A Rare Ottoman Atlas Was Rediscovered in Norway's National Library

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons / Wikimedia Commons

A reference librarian at the National Library of Norway was recently browsing through the shelves when he stumbled across a beautiful, hand-colored Ottoman atlas dating back to 1803. Little did he know that the work was actually an extremely rare copy of the Cedid Atlas—the first atlas based on western practices and information printed by Muslims.

According to the The Washington Post, the librarian—a man named Anders Kvernberg, who’s known as PisseGuri82 on Reddit—scanned a few pages of his find and shared them with the online community under a subreddit called MapPorn. Several weeks later, Kvernberg revisited the thread and noticed that another user had uploaded a page from the same atlas. A commenter had labeled it as a scan from the Library of Congress’s copy of the "Cedid Atlas Tercumesi." Only 50 copies were ever created, and only 14 purported to still exist. After conducting his own research on the text, a surprised Kvernberg reported on Reddit that apparently a 15th exists as well.

The atlas had been registered in the National Library of Norway’s card catalog but not its digital catalog. A reference librarian, however, was able to make out a name written inside the book, which linked the work to its possible previous owner. He was a textile importer from Oslo who may have purchased the atlas in the 1930s while traveling in Albania and southern Yugoslavia—countries that once belonged to the Ottoman Empire. His timing was serendipitous, as Germany would later occupy the region during World War II, and it's likely that the man saved the text from destruction. The atlas was probably donated to the library in the 1950s, where it was preserved in a light- and temperature-controlled environment for decades until it was rediscovered by Kvernberg.

The Cedid Atlas will be passed along to the library’s preservationist, and it might be digitalized and put online so the world can experience the remarkable find. Until then, you can check out more pictures of the newly rediscovered work on Reddit. 

[h/t NPR]