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1871 Husni Efendi Ottoman Wall Map of Arabia

...مملك محروسهء شاهانه دن آسيا / [The Royal Palace of Asia...]. - Main View

1871 Husni Efendi Ottoman Wall Map of Arabia


First Islamic Wall Map of the Arabian Peninsula.


...مملك محروسهء شاهانه دن آسيا / [The Royal Palace of Asia...].
  1871 (dated)     39.5 x 38.75 in (100.33 x 98.425 cm)     1 : 3400000


A rare large-format 1871 Ottoman wall map of Arabia by military officer Yusbasi Husni (Hüsnü) Efendi. This is the earliest known large-scale Islamic wall map of Arabia. It was produced amid major administrative changes and cartographic developments, when the Ottoman Empire was securing its tenuous control of Mecca, Medina, and Yemen against both internal and external pressure.
A Closer Look
Coverage extends from the Mediterranean and Egypt to Iran, with a focus on the Arabian Peninsula. Outside of Palestine and Iraq, most of this territory was beyond direct Ottoman control at the time, though a degree of suzerainty existed between local sheiks and the Ottoman Porte. Even areas clearly beyond Ottoman rule were nonetheless of paramount concern to military planners in Istanbul. Cities and towns, roads, regions and polities (with hand-drawn borders), and geographic features such as waterways and mountains are noted throughout. The map is especially detailed in its inclusion of topography (marked with hachures) and terrain, including in the hitherto poorly-mapped interior of Arabia. Major fortified cities including Jerusalem (قدس), Damascus (شام), Baghdad (بغداد), Basra (بصره), and even cities beyond Ottoman control, such as Shiraz (شیراز), are shaded red and displayed with fortifications. Mecca and Medina are similarly displayed. These cities also formed nodes on the regional road networks.

The Suez Canal, completed only two years before the map's publication, is clearly demarcated, as is Najd, the large central region of Arabia. This was the homeland of the Wahhabi movement and its affiliated Saudi State, which posed significant threat for the Ottomans (see below). The British-administered free port of Aden (عدن) is also illustrated with a hand-drawn border.
Tanzimat : Reforms and Territorial Security
In the years and decades preceding this map's production, the Ottomans undertook a range of administrative reforms and modernization efforts collectively known as the Tanzimat ('Reorganization'). These reforms included the most significant administrative reorganization in centuries, replacing most eyalets (provinces or governorates, generally known as pashaliks in contemporary European sources) with more standardized and centrally-controlled vilayets. However, these reforms were incomplete at the time of this map's publication. For instance, Basra remains part of the Baghdad Eyalet here, but in 1875 was made its own vilayet.

Another objective of the reforms was to solidify the empire's territory, which had been drastically reduced in the preceding decades, especially in Egypt and the Balkans. The fringes of the empire, which were historically ruled through local intermediaries and therefore only loosely controlled, were susceptible to outside interference by European powers or by nascent nationalist movements.

Among other concerns, the Ottomans were keen to retain their role as the overseers of Mecca and Medina (Hejaz), which operated largely autonomously under Ottoman protection (aside from religious prestige, 'custodianship' of the cities made Ottoman lands the default route for pilgrims, whose spending and trade were a boon for the empire). The First Saudi State (Emirate of Diriyah) had briefly expelled the Ottomans from both cities in the early 19th century, but they were reconquered by the Ottoman Wali of Egypt, Muhammad Ali Pasha. Although the Saudi State was crushed, it regrouped as the Emirate of Nejd (Second Saudi State) and posed a continuous threat on the frontier. Ottoman control of Yemen was likewise partial and tenuous. Here, too, Muhammad Ali Pasha had launched successful military campaigns, but was forced to relinquish under outside diplomatic pressure, especially from Great Britain.

Elsewhere in the region, the Ottomans also had serious concerns and vulnerabilities. In Egypt, their skilled commander Muhammad Ali Pasha had effectively established his own dynasty that at one point threatened the entire sultanate, before (again) being forced to back down by outside intervention. His successors were less capable, leaving Egypt to fall under greater and greater influence from Britain and France, but still posed a problem for the Ottomans. To the east, the Ottomans feuded with the Persian Qajar over their mutual borderlands.
Publication History and Census
This map was made by Yüzbaşı (Captain) Husni Efendi (اليوزباشي حسني أفندي), a military officer attached to the Tophane-i Amire (Imperial Armory, طوپخانه امیری) in Istanbul, in 1871 (1287 AH). We are unaware of any other examples of the map in institutional holdings and no market history.


Good. Six conjoined sheets backed on linen. Creasing and cracks without significant damage or loss. Sporadic spots of soiling and errant ink.