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Geographical table of regions beyond the Oxus by Abulfeda Ismaele (Abu al-Fida)

The region presented on the map is Transoxiana, Land beyond the Oxus. Geographically, it is the region between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers that feed into the Aral Sea.

Abulfeda Ismaele and his "Geography"

This map is drawn from information set forth in A Sketch of the Countries by Abu'l-Fida (Abulfeda). Abulfeda took his inspiration from the geographical works of his historic predecessors, Ptolemy and Muhammad al-Idrisi. A Sketch of the Countries includes a long introduction on various geographical matters, followed by twenty-eight sections dealing, in tabular form, with the chief towns of the world. After each name are given the longitude, latitude, climate, spelling, and then observations generally taken from earlier authors. Parts of the work were published and translated in Europe as early as 1650. This map by Duval was made in 1665 a couple years after he would have had access to Adulfeda's works. In his works, Abulfeda correctly mentions the latitude and longitude of the city of Quanzhou in China.

Born in Damascus, Abulfeda was not only a Kurdish historian, but also a local governor of Hama and a prince of the Ayyubid dynasty. In his early years, he devoted himself to science and the study of the Qur'an. As a young boy, he was constantly engaged in military expeditions, chiefly against the crusaders. In 1285, he was present at the assault of a stronghold of the Knights of St. John, and took part in the sieges of Tripoli, Acre, and Qal'at ar-Rum. In 1298, he entered the service of the Mamluk Sultan Malik al-Nasir; twelve years later the Sultan appointed him governor of Hama.

In 1312, he became a prince and assumed the title Malik us-Salhn. Abulfeda reigned as prince of Hama for more than twenty years, devoting himself to the duties of government and to the composition of his most famous works A Sketch of the Countries, The concise history of humanity, and The memoirs of a Syrian prince: Abu'l-Fidāʼ, Sultan of Ḥamāh, have brought Abulfeda much recognition. A crater on the moon bears his name.


Transoxiana first entered the Western consciousness through the exploits of Alexander the Great, who entered the region during 4th century BC. Transoxiana was the most north-eastern point of the Hellenistic culture until the Arabic invasion. In Sassanid times, the region became a major cultural and scientific center due to the wealth derived from the Northern Silk Road.

Transoxiana's major cities and cultural centers are Samarkand and Bukhara. Both cities remained centers of Persian culture and civilization after the Islamic conquest of Iran, and played a crucial role in the revival of Persian culture with establishment of the Samanid dynasty. Genghis Khan invaded Transoxiana in 1219 during his conquest of Khwarezm, and this region became known as the Chagatai Khanate. In 1369, Tamerlane became the effective ruler and made Samarkand the capital of his future empire. The Timurid state quickly split in half after the death of Timur. The chronic internal fighting of the Timurids attracted the attention of the Uzbek nomadic tribes living to the north of the Aral Sea. In 1501, the Uzbek forces began a wholesale invasion of Transoxiana. From this point on the Uzbeks would have a loose state that would be in constant territorial conflict with the Safavid Empire.

Pierre Du Val Biography

Pierre Duval (1618-1683) was a French geographer, cartographer, and publisher who worked in Abbeville and Paris during the seventeenth century. He was born in the former city, in northeast France, before moving to Paris. Duval was the nephew of the famous cartographer Nicolas Sanson, from whom he learned the mapmaker's art and skills. Both men worked at the royal court, having followed the royal request for artists to relocate to Paris. In addition to numerous maps and atlases, Du Val's opus also includes geography texts. He held the title of geographe ordinaire du roi from 1650 and died in 1683, when his wife and daughters took over his business.