by Prof. Dr. Afetinan


from ThePiriReisMapProject Website












Let us take a trip into some periods of the past. The first stop on this trip will be Turkey thirty years ago. The first quarter of the present century shows Turkey at the end of the War of Independence, and the Republic established by Kemal Ataturk (1923). The Turkish Republic, now thirty years old, was founded on the remains of another Turkish state, the Ottoman Empire (1299-1923).

For the second stop let us take the year 1929. Let us go into the Palace of Topkapi of the Ottoman Sultans, situated on one of the most beautiful spots of Istanbul called Sarayburnu. The palace, which consists of various buildings, each surrounded by vast gardens, testifies to the different characteristics of the Ottoman period. The Turkish Republican Government decided to turn this palace into a museum.

Discovery of the map of America
In the process of classifying the numerous articles in the buildings, Mr. Halil Edhem, Director of the National Museums, discovered a map* (9 Nov.1929) till then unknown in the world of science. Upon hearing of this discovery of the oldest map of America Ataturk showed great interest in the matter. He asked for the map to be brought to Ankara, studied it and ordered it to be published as it stood and to be submitted to scholarly research.


* Map, or chart, "portulano" in contemporary phraseology, a term used for all such charts showing the position of ports and based on the idea of the earth being flat.

To study this map for the first time with Ataturk was an immense thrill. It had been drawn hundreds of years ago on a roe-skin, with various coloured illustrations and writings on it. As I held it in my hands, I felt as if I were living in the long forgotten past. My emotions are twenty-four years old now, but let us, with the same national and scholarly pride, take a glimpse into the period when this map was drawn and into the history of the man who had drawn it.

This is one of the oldest and yet most perfect maps of America, drawn by a Turkish admiral. Now, if you do not mind being centuries old for a few minutes, come with mc to the XVIth century. In this third stop our journey suddenly covers a vast ground.

The Sea-Power of the Ottoman-Turkish Empire in the XVth and XVIth centuries

In the XVth century, particularly after the conquest of Istanbul, the Ottoman state grew into an Empire. To secure Turkish domination over the Black Sea and the Mediterranean she had to possess naval strength, which she did. To get the upper hand on the Mediterranean, the Turkish forces had to fight against the Venetians, the Genoese, their usual ally the Knights of St. John, and the Spanish.


They finally succeeded in acquiring territorial sovereignty as far as Vienna in west, to the Caucasus, Iran and Iraq in the east, and south and the as a result of adding Syria, Egypt, Tunis, Algiers, the Hejaz and Arabia to the former conquests, formed close contacts on various seas. The Black Sea and the Mediterranean, including the Adriatic shores, came under the domain of the Turkish banner.


The fleet carried it across to the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Amman Seas up to the Indian Ocean. The great Turkish admiral, Pin Reis, whose life will be our topic of discussion now, was one of those great Turkish admirals like Burak Reis, Kemal Reis, Muslahiddin Reis, Barbaros Hayrettin, Turgut', and Kilic Ah, who, at the end of the XVth and during the XVIth centuries, won splendid victories for the Turkish fleet, and thus established Turkish power and preserved it over the seas.

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Biography of Piri Reis

We do not exactly know the date of his birth, but we presume it to be between 1465-1470. He was born at Gelibolu or Gallipoli as the Anglo-American world calls it, a lovely coastal town on the Marmara Sea, which was then used as a naval base. He was named Muhiddin Piri. His father was Haci Mehmet, and his uncle, the famous admiral of the period, Kemal Reis.


About the children born and brought up in this town, Ibni Kemal, the Turkish historian says:

"The children of Gelibolu grow up in water like alligators. Their cradles are the boats. They are rocked to sleep with the lullaby of the sea and of the ships day and night."

This Turkish boy, too, falling asleep with the sound of the sea in his ears spends eleven years of his life in his native town. Like other Turkish children of the time, he acquires his early notions about the world from the ideas at home and around him, and also from the elementary teaching he was given. After he is twelve, he joins the crew of his uncle, Kemal Reis.


Thereafter he is no longer an unknown Turkish youth, but Piri, a careful observer, and a sea-hero whose name will be remembered in history. He starts his career under the vigilance of his uncle, and takes part in all kinds of naval activities for fourteen uninterrupted years. We can follow him at this period of his life through his book, "Bahriye - On Navigation" in which he recorded his experiences of the places he visited with his uncle, and the historical events of the time in a most vivid and delightful style.


The first fourteen years of Kemal Reis' life is spent in piracy, as was the custom at the time. After becoming a considerable power on the sea through his own personal efforts, in 1494 Kemal Reis accepted official recognition and position from the Ottoman Government, along with his worthy and experienced crew.

Several sources confirm the indication - that Piri was with Kemal Reis before this date. For instance, during a period when his uncle was at Egriboz, he says in a passage in the "Bahnye", about the monasteries of Athos,

"The aforesaid place is a long cape, 80 miles in length; to the Tracian side lies a dried up channel"

(pp. 117-119)

In his book, the "Bahriye", he makes the following remarks about the ports on the coast of Athos on the Khalkidhiki peninsula:

"In front of the monastery of Alaviri stand native rocks, among which there lies a natural port. It can take only one boat at a time, but since the mouth of the port lies open to the north, the North and the East winds do much harm to the boat lying there. It so happened to us once. As we were lying in harbour the strong East-wind blew across to the north and damaged our boat, whereupon the monks from the monastery came to our rescue. They tied the boat down on all the four sides after which she could not move at all. Thus we were saved from the storm, and proceeded on our way."

(Bahriye, p. 113)

The remarks refer to the coast of Athos. For the. third peninsula he gives this information:

"There is a cape at Karaburun. People call it the cape of Kesendere. From this cape to "Kumburnu" it is all covered with pine woods. Kumburnu is a low and sandy cape; at the point it grows quite shallow. On it, 100 miles to the North-West lies the city of Salonica."

In another version of the book he says something different about the same cape:

"The coast of Kesendere as far as Kum Burnu is very shallow. Along the coast run tall pine trees. But nobody knows where one can obtain drinking water. To the humble author of these lines Kara Hasan Reis showed the spot."

In 1494 the Moslem population in Granada in Spain asked for help from the Tunisian, Egyptian and the Ottoman Governments. It was just then that Kemal Reis was leading a life of piracy and used his ships to transport these Moslems over to Africa. From 1487 to 1493 Piri participated in various activities on these seas under the supervision of his uncle.

Piri Reis gives remarkable information about the western coast of the Med4terranean and the islands there, and says the fol lowing about the island of Minorea of the Balearie Isles:

"They call that port Portulano. It has a good harbour. As soon as you leave the harbour and turn along the eastern coast to the north you come upon a natural spring. It emerges from under a fig tree. Around that spring you are sure to meet Arab and Turkish boats most of the time, for they obtain their water there. Further over it stands a fortress."

(Bahriye p. 532)

During six years of piracy around various islands and coasts on the Mediterranean, they fought against other pirates of the time, conquered ships and in bad weather spent the winter in favorable harbors. Kemal Reis stayed a long time along the African coast, in Algiers, Tunis and Bona, and formed friendly relations with the people there having an exceptionally good reception there. (Bahriye, 1935 Introduction). P. IV Thus while spending the winter months of I490~I49I in the harbor at Bona they took part in the battle led by Kemal Reis against Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica.

One of these battles is recorded by Piri in this way:

"There are some shallow spots along the aforesaid bay of Resereno; Terranova is a fortress on a low ground. "Terranova" means "new town" in Sicily. Now, the fore part of the town is a beach, a good shelter in the summer. The vessels lie three to four miles away from the land across the fortress. In the aforesaid harbour we overcame three vessels this time."

(Bahriye, p.493)

Thus each event is recorded with the correct dates. For the island of Corsica Piri wrote a new chapter (pp.523-529) and added a map of the island with detailed explanations giving the contour of the island as 400 miles, and said:

"On this island stands a tall mountain rising from the north to the south. At this date I counted 25 peaks of this mountain in the eastern part of it. They looked just like the teeth of a saw. Every one of those peaks is covered with snow all through the year"


About the inhabitants he says:

"The aforesaid island of Corsica was a demesne of the Genoese, but later when the French conquered Genoa, among the others, this island, too, passed over to the French."

At the time, the ruling sultan was Bayezid II, son of Melimet II, the Conqueror. After the death of his brother, Prince Jeni, in 1495 Bayezid started ruling the country without a rival. Aiming at greater conquests he endeavoured to reinforce the territorial as well as the naval powers, and for that purpose brought 'under his banner the various units of Turkish pirate ships. He invited Kemal Reis to join the imperial fleet.


He did so, with Piri Reis and Kara Hasan to help him. They all were experienced and trained sailors with good knowledge of the seas. In such a capacity did Piri Reis take part in the Mediterranean campaigns under Kemal Reis' supervision.

The first official acknowledgment of Piri's deeds is an account of the sea fights in the years 1499-1502. The actual commander-in-chief of the fleet belonging to the Supreme Admiral of all the Sea-Forces was Kemal Reis. In this fleet Piri was given official command of some of the vessels. His service in the battles (1500-1502) against the Venetians was remarkable.


The great advantages that the Ottoman Empire acquired by the Treaty of Venice in 1502 were made possible mainly by the brave deeds of these seamen. After this date Piri works as an admiral of the fleet again, but at his uncle's death during a sea battle, Piri was deprived of his great protector. Because of some reason unknown to us, Piri had not taken part in that battle. There can be no doubt as to how deep a source of sorrow this loss was to Piri.


The knowledge acquired in the tutorship of Kemal Reis and the accumulated experience during his life at sea had secured him fame and a firm position. After his uncle's death he left the open seas and started working on his first map of the world at Gelibolu. The portion of the map we now possess is a part of it.

Along with this map he arranged his notes f6r the book "Bahriye" which later turned out to be a kind of guide book on navigation. In 1516-1517 Piri was given command of several vessels taking part in the Ottoman campaign against Egypt. Under the command of Cafer Bey the fleet took Alexandria. With a part of this fleet Piri sailed to Cairo through the Nile, and later drew a map and gave detailed information about this area, too.

After Egypt was joined to the growing Empire, Piri had a chance of making the personal acquaintance of the ruling sovereign, Yavuz Selim; during the battle of Alexandria. He presented the map he had previously drawn to the Sultan. After the Egyptian campaign, during a period of relaxation at Gelibolu, he put his notes on "Bahriye" into book form.

The reign of Suleyman the Magnificent, who ascended the throne in 1520, is a history of successive victories. Piri's taking part in the Turkish fleet going to the campaign on Rhodes in 1523 is to be regarded as only natural.

Piri commemorates the royal command of Sultan Suleyman to him to act as a guide to Pargall Ibrahim Pasa, the Chief Vizir, in verse (pp. 549-550).

It was after this campaign that Ibrahim Pasa realized the importance of the "Bahriye" and urged Piri to put the notes into book form and copy them out again. Piri records that incident, too, at the end of the book in verse. Because of a storm at sea they cannot proceed on their way, and are compelled to take refuge at Rhodes. For Piri, however, this proves to be a good opportunity to make the Pasa's acquaintance. Piri's frequent references does not fail to attract the Vizir's attention.

Encouraged by his words Piri rearranges the book to Gelibolu and copies it all out, and with the help of Ibrahim Pasa presents it to the Sultan. The date of the book is given in verse in the traditional way. From the final couplet one makes the date to be 1526 A.D. (923 by the Arabic Calendar).

In his preface to the book, Piri mentions the favourable reception it received from the Sultan. Later he draws another map and presents that, too, to Suleyman.

One can follow his life up to 1526 in this book. After this date, we deduce from the state records that Piri was appointed an admiral of ships in the south seas. He rendered many services to the government in this capacity, in the Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea. Thus we find him growing old at the head of his ships. He died exactly 400 years ago in 1554, as an old man of 84. Mortal though he himself was, he left behind him immortal works and unforgettable services to the world of civilization.

With this ends the biography of Piri Reis. Most of it has been taken from his own memoirs on his experiences at seafaring. On the science of navigation, Piri was one of the most outstanding scholars of his time. Apparently, besides his native tongue, he knew Greek, Italian, Spanish and even Portuguese. He acknowledges his debt to various works in these languages, in drawing his map of the world.

A galley from the Turkish-Ottoman period. The flags have a crescent or a sword on red and blue. All these ships were built in Turkish docks and belonged to a powerful organization. Those serving in this fleet had to go through a strict course of training.

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The Book "Bahriyye-on Navigation"
Piri Reis' Scholarly Works

If Piri were only a helpmate to Kemal Reis, even with the grand titles and high posts that he had won, he would not be a subject important enough for the history of civilization today. We would cite him only as one of the great admirals of the Ottoman Empire when she was a great power on various seas.


For, at the time, not only were the Black Sea and the Marmara exclusively Turkish seas, but the eastern and the southern coasts of the Mediterranean and all the neighboring islands as well as the eastern coast of the Adriatic were under Turkish domination. The Turkish banner reigned on the Red Sea and the Arabian; the Turkish fleet carried it to the coasts and islands of the Indian Ocean.

To be the ruler of so many seas the Ottoman Empire was bound to have great seamen. And yet Piri Reis, life and works differ from those of his contemporaries. He was not content to secure for his country more powers and victories but left written works on the science of navigation, which have survived to this day.

The Book "Bahriyye-on Navigation"
Piri Reis then young but quite experienced, traveled on Kemal Reis' ships almost the full length of the Mediterranean coasts, and on many occasions he was able to study various Spanish, Tunisian, French and Adriatic harbours. Acquiring information on various geographic and naval conditions of these legions, he recorded his own observations on them, and all this formed the basis for his book "Bahriye-On Navigation".


In it Piri described the towns and countries along the Mediterranean coasts, and drew maps, charts and pictures of them. He did not neglect giving important information on navigation there, either. Reading the book page by page will take us on a delightful trip along these regions in the XVIth century. It is, basically, a kind of naval guide book.


He gathered all previous information on the subject, but added to it other practical knowledge necessary for sailors on the most important coastal routes, and drew large maps of all the spots he considered important there. In this way the book came out not only as a mere guide book, but also it became the greatest contemporary "portulano" with the most advanced technique of cartography.

One can see in this book a most significant invention: to make available all that he could not squeeze into the maps, for his readers he drew large maps and complemented them with indexes.

The book has many versions. 29 of them exist in the libraries of Europe and Istanbul. Some of them bear the date 1520 (Arabic 927) the others 1525 (Arabic 932).

The book was published in 1935, with an introduction, an index and a facsimile, based on the version now in the St. Sophia Museum in Istanbul. It has 858 large pages and a section all in verse form, consisting of 78 pages; the latter is divided into 23 chapters, 1107 couplets in all. Into these lines Piri has put all that he learned and observed as well as information indirectly acquired, on the seas of the world, in a style easy to remember and memorize.

The main theme in the book is the Mediterranean coast and the islands there.

  • In Chapters I and II (pp. 7-19) he explains his aim in writing the book and also his life at sea with Kemal Reis

  • In Chapters III, IV, and V (pp. 19-23) he gives information about storms, winds and the compass

  • Chapters VI and VII (pp.23-29) are about maps and emblematic signs on maps.

  • In Chapter VIII (p. 29) he says that one fourth of the seas that cover the earth has continents on them, and by giving names to each he cites 7 seas.

  • Chapter IX (pp.30-32) is devoted to the geographic discoveries of the Portuguese.

  • In Chapter X (pp. 33-37) he discusses Abyssinia as extending as far as the Cape of Good Hope and wishes that the Turks may drive back the Dutch and the Portuguese from the Red Sea.

  • In Chapter XI (pp.37-43) on the globular chart which he calls "the ball of the earth" be talks about the poles, the tropics, and the equator, and relates what the Portuguese know about them.

  • Chapter XII (pp. 43-52) recounts how the Portuguese make voyages from their own country to the Indies with favourable winds, in a most profitable way. Chapter XIII (pp. 52-56) is general information on navigation, but it also relates some sailors' stories based on fantastic rumours.

  • It includes an account of the Chinese seas, and considering that part of the world as the end of the East, he gives information on the Chinese people, their customs and traditions and their skill in pottery.

  • The explanations in Chapters XIV and XV (pp. 56-61) about the Indian Ocean and the monsoons are valid even today.

  • He also discusses the wind situations in the Mediterranean and the Aegean Seas. He describes, here, the implement called the "Indian Measure" which measures heights, and also gives information about the Pole Star.

  • In Chapter XVI (pp. 61-66) he describes the Persian Gulf from what he has heard about it, because then he has not yet been able to visit that part of the world. He gives a very good account of pearl-fishing and the spots for it. This piece of information is as good as modern since pearl-fishing is still performed in the same way and at the same spots.

A Map of the Pearling Beds of the Arabian Gulf
This map was drawn by hand by Rashid Al Maktoom, in about 1930.

Depth is measured in "Baa" (fathoms in English) which is 6 ft. X number shown on the map.

Dark areas are earl beds. The stamped compass rose with degrees is a later addition.

  • In Chapters XVII, XVIII, XIX and XX (pp.67-77) he calls the Indian Ocean "the Sea of the Negroes", and gives an account of the coast and the islands there.

  • In Chapter XXI (pp. 77-84) he studies the Atlantic Ocean under two different names: "the Western Sea" and "The Great Ocean". He says that the "Western Sea" begins from the Straits of Gibraltar and extends 4000 miles towards the west.

  • He also informs the reader of the continent he calls "the Antilia". He says, that there the mountains contain rich gold ores, and four fathoms deep in the sea pearl is to be found (p.78).

  • He discusses the history of the continent and says that it was discovered by sailors. About the inhabitants there he says that they have flat faces, and eyes a full span apart from each other; they are large in build and frightful creatures. He recounts all this on hearsay.

  • He adds to it, though, some personal experiences as to how he once got a hat belonging to the natives on some Mediterranean island. The hat was made of parrots' feathers. There was also an axe made of some hard, black stone that could cut even iron. In this way Piri wrote most of the information in the margin of the map of America into this book.

  • In the chapter on this "Western Sea" we read all that is known about the' discovery of America at the time. Of this he recounts, on hearsay again, how a certain book from the time of Alexander the Great was translated in Europe, and after reading it how Christopher Columbus went and discovered the Antilles with the vessels he obtained from the Spanish government.

It is quite evident today that Piri Reis came into possession of the map that the great discoverer had used. He makes a reference to the Caspian Sea and says that it is a closed sea. He gives no information, however, about the Red Sea or the Black Sea. Thus in these 74 pages of verse he was able to gather all the contemporary information about navigation.

The main body of the book consists of 743 pages (pp. 85-848), and these are divided into 209 chapters with 215 maps and charts.


This part is written in prose, the aim being to make it available and easy for every sailor. It begins with the Dardanelles, then goes on to the Aegean Sea, the coastline and the islands there, then the Adriatic Sea and the coasts along Western Italy, Southern France and Eastern Spain; geographic and historical information about the islands there are given and then along the Straits of Gibraltar to the African coast as far as Egypt, then to the shores of Palestine and Syria, to Cyprus and then the Anatolian coastline up to Marmaris.


At the end of this part he studies Crete and other islands which he had not previously mentioned. Later coming back to the Straits of Dardanelles he finishes the book with a description of the Gulf of Saros.

In composing the work Piri first gives historical and geographical information and then he discusses the necessary practical knowledge on navigation. Each chapter contains detailed charts, some in different colours. Since his method is still used in modern guide books on navigation and seas one cannot help wondering at the advanced outlook, which the book presents. On many points the accuracy of his statements are indisputable. The work, therefore, must he regarded as very important for the science of navigation.

The great sailor-writer draws maps of and gives information about the Adriatic coast in general and about the Bay of Venice in particular. About the latter he says,

"The city of Venice extends to an area of 12 miles. The whole district consists of parts of land and parts of an "ear" of the sea. The sea is at some places quite shallow and at others deep. The people have put piles upon these shallow spots and upon them built their city. Before the city was thus constructed fishermen used to come to these lonely spots, spread their nets and catch fish.


When fishing flourished there, more people began to come and then to settle there by building houses over those piles. In the course of time they increased in number. The wise ones among them thought that they must see to it that the city they were building must be able to stand for all time".

(Bahriye, p.422-423).

Then Piri describes the building of the famous St. Marco, the purpose and the process involved in building it. He later tells us that the inhabitants live by trade, and that one has to hire a guide from the fortress of "Yaransa" to go to the city, otherwise, they do not take the responsibility for any loss or damages incurred because of the shallow waters.

The final judgment arrived at about the book, after profound study, is as follows:

"Research work done on it reveals that not a single statement can be found in it that is not based on facts".

This becomes very obvious in the ease of Crete when knowledge concerning the island at two different periods in history is compared.


Unfortunately, however, since this great work was not published in the XVIth century and was there fore unknown to the world of science, it has not been as useful as it could have been. Nevertheless the work still retains its Importance and value despite the intervening centuries.

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Piri's First Map of the World, 1513

Let us now concentrate on the first map of the world drawn by Piri. His own ideas about cartography in general are recorded in verse form (p. 24). He says that drawing maps requires profound knowledge and specification. He believes that the slightest error in drawing a map makes the map useless (p. 25). To see how faithful he was to this principle of accuracy and exactitude one need only study his maps.

Foreseeing the development of maritime possibilities of the Ottoman Empire in the early decades of the XVIth century, Piri realized the necessity for a map of the world to help those sea-men that would take voyages on the seas, with practical information. In drawing this map, as a sailor devoted to his profession, he applied all the resources then available.



In his preface to the "Bahriye" he refers to the map and says that he has made use of all the known maps, including those on the Chinese seas and the Indian Ocean, which were unknown in the western world at that time. He also records that he presented it to Sultan Selim II. From a note in the margin hand-written by the author himself, we conclude that the map was drawn by Piri at Gelibolu between March and April of 1513 (Arabic 919).


In one of these notes Piri cites his references and some twenty maps he had made use of. Eight of these were new maps of Mappa Mundi, four drawn by the Portuguese, an Indian one in Arabic, and one by Christopher Columbus on the western hemisphere. The most important point to be noted here is the fact that Piri had a map of Columbus, in his hand when 'drawing' his own. He himself refers to it in the "Bahriye" (p.82) when talking about Columbus' discovery of the Antilles.


This can be accounted for in the following way:

he came into possession of the map when he was with Kemal Reis on the Spanish shores on the Mediterranean. In a reference to the shores of Valencia he says that once on those shores he and Kemal Reis took, at a single engagement at sea, seven Spanish vessels.

(Bahriye, p. 596).

We have already noted how he refers to the "Antilia" and the natives of the Antilles.



In one of the marginal notes on the map Piri mentions a Spaniard who had taken part in three of Columbus's two expeditions and was later taken prisoner by Kemal Reis. This Spaniard had given a most interesting account of Columbus to Kemal Reis. It is quite possible that he was captured during the battle when some of those articles belonging to the natives were also taken.

The map of Columbus in Piri's possession, was drawn in 1498, and, since we know that Kemal Reis and Piri had fought against the Spanish in 1501, Piri's acquisition of the map during that war is quite plausible.

Although Piri had drawn a map of the whole world, the portion we now have of it is only of the western coasts of Europe and Africa, the Atlantic Ocean, Central and North Americas.

The map is drawn on a roe-skin in various colour. Like other contemporary maps it has no lines of longitude or latitude. Nevertheless We can see two rose-compasses one in the north and the other in the south. Each of the roses is divided into 32 parts and the division lines are extended beyond the rose frames. Each wind-rose is equal to one sea mile, as is shown in the measurements on the areas near the wind-roses. The map is 90/65 centimeters in size.

It is in various colour and is decorated with numerous illustrations. In the capitals of Portugal, Marrakesh and Guinea, there are pictures of their respective sovereigns. Besides these, on Africa there are pictures of an elephant and of an ostrich, and on South America of lamas and pumas. On the oceans and along the coasts we see illustrations of ships. On both the lands and the seas there are entries sometimes relevant, sometimes irrelevant of the pictures. They are all written in Turkish, and can also be found in his book "Bahriye".

You can follow the entry-notes beginning from the north-west corner, turning southward, then proceeding along the perimeter, and finally continuing in a winding fashion towards the center.

Reading some of the notes is really difficult. The map is transcribed by experts HERE.


The mountains are drawn in outlines and the rivers are marked with thick tines. In the map Pin Reis adopts and applies the rules of emblematic signs mentioned on page 28 in the 'Bahriye". Thus he indicates the rocky regions with black, the sandy and shallow waters with reddish dots, and the rocky parts in the sea which cannot be seen by sailors with crosses.


A close study of the map shows us how faithful Pin was to his sources. In the bibliography attached to the map he claims that his map is as sound and accurate for the seven seas as the map of the Mediterranean.


From the various Turkish names on these coasts like Babadagi, Akburun, Yesilburun, Kizilburun, Altin Irmagi, Guzel K6rfcz, Kozluk Burnu, Iki Hurmalik Burnu etc., we deduce that in his drawing he made use not only of the Portuguese maps in his possession, but also of the information supplied by various Turkish sailors faring along these coasts. In his drawing of the coastline and in his marking of the sites of importance on it we again notice his remarkable accuracy. He is quite accurate also in the positions of the Azores, Madeira and the Canary islands.

As for the northern part of the map, we see here how Pin Reis benefited by the new Portuguese maps and recorded on it the discoveries made before 1508 on the North American Coast by Amerigo Vespucci, Pinzon, Juan de Solis. Some of the place names on the South American coast, like Santa Agostini, San Megali, San Francisco, Port Rali, Total Sante, Abrokiok, Cav Frio and Katenio show a close resemblance to their modern forms.


Except for the two entries about the name and the date of the map, all the other entries are written by a calligrapher. This fact can account for the changes to be observed in various names on the map. Another reason for this may easily be the inadequacy of the Arabic script then in use, for expressing Turkish words.

All the principal rivers in South America are marked on the map, though the names are not written It is remarkable that he should have shown the river La Plata on the map, when Pinzon and Juan de Solis passed by it and from all accounts, never even noticed it. Outside the parts relating to Columbus' map, the scales in miles are astonishingly accurate. The land extends unimpeded to the west from the south of lie Plate.


Evidently this part of the map is drawn in accordance with the Ptolemic idea of the world, as is also observed in Mappa Mundi. Eight years later, when he had finished his ~ in the preface to the book he affirms that, further south it is not land but sea, which shows that he was following le later discoveries with careful attention. And yet, from it point of view of the historical importance of these geographic discoveries, this map is particularly significant for Central America.

Close studies here confirm the idea that the map possesses all the important information that was on the map of C. Columbus drawn and sent to Europe in 1498 and also on the map of Toscanelli that Columbus had in hand when he first ventured Out on his voyages. This part of the map contains many imaginary islands with a picture of a parrot on each.


The island of Trinidad is written as "Kalerot", which probably is derived from a cape on this island which Columbus called "Galera". Porto Rico is named here San Juan Batichdo, and on its eastern coast is drawn the picture of a fortress. There is, however, another island to the west of Trinidad, again with a picture of a parrot near which is written San Juan Batichdo.


Drawing various islands on the South American coast opposite Trinidad shows the influence of Colombus, who believed this newly discovered continent to be a group of islands. This is to be observed also on the island of Haiti, called by Columbus Hispanyola, and by Piri the Island of Spain: instead of showing it extending from the east to the west, as it does, he shows it extending from the north to the south, which proves that Columbus took this island to be Zipang, i.e. Japan as Marco Polo calls it and in accordance with Marco Polo's descriptions of it, the island is given this mistaken position.

The real Antilles are shown on the map not as islands, but as C. Columbus believed it to be, as a continent. Hence Pin calls Central America "the County of Antilia", and the North American coast "the coast of Antilia".


It is true that at a certain spot quite near the North American Coast there is marked an island called the Antilia, but evidently that stood for the legendary island popularly regarded as fabulously wealthy and prosperous at the time when Columbus first started on his voyages. It is to be noted, however, that beside the island is a note that states that, contrary to the common fallacy, the island is not prosperous.


Cuba, too, is shown as a continent in accordance with Columbus' firm belief. So confident was Columbus in this that while he was near the coast of Cuba in 1494 he had his conviction recorded by the notary public on the boat, Fernando Perez de Luna, and asked all the crew to sign it, as we can now see from the document signed on the 12th June, 1494, which declares that, since it is quite evident that this is a continent, thereafter whoever attempts to contradict this statement shall be fined to 10.00 Maravedis pieces and also his tongue shall be cut out.


Undoubtedly the reason why Pin, too, shows it as a continent was not because he was afraid for' his tongue, but because he would not 'question the veracity of a piece of information given by such an authority as Columbus, who had been to those parts of the world several times.


Cuba is shown as a continent also in the map of Columbus dated 1498, which formed the basis for Pin's later on; in the rough sketch drawn by Christopher Columbus' brother, Bartholomeo, in 1503, in the map of the world made by Ruysch in 1508, and even in the marine map by Waldeesmuller in 1507.

A comparison of the Piri Reis map with the modern conception of this area. As it will be easily perceived the distance between South America and Africa is quite correct. Comparison with the other contemporary maps reveals Piri's greatness in the technique of cartography.

Piri calls the eleven islands on the south-east of Haiti "Undizi Vergine," which shows that the number of the islands is not expressed by the word "onze" which means eleven in Spanish but by its equivalent in Columbus' mother tongue, Italian.


This is another indication of how faithful Piri was to Columbus' map, Keeping close to the information of Columbus' map which apparently possessed all that was on the earlier Toscanelli map, Pin harided down to us the oldest map of America and informed us about various aspects of the most important phase in the history of the discoveries.


By recording the explanations given by the Spaniard who had taken part in the three expeditions of Columbus and was later captured by Kemal Reis, he related the story of these discoveries from an original source free from the later legendary tales which have grown about them.



Scattered about the map are some other entries which also enlighten us about various details in the discoveries. Beside the picture of a ship near the Azores is written that this Genoese vessel came from Flanders, was shipwrecked, and that the survivors discovered these islands. From another entry we learn that the sea there is the Western Sea, but the Europeans call it the Spanish Sea, and after the discoveries of Columbus' the name is changed to Ovasana, i.e. "Osean".

By a picture near the island of Santiago is a note stating-that the names of these places were found and given by a Genoese sailor brought up in Portugal. In anther entry close' to the picture of a ship drawn near the South American coast he summarizes all the information given in a map by Nikola di Juan who was shipwrecked there. In one of the notes on the Atlantic Ocean he mentions the treaty of "Tordesillas" 1599, and a certain line that divides the Spanish and the Portuguese possessions.

Towards the north, on the map is a picture of a fish on which is drawn a woman and a man making a fire, nearby is another ship and three people in a boat. This is the story of' Santa Brandon which was very popular in the middle ages, and was recorded in the "thousand and one night" stones. But Piri does not neglect to add that the legend comes down not from the Portuguese but from 'the old Mappa Mundi.' This shows that the Turkish geographer made use of many sources and did not neglect the latest information nearest to his age, and that he was very careful about his bibliography.

From various kinds of research work done on the' map we conclude that compared with the other maps of the period, Pin's is the most perfect and original. It will interest the Americans as one of the oldest maps of their country, and we Turks will always be proud that the author of the maps was one of us.


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The Second Map of America
Fifteen years after this first map, Piri Reis drew a second one, again at Gelibolu. Like the previous one it bears his signature. Unfortunately to-day we have only a small portion of it i.e. a small portion of the western hemisphere. It is 68/69 centimeters in size. Ornamental figures are drawn in the margins and most of it is in colour.

There we find the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean and the newly discovered regions of North and Central America. There are four wind-roses on it. The tropic of Cancer is shown here, though it was not on the first map. There are also scales of mules on it, each with twenty divisions.


From the notes beside them we gather that the distance between the divisions stand for 50 miles, and that between two dots for 10 miles. The scales here are bigger than in the previous one. We see Greenland in the north and the Azores towards the south. Some of the latter bear the names "San Mikal", "Santa Mariya", "Euriko", and "San Jorjo". To the south of Greenland two large pieces of land are shown; the one in the north is called Baccalao.


On the map there is a note saying that Baccalao was discovered by the Portuguese. In another note further down near "Terra Nova" he says that though these coasts were discovered by the Portuguese ,all is not known as yet, and only the parts that have been discovered are shown on the map. Further south still one can see the Peninsula of Florida drawn very much as we know it today. He calls it San Juan Batisto. The name was first given to Porto Rico on the previous map.

The pieces of land seen at the side are the peninsulas of Honduras and Yucatan, discovered in 1517 and 1519 respectively. Unlike the first map, drawn under the influence of Columbus, the islands of' Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas and the Antilles are drawn quite accurately. One can read the words "Is! di Vana" over Cuba. Although there are numerous names along the coast of Venezuela, very few can be read. Among the legible words are San Cilormi, Monte Krago, Detonos, Die Sagram, Ponte Sogon, Didas and Sare.

In this second map the drawing of the coastlines shows greater improvement in technique and also close resemblance to the modern conception of these areas. The stony and rocky sections are given special care. There is, however, a slight distortion in the map from the true position of the continent as we know it today-

This error was committed, due to neglect in not taking into consideration the ten to thirteen degrees of difference in angle on the contemporary compass. This error is to be observed in all the contemporary maps without any exception.

On this map, as on the previous one, there are some explanatory notes, but they are recorded more briefly. The note on the left-hand corner of the map, under the scales with the long and ornamental points, gives the signature of the author as well as the date 1528 (A. H. 935). Beside the measurements there is a note indicating the mileage, where he says that the distance between two sections is 50 miles and between two dots 10 miles.

Over the second set of scales further north he says again that the distance between two sections is 50 miles and between two dots 10. The idea in the two statements is the same but one or two words differ.

Beside place-names in the notes near Labrador he says,

"This is Baccalao. The Portuguese infidels discovered it. All that is known about it is recorded here".

From the position on the map we understand that these coasts are of "Terra Nowa". Today we know that the Portuguese explorer, Carl Real, discovered Terra Nova in 1500, and his brother, Miguel Real, a year later in 1501, discovered Labrador.

Though part of the note over Central America is damaged what remains is quite interesting. "Dividing the land... to find where the sea begins... the vilayet that... beyond which", can be read.

Here there is a reference to an explorer who planned to cross overland to reach the ocean. It is quite possible that Piri meant by that Balboa who crossed Central America and reached the Pacific Ocean in 1513.

Another interesting term used on the map is what he calls the tropics: "Day's Lengthening". In his own words the explanation runs as follows: "Bu hat gu"n gayet uzadigi yere isarettir" which means that these lines indicate the part of the world where the days grow longer.

The line drawn over Cuba should, of course have been drawn further north, and the peninsula of Yucatan should have been put entirely below it; but that much accuracy could not be expected of the cartographical technique of the period.

Such technical errors can be observed also in other contemporary maps. We should, therefore, acknowledge the greatness and value of the work among other maps of the period after pointing out briefly to its various merits and demerits.

As it can be easily observed from this map, Piri Reis continued following the new discoveries with great interest. It is remarkable that, by taking into account the results of the new discoveries, he should correct in this map the inaccuracies of the first in which he was misled through his unquestioning confidence in Columbus' map. In this second map Piri Reis showed only the parts of the world that had been already discovered and left the unexplored areas blank, explaining this by the fact that they were as yet unknown.


Thus, Piri proved, once again, how he observed the principles of scientific methods in drawing this map.


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Comparison of Piri Reis' Maps with Other Contemporary Ones

The maps or charts called portulanos, 1. C. handbooks On navigation, were first drawn in the thirteenth century. We do have examples of such works previous to that period, but the kind that could bear comparison with Pin Reis' are mainly in the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries.

The first portulano in Europe is found in the work of Adamus Biemensis in 1076. Then comes the map called pisane, presumably drawn in the thirteenth century The maps which appear after that bear the name of the author and the date of the drawing. The earliest among these is the portulano of Pietro Visconti, dated 1320. To this is added a section of Marino Snudus' work, under the name of "Liber Secretaruin Fidehum Crucis".

Thus, considering the development of this type of handbook and charts, it will be useful to make a short comparative review of other such contemporary works, especially of maps showing America.

The portulanos and the handbooks written after the fourteenth century mention the island of "Brasil", and in 1414 the island of "Cipangu" and the "Antilia" are shown. It is believed that between 1474 and 1482 Toscanelli sent a portulano together with a letter to Christopher Columbus.

Unfortunately, these documents have not survived. In that letter he is supposed to have said that according to the testimony of several who had gone that way, if one kept on going to the west he was bound to reach Asia eventually.

According to what De la Ronciere wrote, this Portuguese map was drawn between 1488 and 1493. A photograph of the map will be found on another page in this book, together with the portion that Kretchner re-drew (p. 39).

The information spread all over the world after 1507 when Amerigo Vespucci wrote in a letter that it was a new continent and he called it "Novus Mundus". St. Die, who published the letter, suggested the name "America" for it.

On the other hand there are some who claim that the name of America was adopted because the natives of Nicaragua called a part of their land "America". It is true that in the first half of the XVIth century this new continent drew the attention of geographers, and that resulted in various maps being drawn of it. Piri Reis was one of these cartographers. Hence, a comparison of his works with sonic other contemporary maps drawn between 1507-1550 will reveal to us the greatness of Piri maps as historical documents in the discovery of America.

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As it has already been stated, at the time of Piri Reis, the Ottoman-Tuikish Empire was the dominant power over the Black Sea, the Marmara and the Red Sea, and was fighting for prevalence over the Aegean, the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. For such a position the Empire had to have a fleet equipped with all the latest weapons. The State Archives give us some most interesting and rich material concerning these organizations.


What the author of this booklet wanted to show, however, was only some of the characteristic features of a Turkish sailor and scholar, the writer of a marine guide-book and the cartographer of two maps of the world, a man who had taken part in numerous private and state enterprises on various seas.

Close studies of the maps reveal to us the fact that when compared with other contemporary maps these prove to be composed with a most advanced scientific spirit and method. The two maps of Pin complete each other. We are indebted to such valuable guides in the world of scholarship for enlightening us in this most important phase of the geographic discoveries. In any history of the period they must he taken as data of direct information.


The bibliography will show the wealth of publication on these works. The author has always taken intense pleasure in studying this subject on various occasions, and thought it to be her duty to share some of the information with an increasingly larger group of readers.

Piri Reis' life and works show not only the great heroic and warlike qualities of the Turks in the XVth and XVIth centuries, but also their contribution to the world of scholarship and civilization. Pin lived in an age when the Turkish culture was fertile in every field. The XVIth century is universally regarded as the Golden Age of the Turkish civilization in history.


Pin was one of those who left great works behind them not only for their own nation but for all the science of world geography, and thus became an important figure for the history of civilization. A nation lives as long as she can produce cultural works through each epoch.

To conclude: the two maps of Piri Reis will not fail to interest the Americans as the oldest maps of their own land. And we Turks will always be proud to have had the author of such works, and will be glad to remember that our ancestors were also interested in the American continent.


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Different Versions of The "Bahnye"

Bahriye bears two different dates : 1520 (Arabic 927) 1525 (Arabic 932). The first version of it received popularity among the contemporary seamen and was copied out to be used in the fleet.

The other version is the one that was presented to Suleyman after the author made new additions to it. Neither of the original copies have been found as yet. The existing copies in the libraries are later versions of these.

1521 Version

1- Istanbul. The Library of the Treasury Department, Top-kapi Palace. No 575
2- Istanbul. Topkapi Palace Library. No : 333
3- Istanbul. Nuruosmaniye Library. No : 2290.
4- Istanbul. Nuruosmanlyc Library. No : 2292 Date : I62~
5- Istanbul. Koprtilti Library. No :172. (No date)
6,7- Istanbul. Library of the Naval Museum. No : 59, 50 (2 copieS).
8- Dresden. Date of copy : 1544 (Arabic : 961). Part of it was published in 1926 by Paul Kable.
9-10 Bologne. No : 3612-3613. Only one has a date : 9574 (A. 982)

11- Berlin. Prof. Martman. 1644 (A. io~o)
12- Berlin. State Library.
13-14- Paris. National Library. No : 220-965 (956). One bears the date :1587 (A. 996)
15- Vienna. No date.
16- London. Oxford Bodleian Library.


1525 (Arabic 932) Version

17- Istanbul. Library of St. Sophia. (This version was puhlis hed In 1935 in tstanbul with an introduction, an index and a facsimile.)
18- Istanbul. University Library. No : 4654
19- Istanbul. Koprulu Library. No 171
20- Istanbul. Topkapi Palace, Revan Library. No : 18-1633
21-Istanbul. Husrev Pasa Library. No : 264. 1770 (A. 1184)
21- Istanbul. Husrev Pasa Library. No : 1770 (A. 1184)
22,23- Istanbul. Library of the Naval Museum. No : ) 88. (No date)
24- Istanbul. Millet Library. No :1
25- Istanbul. Topkapi Palace, Bagdad Kiosk Library. No : 388
26,27- Istanbul. Nuruosnianiye Library. No. 2989 - 3004.
28- Istanbul. Atir Efendi Library. No : 227
29- Istanbul. Yeni Cami Library. No 790

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ABDU'LHAK ADNAN La Science chez les Turcs Ottomans. Paris, 1939, pp. 59-64.
A. ADNAN ADIVAR-Osmanh Tt'irklerinde him. tstanbul, '943, pp. ~~-68.

ARET-Bir Turk Amirali, XVI. asrzn buyuk ceogafi: Piri Reir, S. 317-332. Un Amiral, Geographe Ture du XVLe si!cle-Piri~Reis, auteur de la plus ancienne Carte de l'Amtrique. pp.333-348. Belleten, Vol. I, 2 Ankara I, April, 1937.

Aretinan-America's oldest map, made by an Turkish admiral: Pirt Reis, Translated by: Miss Leman Yolac, Ankara, 1950. (From a talk given at the National Library in Ankara.)

Akcura, Yusur-Map drawn by Pin Reis. Turkish interest in America in 1513: Pin Reis' Chart of the Atlantic Made some ten years after Columbus' first discoveries and seven years before Magellan rounded Cape Horn! pp.142-143 "Illustrated London News", 23, luly 1932.

Akucura, Yusur- Fir' Reis haritasi hakkznda izahname - Die Karic des Pin Reis. Pin Reis map. Carte de Pir~ Reis. T. T. K. No. I Istanbul, 1935.

ALPAGUT H. ve F. KURTO 0 LU - Mukaddime, I - LV. Pin Reis: Kitab-i Balinyc. T. T. K. No. 2, Istanbul 1935.

BATAiLLON, LiONEL - La ae'couverte de 1' Univers par l'homme vzsage du monde (Evolution humaine) Paris, 1934.

BAYKAL, BEKIR SI KI - XIX. Asra kadar Akdeniz'de h6kimzyet devresi. Ankara 1938. C.H.P. publications, Serial No: t, Bk. 29, pp.29 - 30.

CALLIEN W. Y. MC - The evolution of the map of the Earth. S. 122-148. Du~nya haritasinin evrimi (hulasa). pp. 149-153. Ankara Universitesi Dii ve Tarih-Cografya Fakultesi der gisi, Vol. VII. Serial No: Ankara 1, March, '949.

DEISMANN A. - Forschungen und Funde im Serai. Berlin-Leipzig, 1933. pp. 111-122.

EFTALEDDiN~Bir Vesika-i Mijellim. Tanhi Osmani Encumeni mecmuasi, Vol. 4. i Octobcr (A. H. 1326-1328), pp. 201-210.

HALIL ETHEM-Topkapz Sarayl. tstanbul 1931.

HUMPHREYS, A. L. SKELTON, R. A. - Decorative Printed Maps of the '5 th to i8 lb Centuries. London, 1952. Old decorative Maps and Charts. (by A H. Humphreys).

IBNI KEMAL-"(Kemal Pa~azadc Semseddin Ahmed d. '535)", Tevarih-i Al-i Osman. The ninth of the ten books: "Yavu7 Scum devri".

JOMARD Les monuments de la geographie, Paris, 1864.

KAHLE, PAUL-Piri, Reis Bahnye, Das turkisches Segelhandbuch frr dos Mittelldndische Meer vom Jahre 1521. Berlin-Leipzig 1926. Band I. Text, Band II. Ubersetzung.

KAHLE, PAUL-Pin Reis, und seine Bahrzye, (Beitra'~ge zur his-torischen Geographic) 1927.

KAHLE, PAUL-Die Verschollene Columbus Karte von 1498 in emer Turkisehen Weltkarte von 1513. Berlin, Leipzig 1933.

KAHLE, PAUL-Jmprorte Colombiane in una carta Turea del 1513 "La Cultura" anno, X - Vol. I. Fas. 10. Roma 1531.

KATIP CELEBI - Keffi~zzunun Toplap Kutuphanesi No.233/35362. "Cihannjima" Ltanbul 1659 (1065)

K0NYALI, IBRAHiM HAKKI- Topkapz Sarayznda deri u.~zenne yapzlmz~ eski haritalar. tstanbul, 1936.

K. KRETEHMER-Die Entwicklung der Kartographie von Amerika, Gotha 1891.

MAHMUT, ~EvKET-Teskilat ve k~afet-i askenyc. Vol. j and II Istanbul, 1325, Umuru Bahriye pp. 33-~7.

MAIIMOUD, CHEVKET PACHA-L'organisation et les unzformes de l'Armee' Ottomane (depuis sa creation jusqu, a' nos jours)

MEHMED, SU~REYYA-Sieil-i Osmani, yahut te~kere-i me~hin. Osmanzy.e. Vol. II. Istanbul, 1319, p.44.

MUHARREM, FEYZi-XVIII. aszrda Turk asken kzyafrtleri. Turkish Military Uniforms in XVIII th Century. Istanbul, 1933. Tho. MC. Lean- i8i8, London.

N0RDENSKJOLD A. E.~(Facsimihe) Atlas to the Early History of Cartography With reproduction of the most important maps printed in the XV. and XVI. centuries, ~tokholm.

OBERHAMMER-Eme Tarkische Karte zur Entdeckkung Amerikas, aus dem Anzeiger der Akademie der Wissenschq/ten Wien 1931, pp. 99-112.

D'0HSS0N-M. DE M. Tableau Ge'?ze'ral de i'Empire Othoman (Vols. 1, II, III,) Vol. III. Paris, (1820). PP. 340-436.

PIRI REIS-Piri Reis Haritasz. (Facsimile from the first map of the world).Istanbul i935, T.T.K. No. I.

PIRI REIS-Kitab-z Bahn~e. (Facsimile of the St. Sophia Museum, No. 202). Istanbul 1935, T. T. K. Publications No.2.

PAULIN, CHARLES-Atlas of the Historical Geography of the l7nited States, Washington, 1932, Edited by J. K. Wright, Amencan Geographical Society of New York. (Although this book was published after the discovery of Piri Reis' map, it has no reference to this work.)

RONCIERE CH. DE LA - La carte de Ch. Colombe. Paris, 1924.

RONCIERE CH. DE LA L'e'uoluhon humaine des origines a nos jours, Paris '934.

SADI, HAMID - Tu~rklerde Haritaclllk ve Cogrqfya, (Turk tarihinin ana hatlari, Sen II. No.40) T. T. K. Istanbul.

SELEN, SADI HAMiD -Fir' Reis'in Simali Amerika Haritasi, PP. ~1~-5i8. Belleten Vol. I, 2 April, 1937. Die Nord Amerika-Karte des Pin Reis (1528).

UZUNSARSILI, ISMAlL HAKKI - Osmank Devletinin Merkez ve Bahrzye Te#ila~t~. Ankara 1948, pp. 389-528. T.T.K. VIII. No. i6.

UZUNCARSIH-ORD. PROF. I. H. Osmank Tarihi. Ankaia 1949, Vol.1. T.T.K. XII. No.16/2. 192-195 pp.284-286.

YURDAYDIN, HUSEYIN G.-Kitab-z Bahrtyenin telif mesele~i PP. 143-146 June 1952 D. T. C. quarterly; Vol. X, 12. Map drawn by Piri Reis, one of the Turkish Geographers. "Illustrated London News", 25, February 1932.

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