The sixteenth-century Portuguese Suma Oriental and the Arab pilots
A comparative summa orientalis?
Keywords:Arab navigation, Early modern encounters, Indian Ocean nautical literature, Knowledge transfer, Portuguese expansion
Starting from a consideration of Tomé Pires’ 1515 Suma Oriental, this article considers the feasibility, nature, and relevance of a summa orientalis in the form of a Portuguese Early Maritime Corpus. When this corpus is compared with Arabic nautical literature, primarily Ibn Mājid and Sulaymān al-Mahrī, and especially with attention to the technical aspects of their writings, then the desirability of an Indian Ocean Maritime Corpus is envisaged. The centrality and the mediating role of Arab pilots and Arabic nautical literature indicate that the first step is the delimitation of an Arabic Early Maritime Corpus.
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