The Book of Roger

Bodleian Library, 2017

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In July 2017, Factum Arte's Oak Taylor Smith digitized the maps of The Book of Roger, a 12th-century geographical compendium held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The book was commissioned by Roger II of Sicily in 1138 and written by Al-Idrisi in 1154.

Al Idrisi's Book of Roger

The book contains seventy maps depicting various regions of the world

The Book of Roger contains seventy regional longitudinal maps and a circular representation of the entire world. Both the regional and the circular map place the North at the bottom. Roger II engraved the smaller world map, which is centered in Mecca, onto a silver table. Al-Idrisi's maps remained one of the most accurate depictions of the world for almost two centuries.

The Book of Roger includes a map of world

To create his maps, Al-Idrisi compiled and assessed testimonies and travel accounts for almost fifteen years. He discarded all diverging accounts and depicted the knowledge that was corroborated from multiple sources.

Recording The Book of Roger at the Bodleian Library

Oak Taylor Smith worked with curators and conservators from the library

The book was digitized using non-contact technologies

Processing the photographs during the recording to verify the quality of the information

The book is divided into seven climate zones, each of which has ten longitudinal section maps. The maps were digitized and all photographs were recorded using a specific Xrite ColorChecker profile generated for the recording. The pages with maps were photographed from left to right to reduce deformation in the final images.

The resulting seventy images were subsequently mounted as an atlas (see above). This large map was produced by combining photographs of the individual maps. Ana Paola Ferrrara digitally aligned the maps to produce this representation. Many details in the borders of the individual pages did not align with those adjacent and this was corrected to match.

Detail of the new world map showing Sicily.

Al Idrisi placed the North to the bottom in all his maps

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