The Raif Effendi United States map

Mahmoud Raif Effendi, [Turkish-language map of the United States.] [Istanbul, 1803.]
Engraving, 20 ¼”h x 23 ¾”w plus margins, original outline and wash color.

A map of the United States rendered in Ottoman Turkish, from a pioneering attempt to import western geographic knowledge into the Islamic world.  

This elegant map appeared in the Cedid Atlas Tercümesi (“Translation of a New Atlas”), published during Sultan Selim III’s Mizam-I Cedid reforms as part of a broader effort to import western learning and modernize the declining Ottoman empire. The atlas included a geographical essay, a celestial chart, and 24 maps copied from those in William Faden’s New General Atlas (Publisher Mahmoud Raif Efendi would have had ready access to the Atlas in his capacity as Chief Secretary to the first Turkish ambassador to London.) The plates were cut in Vienna and printed in Istanbul at the Engineers’ School Printing Press, which was in operation between 1776 and 1826. The print run was only 50, and many copies were destroyed in a warehouse fire during the Janissary revolt of 1807-8, in which Raif himself perished. Today there are only 12 recorded complete copies, including one sold at Swann Galleries in May 2016 and another offered in Crouch Rare Books Catalog IX (item 28).

This map is based on the one in the 1796 edition of the Faden Atlas, which among other things had a much more detailed treatment of the western river systems than earlier versions. It follows Faden’s treatment of waterways relatively faithfully, though topographical features and place names are rendered rather more haphazardly. Like Faden, the colorist used wash and outline color to demarcate United States, British and Spanish territory, though perhaps due to his or her ignorance of America the borders are in places rather indeterminate.

No examples of the map appear in the price records, though I am aware of one offered by a colleague in 2010 for a similar price.

Not in Phillips, Maps of America; Phillips & Le Gear, Atlases; or Rumsey.

Owned in partnership with Geographicus Antique Maps.


Color somewhat faded, light water stain at top reduced, else excellent.