Original Copenhagen edition of Niebuhr’s map of Yemen, from the first scientific mission to Arabia.

Terrae Yemen maxima Pars seu Imperii Imami, Principatus Kaukebân nec non ditionum Haschid u Bekil, Nehhm, Chaulan, Aleu Arisch et Aden Tabula


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SKU: NL-00659 Category: Tag:
Cartographer(s): Carsten Niebuhr
Date: 1771
Place: Copenhagen
Dimensions: 37 x 57 cm (13.5 x 22.5 in)
Condition Rating: VG+


Rare original Copenhagen edition of Carsten Niebuhr’s map of Yemen (there was a later, more common issue of the map published in Amsterdam starting in 1774).

This seminal map depicts the southwest portion of the tip of the Arabian Peninsula, what is now the western part of Yemen. In the south, it extends west from Aden along the southern coast until Bab al-Mandeb and Parim Island at the opening to the Red Sea. In the north, the map covers part of what is now the southwestern corner of Saudi Arabia, including the towns of Jizan and Abu Arish.

With exceptional use of shading, the map accurately represents the geography of western Yemen, which is comprised of a broad coastal strip that rises to interior peaks and plateaus. Thus the eye travels from the port city of Mocha, famous as a marketplace for coffee, northeast to Sanaʽa, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, which, at an elevation of 2,300 meters (7,500 ft), it is also one of the highest capital cities in the world.

The Arabian Peninsula in the 18th century remained an unknown frontier. To ameliorate this lack of information, the Royal Danish Arabia Expedition of 1761-7 was launched, the first European scientific mission to Arabia. The sole survivor was German mathematician Carsten Niebuhr, who employed modern marine surveying techniques to produce the most accurate charts yet seen of the region.

Issued in Beschreibung von Arabien aus eigenen Beobachtungen und im Lande selbst gesammleten Nachrichten, 1772, with the map engraved and dated to 1771.


Carsten Niebuhr

Carsten Niebuhr (1733-1815), a German mathematician, cartographer, and explorer in the service of Denmark, is renowned for his participation in the Royal Danish Arabia Expedition (1761-1767).

The Danish Arabia expedition was a Danish scientific expedition to Egypt, Arabia and Syria. Its principal goal was to elucidate the Old Testament with additional research goals concerned with natural history, geography and cartography. It had six members of whom only Carsten Niebuhr survived, returning to Denmark in 1767. The journey has been chronicled by the 20th century novelist, Thorkild Hansen, in his novel Arabia Felix.

Condition Description

Old folds, small marginal stain to lower left corner; very good or better.