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Cyprus and Greek Cypriot Collections at the Library of Congress

Geography and Maps

Atlas of Nicosia and Suburbs. Library of Congress General Collections.

The Library of Congress holds a sizeable collection of cartographic materials on Cyprus. Located in the Geography and Map Division, the collection encompasses hundreds of maps, atlases, cartobibliographies, gazetteers and other types of reference materials related to the island of Cyprus. While many of these items are cataloged, and a smaller number has been digitized by now, older materials which came into the Library's possession before 1970, remain uncatalogued. In all, they depict the island's geopolitical transformation from the late medieval Byzantine and Venetian periods, to the Ottoman early modern and modern eras and the present day with material from the late British colonial period onward being the dominating components.

Beginning with the oldest maps, many of which are held in the vaults of the Geography and Maps Reading Room, Cyprus is often portrayed as part of the Mediterranean Sea with the trade routes which connected it to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. "A Portolan Chart of the Mediterranean Sea ca. 1320-1350," a manuscript chart of the Mediterranean and Black Sea on Vellum is quite possibly the oldest map in the Library's possession depicting Cyprus. The second oldest map, also held in the vaults of the Geography and Maps Reading Room, is a 1541 Latin reproduction of Ptolemy's Taboulanoua Asiaeminoris. Further interesting examples of rare maps include the 1573 of  "Cypri Insulae Nova Descript.," presumed to be from an undetermined edition of Ortelius' Theatrum Orbis Terrarum and William Berry's The Empire of the Great Turke in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Ortelius and Berry, the first Dutch and the second English, represented the cohort of early modern European map makers who transformed the science of cartography as European powers began to compete successfully at sea in conjunction with the Ottomans who took control of Cyprus in 1571, after the Battle of Lepanto. A fine example of Ottoman cartography, which includes Cyprus, is in the so-called Cedid atlas tercümesi [Translation of the New Atlas], recently digitized. In 50 leaves, the atlas shows different parts of the world in regional perspective, including present-day Turkey and Asia Minor, depicting Cyprus clearly in this map.  

Moving on to the British colonial period and that of Cypriot independence, one notices that the Library's cartographic holdings reflect a focus on land surveys, ethnography, as well as street atlases. The holdings from this period, 1878-1960, include a large number of single and multiple-sheet maps which showcase Cypriot land surveys commissioned by both English and Cypriot authorities following independence. Interesting examples include the "Cyprus Ethnic Communities" map of 1956 showing the ethnic breakdown in both the urban and rural makeup of the island. In addition to these set maps, the Geography and Maps Reading Room holds a considerable number of street atlases from Nicosia, the capital city of Cyprus.

About the Geography and Map Reading Room

The Geography and Map Division (G&M) has custody of the largest and most comprehensive cartographic collection in the world with collections numbering over 5 million maps, 100,000 atlases, 8,000 reference works, over 5000 globes and globe gores, 3,000 raised relief models, over 130,000 microfiche/film, and a large number of cartographic materials in other formats.