1680 De Wit - Nova Persiae Armeniae Natoliae et Arabiae

1680 De Wit - Nova Persiae Armeniae Natoliae et Arabiae

De Wit's decorative map from Iran to the Nile


Nova Persiae Armeniae Natoliae et Arabiae

Map maker:

Frederick De Wit

Place and Year:

Amsterdam, 1680


47.8 x 56.4 cm (18.8 x 22.2 in)


Copperplate engraving


Original hand color

Condition Rating:


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The map covers an area stretching east from Cyprus to Iran. It is adorned with an especially lovely pictorial title cartouche,vignettes of sailing ships, and figurative scale cartouche. Contemporary land divisions are distinguished in outline color.

The Arabian Peninsula covers more than 1 million square miles and is comprised of the modern states of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. It is one of the largest regions in the world with no navigable rivers, a circumstance that made exploring and mapping its interior a difficult endeavor. The first map of the Arabian peninsula to be printed in Europe was in the 1477 edition of Ptolemy. By Ptolemy’s time, Greek sailors had sailed around the Arabian coast and were familiar with port towns. However, its interior remains largely unmapped until the 20th century.

The northern part of the peninsula tended to be mapped more accurately because it was closer to populated lands and more frequently traveled, but the interior of Ptolemaic maps are almost completely fanciful, including the mountain ranges, river systems, and lakes. The cartographic errors are probably a mix of depicting stories told to sailors about what lies inland and the desire to fill space common in pre-18th century cartography.

One especially persistent error (from Ptolemy until it was disproved in 17th century) is the depiction of a large lake (Stag Lago or Stygis Fons) between the Hadhramawt and the Empty Quarter.  Tibbetts speculates that these could have been based on the waters of Yemen which flow east into the desert, or the reservoir of Marib (which was known to classical writers). The myth of Stag Lago endures on later maps, drifting towards the sea over time, on some maps even becoming a bay.


Paper age-toned and spotted.





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