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World map

World map

From a Persian translation of al-Istakhri, Kitab al-Masalik wa-l-Mamalik (Book of routes and provinces), copied c 1295

Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, MS Ouseley 373, fols 3v–4r

This stylised world map is from a Persian translation of the Kitab al-Masalik wa-l-Mamalik (Book of routes and provinces), written in Arabic in the 10th century by al-Istakhri, a member of the so-called ‘Balkhi school’ of geographers, based in Baghdad. Little is known about al-Istakhri, whose name suggests that he was from Istakhr in southern Iran.

The known world is represented here in circular form, oriented with south at the top and Persia, labelled ‘Fars’, centrally located. The Caspian Sea, which forms part of the border of Iran, is shown as the uppermost of the two lower circles. The Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean each surround three red circles.