Piri Reis

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Piri Reis (full name Hadji Muhiddin Piri Ibn Hadji Mehmed, reis/rais is Turkish for captain) was an Ottoman Kaptan-ı Derya, geographer and cartographer born between 1465 and 1470 and died in 1554 or 1555.

He is primarily known today for his maps and charts collected in his Kitab-ı Bahriye (Book of Navigation), a book which contains detailed information on navigation as well as very accurate for its time charts describing the important ports and cities of the Mediterranean Sea. He gained fame as a cartographer when a small part of his first world map (prepared in 1513) was discovered in 1929 at Topkapı Palace in Istanbul. His world map is the oldest known Turkish atlas showing the New World, and one of the oldest maps of America still in existence in the world. (The oldest known map of America that is still in existence is the map drawn by Juan de la Cosa in 1500, which is conserved in the Naval Museum (Museo Naval) of Madrid, Spain.) Piri Reis' map is centered in Sahara at the Tropic of Cancer latitude.[1]

In 1528 Piri Reis drew a second world map, of which a small fragment showing Greenland and North America from Labrador and Newfoundland in the north to Florida, Cuba and parts of Central America in the south. According to his imprinting text he had drawn his maps using about twenty foreign charts and mappa mundi (Arab, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Indian and Greek) included one of Christopher Columbus.[2]



Little is known about the identity of Piri Reis. Even the name roughly translated means "sea captain" [3]. His origin is debatable, with sources referring to him as Christian, possibly Greek [4] , Greek [5] , Jewish [6] , or ethnic Turkish [7]. Hadji Ahmed Muhiddin Piri [8] was born either in Gallipoli of the European part of the Ottoman Empire [9] [10] or in Karaman, central Anatolia [11], but the exact date of his birth is unknown. He was son of Hadji Mehmed Piri, brother of the Admiral Kemal Reis [12] and began engaging in piracy when he was young, in 1481, following his uncle Kemal Reis, a well-known pirate and seafarer of the time who later became famous Admiral of the Ottoman fleet [9]. During the periods the Ottomans were at war, together with his uncle, he took part in many naval fights against Spanish, Genoese and Venetians, including the First Battle of Lepanto (Battle of Zonchio) in 1499 and Second Battle of Lepanto (Battle of Modon) in 1500. When his uncle Kemal Reis drowned in 1511 when his ship wrecked by a storm, Piri returned to Gallipoli where he started working his study about navigation.

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