Knowledge, and Power, pp. 279–282; Schneider, Die Macht der Karten, p. 96.


Arentzen, Imago mundi cartographica, p. 27.


Arentzen, Imago mundi cartographica, p. 163; Kugler, Hartmut (2007): Himmelsrichtungen und Erdregionen auf mittelalterlichen Weltkarten. In Glauser, Jürg and Kiening, Christian (Eds.): Text, Bild, Karte. Kartographien der Vormoderne (Rombach Wissenschaften. Reihe Litterae, 105). Freiburg im Breisgau, p. 183.


Günzel, Stephan and Nowak, Lars (2012): Das Medium Karte zwischen Bild und Diagramm. Zur Einführung. In Günzel, Stephan (Ed.): Karten Wissen. Territoriale Räume zwischen Bild und Diagramm (Trierer Beiträge zu den historischen Kulturwissenschaften, 5). Wiesbaden, p. 6; Schneider, Die Macht der Karten, p. 28.


Günzel and Nowak, Das Medium Karte, p. 3.


Günzel and Nowak, Das Medium Karte, p. 7.


Nöth, Die Karte und ihre Territorien, pp. 58–62.


Arentzen, Imago mundi cartographica, p. 89.


This trio relates to Charles Peirce’s (d. 1914) “modes of signs” that he established as part of his semiotic studies. Concerned with signs and the rules governing them, semiotics adds new perspectives to cartographic analyses. Developed in conjunction with Ferdinand de Saussure’s (d. 1913) linguistic analysis, fields such as Art History apply semiotics to open new avenues for interpreting visual culture (Bal, Mieke and Bryson, Norman (1991): Semiotics and Art History. In The Art Bulletin 73 (2), pp. 175–176; Chandler, Daniel (2002): Semiotics. The Basics. London, p. 2; Hatt, Michael and Klonk, Charlotte (2006): Art History. A Critical Introduction to its Methods. Manchester, p. 200; Lorenz, Katharina (2016): Ancient Mythological Images and their Interpretation. An Introduction to Iconology, Semiotics, and Image Studies in Classical Art History. Cambridge). However, as semiotics does not address how systems of signs change over time, questions about cartographic changes relate more to the iconographic analysis that investigates the historical dynamics of conventions (Bal and Bryson, Semiotics and Art History, p. 191; Lorenz, Ancient Mythological Images & their Interpretation, p. 158; for an introduction to iconography see Hatt and Klonk, Art History, 96f).


Arentzen, Imago mundi cartographica, p. 173; Bal and Bryson, Semiotics and Art History, p. 189; Chandler, Semiotics, p. 32; Lorenz, Ancient Mythological Images & their Interpretation, p. 109; Hatt and Klonk, Art History, pp. 209–210.


Nöth, Die Karte und ihre Territorien, pp. 54–57.


Hazai, György: Al-Kās̲h̲g̲h̲arī. EI² online; Kaplony, al-Kāshgarī’s Map, pp. 137–143.


Schneider, Die Macht der Karten, p. 23.


Daniel Chandler illustrates examples for the principles in Chandler, Codes. Semiotics for Beginners. Website.


Schneider, Die Macht der Karten, p. 62; 122–123.


Bloom, Jonathan M. (2001): Paper Before Print. The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World. New Haven, p. 70; Karamustafa, Introduction, p. 6.


Schneider, Die Macht der Karten, p. 111.


Schneider, Die Macht der Karten, p. 116.


Arentzen, Imago mundi cartographica, p. 112; Mittenhuber, Florian (2007): Die Relation zwischen Text und Karten in der Geographie des Ptolemaios. In Glauser, Jürg and Kiening, Christian (Eds.): Text, Bild, Karte. Kartographien der Vormoderne (Rombach Wissenschaften. Reihe Litterae, 105). Freiburg im Breisgau, p. 87.


See Appendix 2 Copies of the Book of Routes and Realms Worldwide for a survey of the manuscripts I was able to find. As my study will show, more than 59 manuscripts of the Book of Routes and Realms circulated in the past.


See for instance Ducène, MS ʿAreft Ḥakamt Ǧuġrāfiya 910/7; Ducène, Jean-Charles (2006): Quel est le titre véritable de l’ouvrage géographique d’al-Iṣṭaḫrī? In Cannuyer, Christian (Ed.): Les scribes et la transmission du savoir (Acta orientalia Belgica, 19). Brussels, pp. 99–108; Minorskiy, Vladimir (1949): A False Jayhānī. In Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 13 (1), pp. 89–96; Pinto, Karen (2011): The Maps Are the Message. Mehmet II’s Patronage of an ‘Ottoman cluster’. In Imago Mundi 63 (2), pp. 155–179; by taking stock of some 30 manuscripts, Gerald Tibbetts provided the basis for such an endeavor in Tibbetts, Gerald R. (1992): The Balkhī School of Geographers. In Harley, John B. and Woodward, David A. (Eds.): Cartography in the Traditional Islamic and South Asian Societies (The History of Cartography, 2, 1). Chicago, pp. 108–136.


For introductions to book culture and manuscripts in the Islamicate world, see Bloom, Paper Before Print; Déroche, François and Berthier, Annie (2006): Islamic Codicology. An Introduction to the Study of Manuscripts in Arabic Script (Al-Furqan Publications, 102). London; Gründler, Beatrice (forthcoming): The Rise of the Arabic Book. Cambridge, Mass.; Pedersen, Johannes and Hillenbrand, Robert (1984): The Arabic Book. Princeton, New Jersey; Hirschler, Konrad (2017): Document Reuse in Medieval Arabic Manuscripts. In Comparative Oriental Manuscript Studies Bulletin 3 (1), pp. 33–44.


Bloom, Paper Before Print, p. 117; Pedersen and Hillenbrand, The Arabic Book, p. 49; Sajjadi, Nafiseh-Sadat (2013): Persisch-islamische Manuskriptologie. In Paul, Ludwig (Ed.): Handbuch der Iranistik. Wiesbaden, pp. 363–364.


For more on creating an authoritative text, see Leder, Stefan (2002): Spoken Word and Written Text. Meaning and Social Significance of the Institution of Riwaya (Islamic Area Studies Working Paper Series, 31); Leder, Stefan (2011): Understanding a Text through its Transmission. Documented samāʿ, Copies, Reception. In Görke, Andreas and Hirschler, Konrad (Eds.): Manuscript Notes as Documentary Sources (Beiruter Texte und Studien, 129). Würzburg, p. 60; Pedersen and Hillenbrand, The Arabic Book, pp. 27–29; Quiring-Zoche, Rosemarie (2011): Der jemenitische Diplomat Qāsim Abū Ṭālib al-ʿIzzī (gest. 1380/1960) im Spiegel seiner Handschriften-Vermerke. In Görke, Andreas and Hirschler, Konrad (Eds.): Manuscript Notes as Documentary Sources (Beiruter Texte und Studien, 129). Würzburg, p. 45; Sobieroj, Florian (2011): Einheitlichkeit und Vielfalt in islamischen Überlieferzeugnissen und Lehrbefugnissen aus 1000 Jahren. In Görke, Andreas and Hirschler, Konrad (Eds.): Manuscript Notes as Documentary Sources (Beiruter Texte und Studien, 129). Würzburg, p. 24.


One full sheet was usually folded once, creating four pages. One folio consists of two pages, the so-called recto and its back, the verso (Gacek, Arabic Manuscripts, p. 107).


Catchwords could also repeat the last word from the right page on the left one or use numbers to indicate the quire (Gacek, Arabic Manuscripts, p. 50).


Behrens-Abouseif, Doris (2019): The Book in Mamluk Egypt and Syria (1250–1517). Scribes, Libraries and Market (Islamic History and Civilization. Studies and Texts, 162). Leiden, Boston, p. 72; Gacek, Adam (2007): Taxonomy of Scribal Errors and Corrections in Arabic Manuscripts. In Pfeiffer, Judith and Kropp, Manfred (Eds.): Theoretical Approaches to the Transmission and Edition of Oriental Manuscripts. Proceedings of a Symposium Held in Istanbul, March 28–30, 2001 (Beiruter Texte und Studien, 111). Beirut, Würzburg, pp. 219– 222; Görke, Andreas and Hirschler, Konrad (2011): Introduction. Manuscript Notes as Documentary Sources. In Görke, Andreas and Hirschler, Konrad (Eds.): Manuscript Notes as Documentary Sources (Beiruter Texte und Studien, 129). Würzburg, p. 10; see also Pfeiffer, Judith and Kropp, Manfred (Eds.) (2007): Theoretical Approaches to the Transmission and Edition of Oriental Manuscripts. Proceedings of a Symposium Held in Istanbul, March 28–30, 2001. Beirut, Würzburg.


Osti, Letizia (2013): Culture, Education and the Court. In Berkel, Maaike van et al. (Eds.): Crisis and Continuity at the Abbasid Court. Formal and Informal Politics in the Caliphate of al-Muqtadir (295–320/908–32). Leiden, p. 191; Pedersen and Hillenbrand, The Arabic Book, p. 45.


For other kinds of manuscript notes as well as libraries in the Islamicate world, see Gacek, Arabic Manuscripts; Eche, Youssef (1967): Les Bibliothèques arabes publiques et semipubliques en Mésopotamie, en Syrie et en Égypte au Moyen Âge. Damascus; Hirschler, Konrad (2016): Medieval Damascus. Plurality and Diversity in an Arabic Library: The Ashrafiya Library Catalogue. Edinburgh; Liebrenz, Boris (2011): Lese- und Besitzvermerke in der Leipziger Rifāʿīya-Bibliothek. In Görke, Andreas and Hirschler, Konrad (Eds.): Manuscript Notes as Documentary Sources (Beiruter Texte und Studien, 129). Würzburg, pp. 141–162; Liebrenz, Boris (2016): Die Rifaʾiya aus Damaskus. Eine Privatbibliothek im Osmanischen Syrien und ihr kulturelles Umfeld (Islamic Manuscripts and Books, 10). Leiden.


Görke and Hirschler, Introduction, p. 9; Görke, Andreas (2011): Teaching in 5th/11th-century Baghdad. Observation on the Lectures of Abū l-Fawāris Ṭirād b. Muḥammad al-Zaynabī and their Audience. In Görke, Andreas and Hirschler, Konrad (Eds.): Manuscript Notes as Documentary Sources (Beiruter Texte und Studien, 129). Würzburg, pp. 106–111; Hirschler, Konrad (2011): Reading Certificates (samāʿāt) as a Prosopographical Source. Cultural and Social Practices of an Elite Family in Zangid and Ayyubid Damascus. In Görke, Andreas and Hirschler, Konrad (Eds.): Manuscript Notes as Documentary Sources (Beiruter Texte und Studien, 129). Würzburg, p. 75; Liebrenz, Lese- und Besitzvermerke, p. 142; Lohlker, Rüdiger (2011): Iǧāza als ein Prozess der Akkumulation sozialen Kapitals. In Görke, Andreas and Hirschler, Konrad (Eds.): Manuscript Notes as Documentary Sources (Beiruter Texte und Studien, 129). Würzburg, pp. 38–43.