Pirī Rais (or Re

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(b. Gelibolu [Gallipoli], Turkey, 1470; d. Egypt, 1554),

geography, cartography.

Pirī Rais was the son of Hajī Muhammad Rais and the nephew of Kemal, Rais, a famous TUrkish admiral. From 1478 to 1493 he served in the Turkish navy and fought in several in the superivison of his uncle. After the death of his first map. Subsequently he entered the service of the Algerian corsair Khair al Din Barbarossa (ca. 1483-1546)

In 1516℃1517 Pirī was given command of several vessels that were involed in the Ottoman campaign against Egypt. He conquered Alxandria, a feat that enabled him to meet Sultan Selim I (1512℃1520), to whome he presented the map of 1513, completed at Gelibolu.

After Egypt was joined to the Ottoman Empire, Pirī returned to Gelibolu and began to write his Kitab-ī Bahriye. Because of the conflict in Egypt, he was appointed as a guide to Ibrahim Pasha of Parga (1493℃1536). On the way to Egypt, a storm forced the fleet to take refuge at Rhodes for a month. Pirī’s frequent references to his records attracted the attention of Ibrahim Pasha, who encouraged the complete his book so that it could be presented to the sultan. In 1526 Pirī was appointed admiral of the South Seas. His last official post was admiral of the Red and Arabian seas.

In 1929 a fragment of a map was discovered in the Topkapi Palace Museum (Figure 1.). It depicts the Iberian Peninsula, the western bulge of North Africa, the Atlantic Ocean, and the coast and the islands of America. It is drawn with great care on gazelle hide and includes colored pictures colored pictures and marginal notes about the countries, peoples, animals, and plants. The signature reveals that this is the map draw by Pirī Rais in 1513 and presented to Sultan Selim I in 1517.

The map is a portolano chart, a design that was thought to be simple and to have no mathematical basis. There are no markings for latitude and longitude; instead there are lines radiating from centers. The assumption regarding mathematics is erroneous. The existence of a mathematical basis for Pir’s map was initially suggested by the five projection centers in the Altantic Ocean. It was then easy to convert the portolano to modern coordinates of latitude and longitude. One can see two compass roses, one in the north and one in the south. Each is divided into thirty-two parts, and the division lines extend beyond the rose frames.

In one of the marginal notes, Pirī states that he used some twenty maps in constructing his own. Eight of these were of the world, drawn in the days of Alexander the Great; four were by portuguese explorers and recorded the discoveries made before 1508 on the South American coast by Vespucci, Vicente Yanez Pinzon (commander of the Nina in 1492℃1493), and Juan Diaz de Solos (d. 1516); one by an Indian; and one, the most important, that had belonged to Columbus. The latter may have come into Pirī’s possession during the fight against the Spanish in the western basin of the Mediterranean in 1501.

Pirī’s map has all the important information that was on Columbus’ map For instace, Trimidad is spelles “Kalerot,” which probably was derived from a point on the island that was named Galera by Columbus. Puerto Rico is called San Juan Bautista. The drawing of islands on the South American coast opposite Trinidad shows the influence of Columbus, who believed the newly discovered continent to be a group of islands. Haiti was called Hispaniola by Columbus and the Island of Spain by Pirī, The Antilles and Cuba are shown on the map a continent, as they were believed to be by Columbus. Hence Pirī called Centeral American “the coast of Antillia.”

The fifth marginal note about America and its discovery states;

These coasts are named the shores of Antillia. They were discovered in the year 896 of Hijra. It is reported that a Genoese infidel named Colombo discovered these places. A book fell into the end of the western side [of the world], there were coasts and islands and all sorts of metals and precious stones. Having studied this book thoroughly, Colombo, explained these matters to the great of Genoa and said, “Give me two ships. Let me go and find these places.” They said, “Can an end or a limit be found places to the Western Sea? Its vapor is full of darkenss.” Colombo saw that no help was forthcoming from the Genoese. He went to the king of Spain and told his story in detail. The answer was that of the Genoese. Colombo petitioned for a long time, until finally the king of Spain gave him two ships, saw that they were well equipped, and said, “Colombo, if it happens as you say, we will make you an Admiral.”

Cities and citadels are indicated on the map by red lines. Mountains are drawn in outline and rivers are marked with thick lines; rocky regions are indicated in black; shoals and shallow waters by reddish dots; and rocky areas in the sea by crosses. One of the remarkable aspects of Pirī’s map is that the features on the Atlantic bear Turkish names: Babadag (Father Mountain); Akburun (White Cape), now Cape Blanco; Yesil Burun (Green Cape), now Cape, Verde; this map is an original work based on various maps and the personal experience of Pirī Rais and his friends.

In 1528, in Gelibolu, Pirī Rais drew a second map (Figure 2). The upper left corner shows the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean and newly discovered regions of North and Central America. Greenland is in the north and the Azores in the south. The Azores include San Mikal, Santa Maria, Buriko, and San Jorjo. Two large pieces of land are depicted. The one in the north is called Baccolao; the other, Terra Nova. Pirī says that both were discovered by Portuguese. Terra Nova had not yet been fully explored, and only the known parts are shown on the map. He calls Forida “San Juan Bautisto,” the name given to Puerto Rico on the 1513 map. Cuba, Haiti, the Bahamas, and the Antilles are drawn accurately.

In the notes near Labrador, Pirī says, “This is Baccolao; the Portuguese infidels discovered it. The coasts of Terra Nova were discovered by the Portuguese explorer Carlos Real in 1500, and his brother Miguel Real discovered Labrador a year later.”

Pirī cites an explorer who planned to travel overlalnd to reach the ocean. It is quite possible that he meant Balboa, who crossed the Isthmus of Panama and reached the Pacific Ocean in 1513.

By comparison of these two maps one can easily deduce that Pirī Rais continued to follow the new discoveries with great care. He showed only the parts of the world that had been discovered and left the unexploered areas blank. When Vespucci declared that South ameica was a new continent, that land drew the attention of the geopgraphers. Consequently various maps of the new continesnt were drawn, and Pirī was the most important of the cartographers involved.

To make available all his own observations and all previous information that he could not fit onto the maps, Pirī collected them as Kitab-ī Bahriye “On navigationl” 1521). It is basically a naval guidebook with essesntial data on the most important coastal routes and large maps and detailed charts in different colors (Figure 3). The main portion of the book is devoted to the Mediterranean coast and islalnds.

The book is composed of twenty-one chapters. Pirī first gives historical and geographical information and then discusses the necessary practical navigational data. The accuracy of many of his statements is indisputable. In chapters 1 and 2 Pirī explains his aim in writing the book and describes his life at sea with Kemal Rais. In chapters 3℃5 he gives information about storms, winds, and the compass. Chapters 6 and 7 concern maps and emblematic signs on maps. In chapter 8 Pirī discusses the continents and the seas. Chapter 9 is devoted to the geographic discoveries of the Portuguese. In chapter 21 Pirī mentions the Atlantic Ocean and tells the reader of a new continent, Antilia, the mountains of which contain rich gold ores and in the seas, pearls. He says that it was discovered by sailors and gives information about the inhabitants, frightful creatures having flat faces and eyes a full span apart. The chapter on the Western Sea contains all that was known about the discovery of America at the time.


Pirī Rais’ only published work is Kitab-i Bahriye, Bahriye, Serafettin Yaltkaya, ed. (Istanbul, 1935).

Secondory literature includes A. Adnan adivar, Osmanli Türklerinde llim(Istanbul, 1943); Afet I’nap, “Bir Türk amirali; XVI. astin büyük ceografi: Pirī Reis (Un amiralgéographe ture du XVI siècle-Pir℃ Reis, auteur de la plus ancienne carte de l’Amérique),” in Belleten, 1 , no. 2 (1937), 333℃348s; America’s Oldest Map Made by a Turkish Admiral: Pirī Rels, trans. by Leman Yolaç (Ankara, 1950); and Pirī Reis’ in Amerika Haritasi, 1513℃1528 (Ankara, 1950); Yusuf Akçura, “Map Drawn by Pirī Rekjis,” In Illustrated London News (23 July 1923); and “Pirī Reis haritasi hakkinda izahname (Die Karte des Pirī Reis. Pirī Reis Map. Carte de Pirī Reis),” in Türk tarih karamu (Istanbul, 1935); W. Y. Callien, “The Evjolution fo the Map of the Earth (Dünya haritsinin evrimi),” in Ankara üniversitesi Dil ve tarth-coğrafya fakültesi dergisi, 8 , no. 1 (1949) 149℃153; H. Deismann, Forschungen und Funde im Serai (Berlin-leipzig, 1933), 111℃122; and Charles H. Hapgood, “Ancient Knowledge of America and Antarctica,” in Actes du dixième Congrès international d’historie des science (Ithacea, N.Y., 1962), 479℃485.

See also P. Kahle, Pirī Reis, Bahriye, Das türkisches segelbandbuch für das mittelländische meer von Jahre 1521, 2 vols. (Berlin℃Leipzig, 1926); “Importe clombiane in una carta turco del 1513,” in Cultura, 1 , fasc. 10 (Milan℃Rome, 1931), 1℃13; Die verscholtene Columbus Karte non 1498 in einer Türkisen Weltkarte von 1513 (Berlin℃Lepzisg, 1933), with trans. as “The Lost Columbus Map of 1498 Discovered in a Turkish Map of the world of 1513,” in Aligarh Muslim university journal (1935); Hans von Mzik,“Pirī Reis und seine Bahriye,” in Beiträge zur histroischen Geographie (Leipzig℃Vienna, 1929), 60℃76; Ibrahimş Hakki Konyali Topkapi Sarayinda deri üzerine yapilmiş eski haritalar (Istanbul℃Vinna, 1929), 60℃76; Ibrahim Hakki Konyali, Topkapi Sarayinda deri üzwerine yaplimiş eski haritalar (Istabbul, 1936); K. Kretchmer, Die Entwicklung der Kartogrphic con America (Gotha, 1891); Eugen Oberhummer, “Eine Turkische Karte zur Entdeckung Americas,” in Anzeigar der Akademie der Wissenschaftern, Wien Türkische Überlieferung,” in Mitteilungen der Geographischen Gesellschaft, Wien, 78 (1934), 115.

Additional works are Sadi Selen, “Pirī Reis’ in Simali Amerika Haritasi...,” in Belleten, 1 , no. 2 (1937), 515℃523; and Huseyin Yurdaydin, “Kitab-i Bahriye’nin telif meselesi,” in Ankara üniversitesi Dil ve tarith-coğrafya fakultesi dergisi, 10 , pts. 1℃2 (1952), 143℃146

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