Antique Art

Old Maps of Arabia

The first collections of maps in bound books or atlases date from the Renaissance period in Europe, with the invention of printing. The early cartographers based their maps of the Arabian Peninsula on maps made over one thousand years earlier by the Roman geographer, Ptolemus. Incredibly, this was the best source of information they had -produced before the Dark Ages - on virtually unexplored and unmapped areas of the then known world. Ptolemy's maps formed the basis of mapping until well into the 17th century.

The thirst for knowledge was so great and the need for printed books so huge, that many editions of small 'pocket' atlases were printed to satisfy public demand. In the Gallery we have maps dating from the 1500s up to the 19th Century.From the mid-19th Century expeditions to the area became more common and cartographers were able to rely less on hearsay and guesswork and more on actual recorded facts.

However it is these inaccuracies which give the maps their uniqueness and show us the extent of knowledge of this part of the world at that time.

Many of the older maps have elaborate title cartouches or are decorated with fighting ships or sea monsters! The pictorial aspect of these early maps is enjoyable and important, as the value will often increase substantially with the amount of decoration and embellishment. BAHRAIN is almost always marked on the old maps of the Arabian Peninsula. It is often named, being referred to as BAHAREM, or TYLOS in earlier maps. MUHARRAQ is usually shown and referred to by a variety of names, usually SANAD ISLAND. Interestingly, ARAD is often named. Some of the maps show the extent of the PEARL BANKS around Bahrain - showing the world wide knowledge and importance of this industry.