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Pietro Della Valle's Latin Geography of Safavid Iran (1624-1628): Introduction

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This article argues that Pietro della Valle's Latin geography of the Safavid Empire is important for taking a middle ground between two common tendencies of early modern authors in Catholic and Protestant Europe when writing about Western Asia and Northern Africa. While cartographers and mapmakers—in Venice, Antwerp, Amsterdam, and Paris—privileged new information (from travelers) in their choice of place names, those who wrote on the history or geography of these regions often suppressed local knowledge, giving preference to terms from ancient Greek and Latin history and geography, enriched by reference to the Bible. Della Valle, while traveling in Ottoman and Safavid territories, made intensive efforts to learn major local languages and acquire information about contemporary political, cultural, and physical geography, as documented in his diary and the original copies of his letters written during the long years of travel. The approach he takes in his geography of the Safavid Empire is thus close to choices made by the cartographers and mapmakers.


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