Safavid Islamic Mecca-centred world map

A Safavid Islamic Mecca-centred world map, estimate £1.5m-2m at Bonhams.

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The engraved brass map dated to the last quarter of the 17th century is the finest and most complete instrument of its type known and will carry an estimate of £1.5m-2m at Bonhams New Bond Street on November 14.

The discovery of these maps in the 1980s (just three are known) proved a real turning point in the academic understanding of Islamic cartography.

They were recognised by the historian and author Dr David King as the only surviving Islamic world maps with localities properly marked on a coordinate grid.

“As maps, their most remarkable characteristic is the complex nature of the mathematics underlying the cartography. As artefacts, their importance lies in their being the sole known examples of a medieval cartographic tradition of outstanding sophistication”, he says.

Believed to have originated from Isfahan, a city renowned for its masterful metal craftsmanship, the world map is both signed and inscribed with the name of its maker ‘Husayn’ and patron Sayf Al-Dawleh, a Safavid courtier, nobleman or public official.

The world map was on loan to the Harvard Museum for more than 15 years.