Browse Primary Sources
Primary sources from world and global history, including images, objects, texts, and digitally-born materials – annotations by scholars contextualize sources.
John Bartholomew modern rendering of Toscanelli 1474 map

From John Bartholomew, Literary and historical atlas of America

This unusual map appeared in a 1911 atlas of America by John George Bartholomew, a prestigious Scottish cartographer and geographer. In this map Bartholomew dramatized the provincialism of European cartography three centuries earlier. He did so by superimposing the Americas on a reconstruction of a 1474 map of Italian cartographer Paolo Toscanelli.

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World map of 1502 showing the Americas

Cantino planisphere

The famous Cantino planisphere was made in 1502 by an anonymous Portuguese official at the request of Alberto Cantino, an Italian agent in Lisbon of Ercole d’Este, Duke of Ferrara. It is the earliest map showing the recent discoveries by the explorer Vasco da Gama, who, using a new portable version of astronomers’ astrolabe, charted Brazil, Newfoundland, Greenland, Africa, and India.

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Martellus world map 1490

World map by Henricus Martellus

Henricus Martellus was a German geographer and cartographer who worked in the Italian city of Florence from 1480 to 1496. His book of 1490, Insularium Illustratum ("Illustrated Book of Islands"), in which this map appeared, was widely circulated for two reasons.

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Close-up image of an early modern Ottoman sajjadah rug

Early Modern Ottoman Carpet at the Walters Art Museum

This carpet is a specific type of carpet woven in the Islamic world called a sajjadah or prayer rug. Typically, these carpets will have one or more arches decorating its center field representing early mosque architecture or the mihrab a niche in a wall that directs the worshipper towards the holy site of Mecca.

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Close-up image of an early modern Ottoman sajjadah rug

Islamic Carpet made in Ottoman Turkey at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This carpet is a specific type of carpet woven in the Islamic world called a sajjadah or prayer rug. Typically, these carpets will have one or more arches decorating its center field representing early mosque architecture or the mihrab a niche in a wall that directs the worshipper towards the holy site of Mecca.

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Image of a sixteenth-century Ottoman carpet showing a portion of the carpet's main design field that contains a triple arch design with slender double columns and a hanging lamp in the central archway

Islamic Carpet made in Safavid Iran

This carpet called the Qazvin Carpet (also known as the "Salting Carpet") was made in late-sixteenth century Safavid Iran likely in a royal atelier.

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Close-up image of an early modern Islami Carpet

Islamic Carpets

These three carpets made in the period between the 16th and 18th centuries show two distinct types of carpets produced in the Islamic World for particular culture-specific uses.

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Brooklyn's Annual Panorama Competition

Brooklyn's Panorama Competition

The Panorama is one of the biggest events for steel bands in Brooklyn. Originating in Trinidad, it is tied to the Carnival season and is best understood as a music competition embedded in a series of festive activities and performances.

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Neolithic bone flutes

Neolithic Bone Flutes

The use of musical instruments, such as clay flutes and bone whistles, has been traced back to the earliest documented historical period in China (Shang dynasty, 1765-1121 BCE).

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Javanese Gamelan Ensemble during a traditional Javanese Wedding Ceremony

Javanese Gamelan

Here, a Javanese gamelan (court orchestra) performs at a traditional wedding ceremony in Indonesia. A gamelan relies on intricate music played on expensive, exquisite bronze instruments to convey their community's values, ideals, and self-image. What the gamelan performs depends on context. In a private, intimate court setting, the gamelan displays the elegance and largesse of its patrons.

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