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26 February 2024

Al-Idrisi’s silver map of the world presented at Hay Festival Abu Dhabi

Photo: WAM


 A ground-breaking re-creation of lost 12th century map on silver disc merges will be on display at Abu Dhabi's Manarat Al Saadiyat, as part of the Hay Festival currently underway in the nation's capital.

Drawing on several centuries of Islamic cartographic research, 12th century Islamic cartographer al-Sharif Al-Idrisi produced both a book of 70 regional maps covering the surface of the known world, and a single, round map engraved onto a silver disk and set into a wooden table, with Mecca at its centre.

The original silver disc, commissioned by Sicily’s ruler King Roger II and created by Al-Idrisi in 1153, is now lost. However, on display in Manarat al Saadiyat is a recreation by Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation, of one of the greatest achievements of medieval map-making: a world map of remarkable accuracy inscribed onto a huge disc of solid silver that is two metres wide.

Factum Foundation re-created Al-Idrisi's silver map based on one of the best-preserved copies of his book, "Entertainment for those wanting to discover the world" (Nuzhat al-mushtāq fi'khtirāq al-āfāq), which is held by the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University. This re-creation combines historical research with advanced digital conservation techniques and the highest levels of craftsmanship.

It remained the most technically sophisticated world-map for three centuries after its production.

Al-Idrisi’s map will be introduced on Friday, 28th February by British historian Jerry Brotton, author of "A History of the World in Twelve Maps".