Finely Detailed Map of Arabia Including the Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman
This aesthetically pleasing and engaging map contains a high level of detail, highlighting increased engagement between Europe and the Arabian Peninsula.
The full extent of this map covers the Red Sea and part of East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arabian Sea, and part of western Iran. The map shows physical features, settlements and caravan routes. The Arabian Peninsula is segmented into the Latin terms Arabia Felix, Arabia Deserta, and Arabia Petraea, as was cartographically customary at the time.
A simple, square cartouche is included at bottom left, stating the title and naming “H. Moll Geographer” as the author. At top right a scale bar is included in English miles.
The choice of the name "Gulph of Bassora" for the Persian Gulf is noteworthy on this map. More traditional maps of the area, particularly maps created by Islamic cartographers, typically named the Gulf after Persia and had done so for a significant amount of time.
This naming is due to the commercial importance of the city of Basra, located in Iraq at the head of the Persian Gulf, in establishing trade routes between Europe and the East. English merchants had sought to secure a direct trade route from India up the Persian Gulf and through the Levant. The British East India Company had established a residence at the port around the time this map was created.
The use of "Golph of Ormus" on this map shows a similar naming process as the “Gulph of Bassora,” wherein the Gulf of Oman was identified with its largest port familiar to Westerners, Hormuz.
In Discours sur I 'histoire universelle (1681) by French historian Bishop Bossuet, one of the maps shows the Persian Gulf as "Golfe de Balsera" and the Gulf of Oman as "Golfe d'Ormuz”, which supports the idea that these terms were at least somewhat commonly used among Europeans.
Focusing around the Gulf of Bassora, the map names Bahara Island (Bahrain) as well as Oman, Sohar, Iulphar, El-Catif and Catima in what would become the United Arab Emirates. “Oman or Muscat” is used to refer to the entire area of the Emirates and Oman, with the city of Muscat accurately placed.
Prior to European scientific explorations in Arabia, beginning with Carsten Niebuhr in 1761, the region’s interior was largely a mystery to Europeans. The Portuguese did however navigate around Arabia beginning in the seventeenth century, helping to identify ports and coastal settlements and regions, and evidence of reliable coastal knowledge can be seen on this map.
Beyond the coasts, Mecca and Medina are given due importance, and accurately placed. A caravan route between Basra and Mecca is clearly delineated, shown meandering between water sources.
Moll’s work is an excellently rendered map of the Arabian Peninsula, with fascinating details especially around the United Arab Emirates.
Herman Moll (c. 1654-1732) was one of the most important London mapmakers in the first half of the eighteenth century. Moll was probably born in Bremen, Germany, around 1654. He moved to London to escape the Scanian Wars. His earliest work was as an engraver for Moses Pitt on the production of the English Atlas, a failed work which landed Pitt in debtor's prison. Moll also engraved for Sir Jonas Moore, Grenville Collins, John Adair, and the Seller & Price firm. He published his first original maps in the early 1680s and had set up his own shop by the 1690s.
Moll's work quickly helped him become a member of a group which congregated at Jonathan's Coffee House at Number 20 Exchange Alley, Cornhill, where speculators met to trade stock. Moll's circle included the scientist Robert Hooke, the archaeologist William Stuckley, the authors Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe, and the intellectually-gifted pirates William Dampier, Woodes Rogers and William Hacke. From these contacts, Moll gained a great deal of privileged information that was included in his maps.
Over the course of his career, he published dozens of geographies, atlases, and histories, not to mention numerous sheet maps. His most famous works are Atlas Geographus, a monthly magazine that ran from 1708 to 1717, and The World Described (1715-54). He also frequently made maps for books, including those of Dampier’s publications and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Moll died in 1732. It is likely that his plates passed to another contemporary, Thomas Bowles, after this death.