The first Istanbul maps drawn by the Ottomans were miniatures characterized as descriptive maps. Except for Katib Çelebi’s map Şekl-i Haliç and Constantinople, no 19th century Istanbul map drawn by the Ottomans has yet been identified. These apart, maps from preceding centuries were created by westerners.1 In this chapter, the first depictive Istanbul drawings and maps prepared by the Ottomans are briefly discussed, with a focus on Ottoman-period cartography of Istanbul.

The first depictive (miniature) maps of Istanbul, in terms of toponomical characteristics featured characteristics of a land atlas and did not show direction or scale.2 One of the first examples was drawn up by the famous Turkish admiral and cartographer Piri Reis. In his work Kitab-ı Bahriye there is a miniature map of Istanbul.3 It shows the population density of Eyüp Sultan, Galata, Üsküdar, and the walled city along the Bosphorus, as well as large mosques, palaces, castles, gardens, and streams (Map 1).

In an Istanbul miniature in Matrakçı Nasuh’s renowned work Beyan-ı Menazil-i Sefer-i Irakeyn, we can observe Istanbul topography and its characteristic features. Here, we see Istanbul, also known as Nefs-i Istanbul, and the topography of Bilad-ı Selase—that is, Galata, Eyüp, and Üsküdar and the affiliated kadılık (judicial) regions (Map 2).

In the Istanbul miniature in Seyyid Lokman’s (d. after 1601) Hünername, which benefited from Matrakçı, attention is drawn to the dense settlement within the city walls. In particular, the neighborhoods and districts that surrounded the large külliyes (complexes) of Topkapı Palace and the Old Palace are remarkable due to the density of buildings along the north–south and east–west axes. The uniform walls, the spaciousness of the Golden Horn coastline, and the uninhabited area of the Princes’ Islands leaps out at us (Map 3).

In 17th-century Istanbul, there was a cartographers’ guild of 15 people who worked in eight shops. However, none of their maps of Istanbul are extant today. Katib Çelebi’s (d. 1657) Istanbul map, Şekl-i Halic ve Konstantiniyye, from his work Cihannüma, is important in pinpointing place names.4 The map shows neighborhoods, piers, castle gates, and the names of some palaces and mansions. This map is also an important source for 18th-century Istanbul topography (Map 4).

In 1818 a school opened to train map officers in Istanbul; this shows the importance that was given to cartography studies. Four of these 32 officers graduated in 1853 from this school, which followed the Mühendishane-i Berri and marine-related curricula for cartography.5






































During the reign of Mahmud II, between 1836 and 1837, Helmuth von Moltke, who served as a military officer in the Ottoman army, prepared a 1:25,000 scale map of Istanbul.6

Thought to have been drawn up at the Mühendishane-i Berr-i Humayun, an 1846 hand-drawn map of Istanbul and the Bosphorus is significant in that it reflects the topography of the period and uses cartographic terminology (Map 5).7

The maps drawn during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II, mostly products of the engineering schools, are highly important, because they display the features of the period. In particular, in 1876 the War College curriculum was redesigned and geography and topography were emphasized.8 These maps are a topographical presentation of the beauty of Istanbul. Most of the maps given here as examples were presented to Sultan Abdulhamid II and were preserved in the library.

A map of Istanbul drawn by Seyyid Mehmed Muhyiddin and Yaver-i Harb-i Hazret-i Şehriyarî Mirliva Seyyid Yusuf Ziyaeddin, who were serving as infantry colonels in the fifth office of the Erkân-ı Harbiye-i Umumiye, has a 1:210,000 scale and shows the population density of Istanbul and the Bosphorus (Map 6).9

A similar map submitted to Sultan Abdulhamid II, plotted by Engineer Hübner, is important as it gives the names of Istanbul’s neighborhoods. In addition, it displays street and road structures, gardens, city walls, and military and official structures with a separate color scale (Map 7).10

A 1:36,500 scale map of the Bosphorus, submitted to the sultan by Süleyman Asaf Efendi, who was an infantry major in the fifth science branch of the Erkân-ı Harbiye-i Umumiye, makes a strong visual impression and gives an idea about the level of mapping (Map 8).11

Another map was drawn by the students of the Mühendishane-i Humayun in 1845. The map covers the Darüssaltanat-i ​​Seniyye and Istanbul’s outer city walls, with Galata, Üsküdar, and the Bosphorus. It shows buildings and barracks, roads, piers, and vineyards in the vicinity. It also lists the names of the mosques, hills, famous streets and avenues, baths, and fountains in Istanbul (Map 9).12

Among the most important resources in the historical topography of Istanbul are, without a doubt, the maps drawn during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II. The fact that the maps of the Old City have been preserved makes them an important source of historical knowledge. These maps, the majority of which were drawn by the former Sehremaneti Hey’et-i Fenniyesi, were used in research conducted during and after the drawing up of maps, such as the preparation of development plans and construction of water conveyance lines. Today, these drawings are mostly used in the detection and restoration of historical works. They include the following, which are discussed in more detail below:

1- Charles Edouard Goad’s insurance maps, produced between 1904 and 1906

2- Maps known as German Blues, produced between 1913 and 1914

3- Maps drawn up by the director of the Sehremaneti Hey’et-i Fenniye, Necip Bey

4- Maps drawn up by the Erkân-ı Harbiye-i Umumiye

5- Fire maps13 and cadaster, allotment, expropriation, and direction maps

Charles Edouard Goad’s Istanbul Insurance Maps

Civil engineer Charles Edouard Goad’s maps, drawn between 1904 and 1906, make up four volumes, one showing İzmir and the other three showing Istanbul. The first of the Istanbul volumes, titled Stamboul, consists of 20 folios; the second volume, Pera-Galata, consists of 19 folios, and the third volume, Kadi-Keui, consists of 15 folios. Insurance companies operating in Istanbul commissioned these maps, drawn on a scale of 1:3,600 and 1:800. They are of particular importance as the first insurance maps in Ottoman Istanbul. Since the maps primarily show areas where European and foreign capital were invested, it is possible to understand the differences between these areas and the Muslim neighborhoods.

When Goad’s maps were drawn up, the triangulation system of mapmaking was not yet being used in Istanbul. The establishment of a triangulation network based on geological surveying in the Ottoman state, and mapping based on this surveying, began during the administration of Colonel Şevki Bey in 1909.14 Thus, the Goad maps were produced based on a local coordinate system in accordance with the demands of the insurance companies at that time.

Analysis of the maps made by Goad shows that Istanbul still consisted mostly of wooden low-rise buildings. Since data important for insurance companies were given on the map, it is possible to obtain detailed information about the urban texture of the city. In particular, stone was used in developing districts, such as Teşvikiye and Nişantaşı, and in public (commercial and religious) buildings. During this period, the Vakıf Han in Eminönü had not yet been built, and warehouses on the Golden Horn coast were still made of wood.

 The Istanbul section of the map consists of 19 folios. Folio number 1 can be considered the key folio. Folio number 2 depicts the Eminönü side of Unkapanı Bridge, while folio number 20 is focused on the Cibali district. This demonstrates that the map covers the entire insurable topography of the coastal areas in Istanbul in that period. The regions from Unkapanı Bridge to Sirkeci Train Station and Topkapı Palace, following the coast along the Divanyolu, go as far as Seraskerlik (today’s Istanbul University), going under the Süleymaniye Mosque and ending in Cibali.

This section includes a large part of the trade zone in Istanbul at that time. In this volume, block numbers start at 12 and finish at 430. The second volume starts at 24, suggesting that folios 21, 22, and 23 were planned but not completed.

The folios of the Galata-Pera region start at 24 and end with 45; folios 31–34 are not extant, and the folios between 46 and 50 are incomplete.

The Kadıköy region folios start at 51 and end at 64. The insurance potential of Kadıköy must have been so important that although many parts of the Istanbul and Gala districts were left unmapped, this region was completed.

The Goad maps are encircled by a detailed legend. In the legend, the construction techniques of the buildings, types of walls, meanings of the colors, courtyards of the apartments, fire brigades, types of doors and shutters, types of roofs, building heights, firefighting appliances, numeric logic, meaning of the abbreviations, and other building elements are all shown in detail (Map 11).15

The German Blues

These maps were drawn in Germany. It is not known why they are called by this name; it may be because the water bodies were shown in blue. The first Istanbul maps made for the purpose of urban planning, they were initiated by the Istanbul Şehremaneti (city administration), during the time when Halil Edhem Bey was şehremin (mayor) (20 June 1909–6 October 1910). The creation of a triangulation system for the making of these maps was entrusted to the French Topography Association. French planners, using Galata Tower as part of the triangulation system, completed their measurements in 1911. In 1913, mapping work based on the triangulation system was entrusted to the Deutsches Syndikat für staedtebauliche Arbeiten. The data acquired by this company were sent to Germany, where the maps were drawn up and copied; the originals were sent to Turkey.

In these 1:1,000 and 1:500 scale maps, every folio was prepared in color and measured 66 cm × 100 cm. Names of neighborhoods, districts, streets, roads, and buildings were shown, along with palaces, embassy buildings, police stations, fire departments, municipalities, mosques, lodges, madrassas, cemeteries, tombs, shrines, churches, and synagogues. Towers, walls, fortifications, barracks, police stations, shipyards, workshops, supplies, tanks, military structures, hospitals, piers, railways and railway stations, and station type public structures were also shown, along with their names and measurements. Towns, districts, avenues, streets, and building names were written in the French rather than the Turkish spelling. For example, djami was written instead of cami, and tchikmaz sokak instead of çıkmaz sokak. Although the buildings in question were shown with all their contours with measurements on the 1:500 scale maps, the types of building materials were not specified. Folio and island data were not provided, with a few exceptions, and baths and houses were not drawn. Housing was shown with a 0.5 cm thick dark gray shade around the island. The maps varied depending on when they were produced. Maps drawn in 1913 and 1914 were at a scale of 1:500 and 1:1,000 and were prepared according to the details of a single structure scale, while maps drawn from 1918 to 1921 were at a scale of 1:2,000 and were made with the quality of a city guide, and in order to show which folio belonged to which district.

Regarding the technical specifications of these maps, the following points are noteworthy:

Rectangular grid coordinates—while the central coordinates of Galata Tower are not known, the tower is depicted to the north and west. The coordinates are shown next to the grid, and all the distances and areas on the plan can be measured and calculated with the help of the grid coordinate system, which forms 100 m × 100 m squares and covers a total of 10,000 square meters. North is placed at the top, south at the bottom, west on the right, and east on the left.

Significant levels of altitude—the levels are given in centimeters starting from the level of the Golden Horn.

Auxiliary contour lines—the lines, which were given above 2 cm of the Golden Horn water level, are written according to the district. The 10 m, 20 m, 30 m, and 40 m lines are thicker than the others.

The equaling of benchmarks (the heights in millimeters from the level of the water in the Golden Horn)—benchmarks are placed horizontally and recorded on civilian works and the walls of monuments, as well as on flagstones and wide steps.

The 1:1,000 and 1:500 scale maps demonstrate the numbering and expansion of the general plan of the city.

In 1925, with the establishment of the Harita ve Kadastro Genel Müdürlüğü (Survey and Cadastre General Directorate), the German Blues were used as the basis for Istanbul’s cadastral maps.

Surrounding the maps is a legend that shows in detail Istanbul and the Bilad-i Selase (Eyüp, Galata, and Üsküdar), Beşiktaş, the Golden Horn, and surrounding areas. The folios of German Blues were written in the Ottoman script and began to be drawn up in the following years; this process continued until 1926 (Map 9).

Necib Bey's Maps

This collection consists of 15 folios; it was issued and classified in an experimental style by the Sehremaneti (city administration) and was printed in 1918 in Vienna by the Hölzel Printing House.

The maps were prepared by the Şehremaneti Survey Branch Manager Engineer, Necip Bey. The Necip Bey maps consist of the main folios of Eminönü-Fatih, Beyoğlu and Üsküdar-Kadıköy, as well as general maps of the countryside, the Princes’ Islands, and all of Istanbul. Prepared as a city guide, the maps were divided into regions and the street names of every region were recorded (Map 12).16

The folios prepared by Necip Bey depict some important government offices, schools, mosques, churches, tekkes, mebani-i hususiye (civilian structures), fountains, Islamic and Christian cemeteries, woods, forests, gardens, parks, vegetable gardens, lakes, wells, streams, lands, farms, bridges, the old walls, tram and train lines, water routes, and city boundaries. The following places are shown on the maps.

1st folio: Istanbul (Eminonu-Fatih, Ayvansaray)

2nd folio: Beyoğlu

3rd folio: the Anatolian side (Kadiköy-Üsküdar)

4th folio: First part—Ayastefanos, Makriköy, Kuruçeşme, Arnavutköy, Bebek, and Rumelihisarı

Second part—Rumelihisarı, Makriköy, Arnavutköy, and Kuruçeşme

5th folio: First part—Rumelia (the resort part), İstinye, Rumelikavağı, Sariyer, and Yeniköy

Second part—Büyükdere, Tarabya, and Yenikoy

6th folio: First part—the Anatolian countryside; the Princes’ Islands, Kuzguncuk, Beylerbeyi, and Çengelköy

Second part—Kınalıada, Burgazadası, Kuzguncuk, Beylerbeyi, and Çengelköy

7th folio: First part—a section of the Anatolian countryside, Beykoz, Anadolukavağı, and Paşabahçe

Second part—Kandilli, Kanlıca, Vaniköy, Anadoluhisarı, and Çubuklu

8th folio: Hey’et-i Umumiye (Istanbul and the Bosphorus)

Maps by the Erkan-ı Harbiye-i Umumiye

In these maps, the regions identified are kept as folios. It is possible to see details such as Istanbul’s districts, farms, green fields, streams, dairies, military areas, and watersheds. The 1:25,000 scale maps with legends are presented in 13 folios (Map 13).

Other Maps

Tens of thousands of cadastral, zoning, and direction maps were also drawn up in 18th and 19th century Istanbul. Examining these, it can be seen that they are important in the development of the historical topography of Istanbul, as well as being significant in the history of written social and cultural sources.


1 The cartography discussion in this book is presented as a separate chapter. See: Ayşe Kubilay Yetkin, “Maps Of Istanbul In Western Sources.”

2 For more information, see Fikret Sarıcaoğlu, “Harita,’ DIA, XVI, 210-216.

3 The Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul Atatürk Library, Muallim Cevdet, no. O.30.

4 This print of the map is included in Cihannüma, printed by Müteferrika Printing House. (See Fikret Sarıcaoğlu, Coskun Yilmaz, Müteferrika Müteferrika Basmacı İbrahim Efendi ve Müteferrika Matbaası: Basmaci Ibrahim Efendi and the Müteferrika Press, translated by Jane Louise Kandur, Istanbul: Esen Ofset, 2012, pp. 317-318.)

5 Cevat Ülkekul, Cumhuriyet Dönemi Türk Haritacılık Tarihi, Istanbul: Dönence Basım Yayın, 1998.

6 İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi Atatürk Library, Map Archive , no.41

7 İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi Atatürk Library, Map Archive, no.4.

8 Ülkekul, Cumhuriyet Dönemi Türk Haritacılık Tarihi, İstanbul 1998.

9 IU Lib., Rare Books, no.92 579.

10 IU Lib., Rare Books, no.92 677.

11 Istanbul University Library, Rare Book Collection, no.93 579.

12 Istanbul University Library, Rare Book Collection, no.92 677.

13 There is a separate article on this subject in the cartography section of Irfan Dağdelen‘s ‘Istanbul Fire Maps’.

14 Edip Özkale and Mustafa Rıza Şenler, Haritacı Mehmet Şevki Paşa ve Türk Haritacılık Tarihi (1919 Yılına Kadar), Ankara: Harita Genel Müdürlüğü,1980.

15 İrfan Dağdelen (ed.), Charles Edouard Goad’ın İstanbul Sigorta Haritaları, Istanbul: İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi Kütüphane ve Müzeler Müdürlüğü, 2007.

16 İstanbul Rehberi, first and second folios.; Necip Bey, Harita, no.435, 436.

This article was translated from Turkish version of History of Istanbul with some editions to be published in a digitalized form in 2019.