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Title: Ptolemy - the First UNGEGN Toponymist
Subtitle: Commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of the First United Nations Conference on the Standardisation of Geographical Names
Author(s): KADMON, Naftali
Journal: Onoma
Volume: 35    Date: 2000   
Pages: 123-143
DOI: 10.2143/ONO.35.0.574371

Abstract :
The paper opens with a list of qualifications ideally required of an expert on geographical names. These include a solid knowledge of geography, linguistics and phonetics, history, cartography and some geodesy. Toponymy is thus an interdisciplinary topic. The background of Alexandrine science is examined and the contributions by some of Ptolemy's predecessors mentioned. Ptolemy's own work on astronomy, geometry - plane and spherical - is briefly reviewed, and a description of his great cartographic-toponymic work, the Geographia, follows. The writer recognizes three aspects of Ptolemy's work in the Geographia, namely the geographical, the cartographic and the toponymic, and then focuses on the approximately 8100 geographical names in the maps as well as on the cartographic aspects of the work, including the problems of map projections and map design. Ptolemy had to solve problems of translation, transcription and transliteration. Some examples of names treatment in the Holy Land are shown. The last section of the paper deals in more detail with Ptolemy's great toponymic innovation: the name list, which constitutes the first-ever geographical gazetteer with quantitative data (i.e. coordinates), attached to the oldest atlas-like collection of maps. The name list forecasts much of UNGEGN's work today. Finally, the acronym describing Ptolemy in the title of the present paper is interpreted.

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