The Perfect Pearl of Wonders and the Precious Pearl of Extraordinary Things


The manuscript presented here is an Ottoman Turkish translation of Kharīdat al-ʻAjā’ib wa Farīdat al-Gharā’ib (The perfect pearl of wonders and the precious pearl of extraordinary things), a compilation of texts on geography, natural history, and other subjects. The original Arabic work is generally attributed to Siraj al-Din Abu Hafs ʿUmar Ibn al-Wardi (died 1457), a horticulturalist and geographer whose family was from Maʿarat al-Nuʿman, in present-day Syria. The work is sometimes also attributed to Ibn al-Wardi’s grandfather Zayn al-Din (died 1349), a poet and historian. A table of contents at the beginning divides the work into 14 chapters, beginning with a description of Earth, accompanied by a somewhat simplified version of the iconic circular map of the world attributed to Ibn al-Wardi. Other chapters cover gulfs and seas, islands, world wonders, famous rivers, water wells and springs, high mountains, minerals, fruits, and other subjects. The world map shows the Earth as a sphere surrounded by bahr al-zulumat (The Sea of Darkness) and the legendary mountain range of qaf. The Muslim holy city of Mecca is placed in the center, giving the map an element of sacred geography. The map is drawn with the south on top. As a consequence, China, Tibet and India are on the left and the “lands of the Romans, Franks, Germans, and other Christian sects” are at the bottom right. Egypt and Syria are placed in the middle. The geographical information presented varies greatly in quality, even for those regions that are central to the work, such as the Middle East and North Africa. This copy was completed by a Hasan ibn Mustafa, on or around November 5, 1661, in “Islambul,” another name for Istanbul. The translator is unknown. A reference on the table-of-contents page to a Khawaja Uthman Shah as the translator is unverifiable.

Last updated: September 29, 2017