Cartography between Europe and the Islamic World

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Yossi Rapoport

Co-Investigator, and Senior Lecturer in Islamic History


I am a historian of the Islamic Middle East under the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk dynasties. Over the past decade, my research has followed the following routes: Women and gender in medieval Islam; History of Islamic law; Medieval Islamic maps; and the peasantry in Ayyubid Egypt.

I started researching medieval Islamic maps upon joining the Bodleian’s Medieval Islamic Views of the Cosmos project, focused on a recently-discovered Fatimid cosmographical treatise known as the Book of Curiosities.  The project resulted in an online edition and preliminary translation (, 2007), and now also a new, fuller edition and annotated translation in hardcopy (With Emilie Savage-Smith, An Eleventh-Century Egyptian Guide to the Universe, Brill, 2014).  My work on the Book of Curiosities has led to several academic publications on individual maps or sets of maps in the treatise, including essays on the Islamic cartography of the Nile, diagrams of urban space in the Islamic tradition, and the representation of the route to China in medieval Islamic maps.

The next stage of my work in this field is to publish a volume, co-authored with Professor Savage-Smith, which will offer an analysis of the Book of Curiosities and its political, scientific and intellectual contexts.  The aim is to flesh out the various ways in which the treatise radically alters our view of the history of science and of trade in medieval Islam. This includes new perspectives on the transmission of mathematical geography and astrology from Antiquity to the Middle Ages, on the history of maritime charts before the age of the portolans, on the patterns of Mediterranean communications before the Crusades, and on the Fatimid - Ismaʿili missionary networks in East Africa and the Indus Valley.   

Selected Publications

Women and gender in medieval Islam

“Women and Gender in Mamluk Society – an Overview”Mamlūk Studies Review, 11, 2 (November 2007), 1-45.

Marriage, Money and Divorce in Medieval Islamic Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

History of Islamic law

“Royal Justice and Religious Law: Siyāsah and Sharīʿah under the Mamluks”Mamluk studies Review XVI (2012).

Co-editor, With Shahab Ahmad , Ibn Taymiyya and His Times, Proceedings of a conference held at Princeton University, 8-10 April 2005 (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2010); with Shahab Ahmed, “Introduction”, 3-20.

Medieval Islamic maps

With Emilie Savage-Smith, An Eleventh-Century Egyptian Guide to the Universe. The 'Book of Curiosities', edited with an annotated translation (Leiden: Brill, 2014).

“The Nile in medieval Islamic maps”, in Charles Burnett , Pavel Blazek  and Alessandro Scafi (eds.),  The Nile in Medieval Thought and Culture (forthcoming, 2014).

“Reflections of Fatimid Power in the Maps of Island cities in the ‘Book of Curiosities”, in Martina Stercken / Ingrid Baumgärtner (Eds.), Herrschaft verorten. Politische Kartographie des Mittelalters und der frühen Neuzeit, (Medienwandel - Medienwechsel - Medienwissen) (Zürich: Chronos, 2012), 183–210.

“The View from the South: The Maps of the Book of Curiosities and the Commercial Revolution of the Eleventh Century”, in R. Margariti, A. Sabra and P. Sijpesteijn (eds.), Histories of the Middle East: Studies in Middle Eastern Society, Economy, and Law in Honor of A.L. Udovitch (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 183–212 and  Figs. 1–3.

“The Book of Curiosities: A Medieval Islamic View of the East”, in The Journey of Maps and Images on the Silk Road, ed. by Philippe Forêt and Andreas Kaplony. Brill's Inner Asian Library, vol. 21 (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 151-171.

With Emilie Savage-Smith, “The Book of Curiosities and a unique map of the world”, in Richard Talbert and Richard Unger (eds.), Cartography in Antiquity and the Middle Ages: Fresh Perspectives, New Methods (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 121-138.

Website: With Emilie Savage-Smith, The Book of Curiosities: A critical edition. [].

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