December 7, 2011

The New Map of the North of the Coast of Brazil Showing Distances of the Pará and Amazon Rivers

This early-19th century pen-and-ink watercolor map of the northern coast of Brazil shows the Pará River, an estuary of the Amazon that empties into the Atlantic to the southeast of the main river delta.

The Marañon or Amazon River with the Mission of the Society of Jesus

This map of the Amazon River is by Samuel Fritz (1654-1728), a Jesuit missionary who mapped the basin of the Amazon River. Born in the province of Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic), Fritz became a priest in 1673. He was sent to Quito in present-day Ecuador as a missionary in 1684 and spent the next 40 years ministering to the native people of the Upper Marañon region. He began mapping the region as part of a project to clarify the borders of missionary lands, Spanish lands, and Portuguese lands. He later undertook a project to chart the course of the Amazon. Despite having no training as a cartographer and using only very primitive instruments, Fritz completed a relatively accurate chart of the area. He was the first to follow the Marañon, a tributary of the Amazon, to its source. This map was first printed in Quito in 1707 and later extensively copied in Europe.

December 8, 2011

Bokhara, Kabool, Beloochistan, &c.

This map of Afghanistan and parts of present-day Iran and Pakistan was published by Charles Knight (1791–1873), an English author and publisher who is best known for his role as superintendent for publications for the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. The society was founded in London in 1826 for the purpose of improving the educational level of the British working and middle classes. In the 1830s and 1840s, it produced numerous publications, including a Library of Useful Knowledge, the volumes of which sold for sixpence, and a two-volume series of maps that were known for their high quality. This map was published separately in 1841, but it also appeared as Plate 94 in Maps of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, published in London in 1844. The map was engraved by J. & C. Walker, a London firm of engravers, draftsmen, and publishers that flourished in the mid-19th century. The map is from the Library of Congress. The significance of the hand-colored lines on the map is not known.

December 13, 2011

Omsk Province

This early-19th century playing card is from a set of 60 such cards, each devoted to a different province or territory of the Russian Empire, which at the time included the Grand Duchy of Finland, Congress Poland, and Russian America. One side of each card shows the local costume and the provincial coat of arms; the other side contains a map. This card depicts Omsk Province, located in the west-central part of the empire. The province borders China to the southeast, and the “Land of the Kazakhs” (part of the present-day Republic of Kazakhstan) to the west. Omsk, the administrative center of the province, is situated at the confluence of the Irtysh and Om rivers. The card indicates that the distance from Omsk to St. Petersburg was 3,426 versts, and from Omsk to Moscow, 2,910¼ versts. A verst is a Russian measurement of distance, no longer used, equal to 1.0668 kilometers.

A Discourse in Commendation of the Valiant as Virtuous Minded Gentleman, Mister Frauncis Drake: With a Rejoicing of his Happy Adventures

This small book by the Elizabethan writer Nicholas Breton (circa 1545-1622) is a work of praise addressed to Francis Drake for his voyage around the world of 1577-80. The fact that it refers to Drake as “master” rather than “sir” suggests that it was published some time between September 26, 1580, when Drake returned to Plymouth, and April 14, 1581, when Queen Elizabeth I visited Drake’s ship and conferred knighthood upon him. Breton mentions the booty brought home by Drake, but is silent as to how it was acquired -- undoubtedly a reflection of Drake's anomalous position, since England and Spain were nominally at peace and some of Elizabeth's counselors were urging her to disavow Drake and restore to Spain the wealth he had seized from Spanish ships. Elizabeth chose to support Drake, however, and shared in the treasure. A near contemporary of William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Breton was a poet and author of prose fiction. Early editions of his works are extremely rare.

On Substantiation Through Transitive Relations

This work by the prominent Shafi’i theologian Muhammad al-Amidi (died 1233 [631 AH]) consists of three parts. The first part, on pages 1 and 2, discusses the difference between metaphors and similes in figurative speech. The second part, on pages 3–10, deals with the use of analogies and transitive relations to prove a case. Al-qiyas, or the use of transitive relations to substantiate a case, is one of four pillars in Islamic jurisprudence. It is also widely used by grammarians. The last part, on page 11, is the beginning of a treatise on existence, both inside and outside of the mind. This manuscript copy was made in 1805 by an unknown scribe. It is from the Bašagić Collection of Islamic Manuscripts in the University Library of Bratislava, Slovakia, which was inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 1997. Safvet beg Bašagić (1870–1934) was a Bosnian scholar, poet, journalist, and museum director who assembled a collection of 284 manuscript volumes and 365 print volumes that together reflect the development of Islamic civilization from its inception to the early 20th century. The manuscript is item 280 in Jozef Blaškovič, Arabské, turecké a perzské rukopisy Univerzitnej knižnice v Bratislave (Arab, Turkish, and Persian manuscripts in the University Library, Bratislava).