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Vintage Maps of the Arabian Peninsula

Some rather old maps of the Arabian peninsula, details under each respective map.

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Embedded text: This map of the Arabian Peninsula, published in 1720, shows Arabia Felix, Arabia Deserta, and Arabia Petraea. Other regions included are Palestine, Mesopotamia, Chaldea, Persia, Aegyptus, and Aethiopia. A large number of towns are shown. The title cartouche includes nine vignette coins. The tribal and town names on the map are those used by Ptolemy. Some are used more than once, with variations. Thus “Indicara,” “Iacara,” “Ichara,” and “Aphana” all could indicate the same place: the spot where Alexander the Great intended to build a capital on an island in the Arabian Gulf, enabling him to control the trade of the region and extend his empire (a scheme that he was unable to accomplish before he died).

 Archeological research suggests that this place was Failakah Island in present-day Kuwait, although some historians place it at Abu Ali Island. The map shows a peninsula near present-day Bahrain. The islands of “Arathos” and “Thylaso” indicate Muharraq and Bahrain islands, respectively, which are actually located north of Qatar. On this map, they are placed on the Persian coast side, probably because the cartographer confused them with “Hormuz” and “Qishm.” Qatar is mentioned on the map as “Catara,” but its shape and location are not accurate. The map is by Christoph Weigel, a German engraver, art dealer, and publisher.

Embedded text: This map from Ptolemy’s Geographia was published in 1578 and reprinted on many occasions between 1584 and 1704. It is much more finely engraved than maps in previous Ptolemy editions. The map mentions several places in present-day Qatar (Abucei, Leaniti, Themi, Asateni, and Aegei). Names added to this edition of the map include Mesmites Sinus, Idicar, and a second Idicar, located in present-day Kuwait. This name is similar to the island of “Ichara” found near Magorum Sinus. Contemporary research has confirmed that Kharj is the island known to the ancients as “Icara.” 
One of the major peninsulas shown on the map is named “Chersonesi Extrema,” near Catara. Modern scholarship has identified Chersonesos as Ras Rakn in present-day Qatar. Ichtyophagorium Sinus is the gulf inhabited by the people identified in ancient histories as the “Fish Eaters.” Claudius Ptolemaeus, known in English as Ptolemy, was an ancient mathematician, astronomer, geographer, and astrologer who was born sometime after 83 A.D., most likely in a town in the Thebaid called Ptolemais Hermiou in Roman Egypt. He lived in Egypt and died in Alexandria around the year 168.

Embedded text:  This 1616 map is a reprint of a map originally published in 1598 by Jodocus Hondius (1563-1612), a Flemish cartographer and engraver who settled in Amsterdam in about 1593 and established a business that produced globes and the first large maps of the world. The map covers the territory from west of the Gulf of Suez to the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula, and from the mouth of the Euphrates River to Aden. The only cities indicated on the western coast of the Persian or Arabian Gulf are Qatar (“Catara”), “Godo,” and “Catiffa.”

 The map shows sandbanks around the coast and rivers at Medina and Mecca. Few towns and regions are shown, and there is a range of mountains in the center of the peninsula. Al Qatif is repeated as the town “Catiffa” and the region “Elcatif.” The peninsula opposite Bahrain Island, shown unnamed, is marked as where “Catara” is found. The commonly noted rivers of the Arabian coast are shown as very close together. The Arabian Gulf is called “Persicus Sinus” (Persian Gulf) and there is no name given for the Red Sea. The Ayaman area is shown as the most populated area on the map. The cartographer uses castles to denote cities and dotted lines to show the division of the Arabian Peninsula into three parts.
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 Embedded text: A beautiful example of Rigobert Bonne's 1771 decorative map of the Arabian Peninsula. Covers from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean and from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf. Includes the modern day nations of Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain. Names Mt. Sinai, Mecca and Jerusalem as well as countless other cities and desert oases. Also notes numerous offshore shoals, reefs, and other dangers in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. There is a large decorative title cartouche in the upper right hand quadrant. A fine map of the region. Drawn by R. Bonne in 1771 for issue as plate no. A 25 in Jean Lattre's 1776 issue of the Atlas Moderne .

Embedded text: A fine example of Rigobert Bonne and G. Raynal’s 1780 map of the Arabia and Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Covers from the Nile Delta south as far as the Horn of Africa and West to Persia, inclusive of the modern day countries of Ethiopia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, the and the United Arab Emirates. Offers surprising detail considering that his part of the world was largely unknown to Europeans.

 Identifies towns, rivers, some topographical features, ports and political boundaries. Dangerous reefs and other undersea dangers that historically hindered trade in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf are tentatively ghosted in. Drawn by R. Bonne for G. Raynal’s Atlas de Toutes les Parties Connues du Globe Terrestre, Dressé pour l'Histoire Philosophique et Politique des Établissemens et du Commerce des Européens dans les Deux Indes .

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 Embedded text: A particularly interesting historic map, this is Karl von Spruner’s 1865 rendering of Arabia, Aethiopia (Ethiopia) and Egypt (Aegyptus) in antiquity. Centered on the Red Sea or Mare Rubrum , this map covers the entirety of the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf, and the Nile Valley as far south as Lake Tana (Pseuba), the source of the Blue Nile. Like most of Spruner’s work this map overlays ancient political geographies on relatively contemporary physical geographies, thus identifying the sites of forgotten towns and villages, the movements of armies, and the disposition of lands in the region. This particular example includes both ancient Latin and more contemporary Arabic names (transliterated of course) for many important regions and sites.

 Additionally, two inset maps are offered. In the lower left hand quadrant a map labeled “Heptanomis et Thebais” focuses on the course of the Nile from Heptatnomis (near Fayum) south to just past modern day Aswan, covering in the process many of the ancient Egyptian cities now submerged under the waters of Lake Nasser. Another inset, in the upper right quadrant, focuses on the fertile Nile Delta, forming an inverted triangle between Alexandria, Memphis, and Casluch. As a whole the map labels important cities, rivers, mountain ranges and other minor topographical detail. Territories and countries outlined in color. The whole is rendered in finely engraved detail exhibiting the fine craftsmanship for which the Perthes firm is known

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 The Arabian Peninsula by Nicolaus Germanus in 1467

Map of the location of Arab tribes in 600 AD
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  • Title:Arabia Felice Nuova Tavola
  • Made in Venice
  • SIZE 18.0 x 24.7 cms
  • TECHNIQUE Copper engraving
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Embedded text: Map of Persia and Arabia from J. H. Colton’s 1855 Atlas of the World. Covers Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, and the Arabian peninsula ( Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Oman). Map is a lithograph from a steel plate engraving. Details desert trading routes, oases, trading centers, etc. Beautiful hand color


  1. Thanks for this great collection. I was looking for historical maps of the Arabian peninsula for a long time. By the way, what is that map in the background of you blog?


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