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Dynamic Map of the Ottoman Empire with Rich Imagery of Jerusalem

Striking large-format map of the Ottoman Empire by Herman Moll, one of England's leading map makers at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

The map shows the sprawling Ottoman Empire, which stretched from Northern Africa to Greece to Anatolia to the Middle East. The limits of the empire are marked with a thick dashed line, while smaller polities are separated by thin dotted lines.

A major feature of the map are the detailed views of Jerusalem in the lower left corner. There is a bird’s-eye view of the entire city, credited to Corneille Le Bruyn. Cornelis de Bruijn was a Dutch artist and traveler. On his first great tour of the Eastern Mediterranean he visited Jerusalem and made clandestine drawings of the city. He published these in 1698, providing readers with some of the first updated glimpses of the city in decades.  

Additionally, there is a view of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the inside of the church’s cupola, and one inside the Holy Sepulchre itself. Additional insets include of Smirna and Constantinople.

Extensive notes are spread across the map, giving a sense of the people, landmarks, and geographic features in the area. For example, Malta is described as, “subject to a Grand Master and the Knights Hospitallers, who are always at war with the Turks.” In the interior of the Arabian Peninsula it says, “Those that travel these Deserts must carry Provisions with them and direct their Course by the stars. A Country that has neither Men, Beasts, Birds, Trees, Grass nor Pasture, and nothing but sands and rocky mountains.”

The title cartouche is a simple framed ornament. The dedicatory cartouche is more decorative, with the Vernon coat of arms, garlands, and flowers. The map is dedicated to Thomas Vernon (ca. 1670-1726), a Turkey Merchant and MP. Vernon worked for the Levant Company, which conducted British trade with the Ottoman Empire. Vernon briefly served as a Commissioner of the Board of Trade and Plantations in 1713-14, as mentioned here. 

Based on the work of Guillaume de L’Isle, the map was first published in 1714. It was included in Moll’s atlas, The World Described, from 1715 onward.

The Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire spanned three continents and six centuries. At its height, it stretched from the gates of Vienna, across Hungary, the Balkans, Greece, parts of Ukraine, much of the Middle East, and North Africa west to Algeria.

The empire was founded by Osman I, a nomadic Turkmen leader from whose name the word Ottoman is derived, in ca. 1300. Until 1481, the Ottoman Empire almost continually expanded. In 1453, their forces captured Constantinople, renaming it Istanbul and ending the millennium-old Byzantine Empire. By 1517, they had control over Syria, Arabia, Palestine, and Egypt. The peak of the empire came under Suleiman the Magnificent, in the mid-sixteenth century, when most of Eastern Europe was added to their domains.

Suleiman also oversaw the creation of a uniform system of law and ruled during a flourishing of the arts. Ottoman scholars were leaders in mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, geography, and other fields. As just one example, in medicine, they invented forceps, catheters, scalpels, pincers, and lancets.

From the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries, the devshirme system helped to provide trained statemen and officials to the expanding polity. Christians were required to give up twenty percent of their children to the state. These men converted to Islam and were classified as slaves. This status did not prevent them from gaining wealth and power; those who worked for the government and military ascended to the highest echelons of their professions. The Janissaries, the Ottoman’s elite military unit, were largely made up of these forced converts.

Despite these forced conversions, many scholars characterize the Ottoman Empire as one of regional stability and relative tolerance. As they spread, the Ottomans found themselves ruling over a diverse array of peoples with different customs, religions, and languages. Rather than widespread conversion and assimilation, the Ottomans allowed people to maintain their customs and languages. Major religious groups were allowed to create millets, or limited self-governing communities that were protected by the sultan. Some millets paid taxes, while others were exempt.

From the seventeenth century, the Ottoman Empire began to contract, although it was still a dynamic and innovative political and social body during the subsequent centuries. They were defeated at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. In 1830, Greece won its independence, while in 1878, the Congress of Berlin declared Romania, Serbia, and Bulgaria independent. By the end of WWI, the Ottoman Empire was disbanded, with territories split between the Allied powers. Anatolia, the heart of the Ottoman Empire, became the Republic of Turkey in 1923.

Nicholas Doumanis, "The Ottoman Empire: A Resilient Polity," in The Age of Empires, ed. Robert Aldrich (London: Thames & Hudson, 2007), 29-47; Palmira Brunnett, Mapping the Ottomans: Sovereignty, Territory, and Identity in the Early Modern Mediterranean (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015); G. R. Tibbetts, map 202; R. W. Shirley, BL Atlases, T.MOLL-4b, #26; Ian Manners with M. Pinar Emiraloglu, European Cartographers and the Ottoman World 1500-1750: Maps from the Collection of O. J. Sopranos (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, with the Oriental Institute Museum, 2007). KAP
Herman Moll Biography

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.