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:: By Zak Stambor

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Features ::

The world as we knew it

An Oriental Institute exhibit examines European cartographers’ evolving depictions of the Ottoman Empire amid increasing contact between the two worlds.

Maps reflect both the area depicted and the world of the observer, says Geoff Emberling, Oriental Institute Museum director. In the early 15th century, maps enjoyed a renaissance as cartographers rediscovered the Geographia, a second-century volume by Ptolemy, a mathematician, astronomer, and geographer who lived in Roman Egypt’s city of Alexandria. Geographia featured a geographical-coordinates system, similar to latitude and longitude, that spurred medieval mapmakers to turn to the Age of Discovery’s growing arsenal of first-hand observations from travelers to better illustrate the known world.

The age’s evolving worldview is clear in the museum’s exhibit European Cartographers and the Ottoman World, 1500–1750: Maps from the Collection of O. J. Sopranos. Part of a citywide, 30-institution Festival of Maps that runs through March 2, the exhibit reveals how European mapmakers came to show the Ottoman Empire amid countless points of artistic and intellectual contact between the two worlds.