The Ottoman Empire’s Maps of the United States

The Ottoman Empire’s Maps of the United States

What did the United States look like to the Ottomans in 1803?

On this map, the newly independent U.S. is labeled “The Country of the English People” (“İngliz Cumhurunun Ülkesi”). The Iroquois Confederacy shows up as well, labeled the “Government of the Six Indian Nations.” Other tribes shown on the map include the Algonquin, Chippewa, Western Sioux (Siyu-yu Garbî), Eastern Sioux (Siyu-yu Şarkî), Black Pawnees (Kara Panis), and White Pawnees (Ak Panis). The Louisiana coast is “West Florida”.

Map of the United States – Title in Ottoman Turkish 1803 Osher Map Library University of Southern Maine

This appears to be the first Ottoman map of the United States, but Ottoman maps of North America have a much longer history.

The first were the 16th-century nautical charts of the famous Ottoman cartographer Piri Reis.

He was famous for his maps and charts collected in his Kitab-ı Bahriye (Book of Navigation), a book which contains detailed information on navigation as well as extremely accurate charts describing the important ports and cities of the Mediterranean Sea. 

Map of the City of Alexandria
Map of the River Nile Estuary with the Cities of Rashid and Burullus on Each Side
Map of the City of Ferrara with the Six Rivers Flowing into the Gulf of Venice

In 1513 he produced his first world map, based on some 20 older maps and charts which he had collected, including charts personally designed by Christopher Columbus which his uncle Kemal Reis obtained in 1501 after capturing seven Spanish ships off the coast of Valencia in Spain with several of Columbus’ crewmen on board.

Surviving fragment of the Piri Reis map showing the Central and South American coast. The appended notes say “the map of the western lands drawn by Columbus”.
Map of the world by Ottoman admiral Piri Reis, drawn in 1513. Only half of the original map survives and is held at the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul. The map synthesizes information from twenty maps, including one drawn by Christopher Columbus of the New World.

Some of the last Ottoman maps of the United States, drawn before the new Turkish Republic switched to Latin script in 1928, show air routes spanning the continental U.S.  

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