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Surviving fragment of the second World Map of Piri Reis (1528)

Piri Reis (full name Hadji Muhiddin Piri Ibn Hadji Mehmed, reis/rais is Arabic for captain) (about 1465–1554 or 1555) was an Ottoman-Turkish admiral, privateer, geographer and cartographer born between 1465 and 1470 in Gallipoli on the Aegeanmarker coast of Turkeymarker.

He is primarily known today 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 Seamarker. He gained fame as a cartographer when a small part of his first world map (prepared in 1513) was discovered in 1929 at Topkapı Palacemarker in Istanbulmarker. The most surprising aspect was the presence of the Americas on an Ottoman map, making it the oldest known Turkish map showing the New World, and one of the oldest maps of America still in existence in the world (the oldest known map of America that's still in existence is the map drawn by Juan de la Cosa in 1500, which is conserved in the Naval Museum (Museo Naval) of Madridmarker, Spainmarker.)

The most striking characteristic of the first world map (1513) of Piri Reis, however, is the level of accuracy in positioning the continents (particularly the relation between Africa and South America) which was unparalleled for its time. Even maps drawn decades later did not have such accurate positioning and proportions; a quality which can be observed in other maps of Piri Reis in his Kitab-ı Bahriye (Book of Navigation). Piri Reis' map is centered in the Sahara at the Tropic of Cancermarker latitude. Charles Hapgood argued that the Piri Reis map preserved knowledge of Antarcticamarker from an Ice Age civilization.

In 1528 Piri Reis drew a second world map, of which a small fragment showing Greenlandmarker and North America from Labrador and Newfoundlandmarker in the north to Floridamarker, Cubamarker and parts of Central America in the south still survives.


Piri began to serve in the Ottoman navy when he was young, in 1481, following his uncle Kemal Reis, a well-known seafarer of the time. He participated in many years of fighting against Spanishmarker, Genoesemarker and Venetianmarker navies, including the First Battle of Lepanto in 1499 and Second Battle of Lepanto in 1500. When his uncle Kemal Reis died in 1511, Piri returned to Gallipoli and began to write his book Kitab-ı Bahriye (Book of Navigation). 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 Valenciamarker in Spainmarker with several of Columbus' crewmen on board.

By 1516 he was again at sea, as a ship's captain in the Ottoman fleet. He took part in the 1516-17 campaign against Egyptmarker, and in 1517 was able to show his world map to Sultan Selim I. In 1521 he finished his Kitab-ı Bahriye. In 1522 he participated in the siege of Rhodesmarker against the Knights of St. John which ended with the island's surrender to the Ottomans on 25 December 1522 and the permanent departure of the Knights from Rhodes on 1 January 1523. In 1524 he captained the ship that took the Ottoman Grand Vizier Makbul Ibrahim Pasha to Egypt. Following the Vizier's advice, he edited his book and was able to present it to Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1525. Three years later he presented his second world map to Suleiman.

By 1547, Piri had risen to the rank of Reis (admiral) and was in command of the Ottoman fleet in the Indian Oceanmarker and admiral of the fleet in Egypt, headquartered at Suezmarker. On 26 February 1548 he recaptured Adenmarker from the Portuguesemarker, followed in 1552 by the capture of Muscatmarker, which Portugal had occupied since 1507, and the important island of Kishmarker. Turning further east, Piri Reis captured the island of Hormuz in the Strait of Hormuzmarker, at the entrance of the Persian Gulfmarker. When the Portuguese turned their attention to the Persian Gulf, Piri Reis occupied the Qatarmarker peninsula and the island of Bahrainmarker to deprive the Portuguese of suitable bases on the Arabian coast.

He then returned to Egypt, an old man approaching the age of 90. When he refused to support the Ottoman governor of Basramarker, Kubad Pasha, in another campaign against the Portuguese in the northern Persian Gulf, Piri Reis was publicly beheaded in 1554 or 1555.

Several warships and submarines of the Turkish Navy have been named after Piri Reis.

Kitab-ı Bahriye (Book of Navigation): 1521 and 1525

Kitab-ı Bahriye is one of the most famous premodern books of navigation. The book contains detailed information on the major ports, bays, gulfs, capes, peninsulas, islands, straits and ideal shelters of the Mediterranean Seamarker, as well as techniques of navigation and navigation-related information on astronomy. The book also contains information about the local people of each country and city, and the curious aspects of their culture. Kitab-ı Bahriye was originally written between 1511 and 1521, but it was revised with additional information and better-crafted charts between 1524 and 1525 in order to be presented as a gift to Suleiman the Magnificent. Piri Reis drew these charts during his travels around the Mediterranean Sea with his uncle Kemal Reis. The revised edition of 1525 has a total of 434 pages and contains 290 maps.

Kitab-ı Bahriye has two main sections, with the first section dedicated to information about the types of storms, techniques of using a compass, portolan charts with detailed information on ports and coastlines, methods of finding direction using the stars, characteristics of the major oceans and the lands around them. Special emphasis is given to the discoveries in the New World by Christopher Columbus and those of Vasco da Gama and the other Portuguese seamen on their way to Indiamarker and the rest of Asia.

The second section is entirely composed of portolan charts and cruise guides. Each topic contains the map of an island or coastline. In the first book (1521), this section has a total of 132 portolan charts, while the second book (1525) has a total of 210 portolan charts. The second section starts with the description of the Dardanelles Straitmarker and continues with the islands and coastlines of the Aegean Seamarker, Ionian Seamarker, Adriatic Seamarker, Tyrrhenian Seamarker, Ligurian Seamarker, the French Rivieramarker, the Balearic Islandsmarker, the coasts of Spainmarker, the Strait of Gibraltarmarker, the Canary Islandsmarker, the coasts of North Africa, Egyptmarker and the River Nile, the Levant and the coastline of Anatoliamarker. This section also includes descriptions and drawings of the famous monuments and buildings in every city, as well as biographic information about Piri Reis who also explains the reasons why he preferred to collect these charts in a book instead of drawing a single map, which would not be able to contain so much information and detail.

Copies of the Kitab-ı Bahriye are found in many libraries and museums around the world.

Copies of the first edition (1521) are found in the Topkapı Palacemarker, the Nuruosmaniye Library and the Süleymaniye Library in Istanbulmarker, the Library of the University of Bolognamarker, the National Library of Viennamarker, the State Library of Dresdenmarker, the National Library of Francemarker in Parismarker, the British Museummarker in Londonmarker, the Bodleian Librarymarker in Oxfordmarker and the Walters Art Museummarker in Baltimoremarker.

Copies of the second edition (1525) are found in the Topkapı Palace, the Köprülüzade Fazıl Ahmed Paşa Library, the Süleymaniye Library and the National Library of France.

Kitab-ı Bahriye image gallery

Several charts from both editions (1521 and 1525) of the Kitab-ı Bahriye can be seen below:

Image:Entrance_of_the_Dardanelles_by_Piri_Reis.jpg|Entrance of the Dardanelles StraitmarkerImage:Dardanelles and Gulf of Saros by Piri Reis.jpg|Dardanelles Straitmarker and the Gulf of SarosmarkerImage:Lesbos and Ayvalik by Piri Reis.jpg|Lesbosmarker and AyvalıkmarkerImage:Aegean Sea by Piri Reis.jpg|Aegean SeamarkerImage:Izmir by Piri Reis.jpgIzmirmarkerImage:Chios by Piri Reis.jpgChiosmarkerImage:Samos by Piri Reis.jpgSamosmarkerImage:Cape Bozburun near Marmaris and Datça by Piri Reis.jpg|Cape Bozburun between Marmarismarker and DatçamarkerImage:Marmaris by Piri Reis.jpg|MarmarismarkerImage:Rhodes by Piri Reis.jpg|RhodesmarkerImage:Crete by Piri Reis.jpg|CretemarkerImage:Amorgos by Piri Reis.jpg|Katapola Bay in AmorgosmarkerImage:Athens by Piri Reis.jpg|AthensmarkerImage:Thessaloniki by Piri Reis.jpg|ThessalonikimarkerImage:Otranto by Piri Reis.jpg|OtrantomarkerImage:Brindisi by Piri Reis.jpg|BrindisimarkerImage:Ancona by Piri Reis.jpg|AnconamarkerImage:Venice by Piri Reis.jpg|VenicemarkerImage:Sicily by Piri Reis.jpg|SicilyImage:Sardinia by Piri Reis.jpg|SardiniaImage:Corsica by Piri Reis.jpg|CorsicamarkerImage:Genoa by Piri Reis.jpg|GenoamarkerImage:Marseilles by Piri Reis.jpg|Marseillesmarker and ToulonmarkerImage:Majorca and Minorca by Piri Reis.jpg|Majorcamarker and MinorcamarkerImage:Minorca by Piri Reis.jpg|MinorcamarkerImage:Granada by Piri Reis.jpg|GranadamarkerImage:Strait of Gibraltar by Piri Reis.jpg|Strait of GibraltarmarkerImage:Algiers and Bejaia by Piri Reis.jpg|Algiersmarker and BejaiamarkerImage:Tunis by Piri Reis.jpg|TunismarkerImage:Gulf and Island of Djerba by Piri Reis.jpg|DjerbamarkerImage:Malta by Piri Reis.jpg|MaltamarkerImage:Tripoli by Piri Reis.jpg|TripolimarkerImage:Alexandria by Piri Reis.jpg|AlexandriamarkerImage:River Nile and Bulaq by Piri Reis.jpg|River Nile and BulaqmarkerImage:Cyprus by Piri Reis.jpg|CyprusmarkerImage:Alanya by Piri Reis.jpg|AlanyamarkerImage:Antalya by Piri Reis.jpg|Antalyamarker, Manavgatmarker, SidemarkerImage:Antalya and Kemer by Piri Reis.jpg|Antalyamarker and KemermarkerImage:Cape Adrasan and the Riviera of Finike by Piri Reis.jpg|FinikemarkerImage:Kekova by Piri Reis.jpg|KekovamarkerImage:Kas and Kastelorizo by Piri Reis.jpg|Kaşmarker and KastelorizomarkerImage:Fethiye by Piri Reis.jpg|FethiyemarkerImage:Istanbul by Piri Reis.jpg|Istanbulmarker

See also


  1. Soucek, S. “Islamic Charting in the Mediterranean,” In J.B. Harley and D. Woodward, eds.[I] Cartography in the Traditional Islamic and South Asian Societies[/I]. Vol. 2, book 1, 263-272. 1992. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  2. Hapgood, Charles H.: "Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings: Evidence of Advanced Civilization in the Ice Age"
  3. Hoye, Paul F.; and Lunde, Paul: "Piri Reis and the Hapgood Hypotheses"

Further reading

  • Piri Reis Map and translation of the texts
  • İnan, Afet: Life and works of Pirî Reis: the oldest map of America. Ankara 1975.
  • Kahle, Paul: Die verschollene Kolumbuskarte von 1498 in einer türkischen Weltkarte von 1513. Berlin/Leipzig 1933. (In German)
  • Kahle, Paul (Hrsg.): Piri Re'îs. Bahrîje. Das türkische Segelhandbuch für das Mittelländische Meer vom Jahre 1521. Berlin 1926. (In German)
  • McIntosh, Gregory C.: The Piri Reis Map of 1513. Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 2000.
  • Mesenburg, Peter: Kartometrische Untersuchung und Rekonstruktion der Weltkarte des Piri Re`is (1513). In: Cartographica Helvetica, No. 24 (2001), 3-7. (In German)
  • Soucek, Svat: Piri Reis and Turkish Mapmaking After Columbus: The Khalili Portolan Atlas. Vol. 2 of Studies in the Khalili Collection. London: The Nour Foundation and Azimuth Editions, 1992; New York: The Nour Foundation, Azimuth Editions, and Oxford University Press, 1996.

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