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African geographic myths: [ Prester John | Mountains of Kong ]
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Jodocus Hondius. "Abissinorum Sive Pretiosi Joannis Imperiu." Amsterdam: J. Hondius, 1606. 13 1/2 x 19 1/4. Engraving. Full original hand color. Top right corner of margin missing, else full margins. A few small burn spots and margin repairs. Darkened. Latin text on back. Koeman, Me 15, 125.
As early as 1122 there were stories of Prester John, who was supposed to be a Tartar chief converted to Christianity, whose kingdom was immeasurably rich. His help was sought by the Crusaders to liberate Jerusalem, and in general to help the Christian Europeans against the infidels. His existence was generally accepted by all. The Pope, on several occasions, sent out emissaries and letters to him. Marco Polo in part was looking for Prester John, and Polo reported that John had in fact existed, but had been slain by Genghis Khan in "the greatest battle that ever was seen." Searches for Prester John led to the re-establishment of ties with China and were very important in the opening of Asia.
Once it was clear that Prester John was not to be found anywhere in Asia, he found his way to Abyssinia, or central Africa. This was the current notion in the late sixteenth century, and remnants of this belief were still about after the turn of the century. This map is entitled 'Prester John's Empire,' but no specific indication is given of his kingdom on the map. A geographic myth that does appear is that of the mountains of the Moon ("Lunae Montes") and the source of the Nile is shown in two lakes in southern Africa. It would not be until the eighteenth century that this Ptolemaic misconception was finally eradicated from the map. $900
Emanuel Bowen. "A New and Correct Map of Africa." From John Harris' Complete Collection of Voyages and Travels. London, 1748. 14 3/8 x 17 5/8. Engraving. Trimmed at top just into border at left; top margin expertly replaced. Otherwise, very good condition.
Emanuel Bowen was a map engraver, printer and publisher in London in the mid-eighteenth century. He achieved considerable success in this field, being appointed as engraver to both Louis XV of France and George II of Britain, and later as Geographer to the latter. He produced some of the most interesting maps of his time. Despite his royal appointments and apparent success, Bowen died in poverty in 1767. Through all the vicissitudes of his life, however, Emanuel Bowen's maps continued at a very high level of quality, as exemplified by this nicely detailed map of Africa, "Drawn from the most Approved Modern Maps and Charts, and adjusted by Astronomical Observations, representing also the course of the Trade Winds Monsoons &c." The winds noted by Bowen are shown around the continent, as this information was important for the extensive shipping that regularly rounded the continent for trade between Europe and the Far East. Detail in the interior is copious, some accurate and much inaccurate. The Nile is shown rising in the Ethiopian highlands from Lake Dambea. The Senegal River is shown extending much to far east, the eastern part being a misrepresentation of the Niger River, which does not appear at all. Dutch settlements are indicated in South Africa, just north of which is labeled "The Hottentots." Other interior information features wells, forts, lakes, mines, and "Antropophages or Men Eaters." $525
Rigobert Bonne. "Carte de la Guinée." From Atlas Moderne ou Collection de Cartes sur toutes les parties du Globe Terrestre. Engraving. Paris: Jean Lattré & Delalain, -1775?. On two sheets: each map approx. 16 5/8 x 12 1/4. Original hand color. Very good condition.
Rigobert Bonne (1727-1795) produced a large number of atlases and charts, and his maps also appeared in Lattré & Delalain's Atlas Moderne. Maps from this atlas used information compiled from 1762 until 1775. This map depicts a very accurate image of the West African coast, extending from the Cape Verde islands in the northwest to "Cap Negro" south of Congo. Major rivers and towns are noted, and current political divisions are shown with lovely pastel hand-coloring. A finely etched title cartouche graces the lower left of the first sheet. For the pair: $600
J. Aspin. "Africa." From C. V. Lavoisne's A Complete Genealogical, Historical & Chronological Atlas. Philadelphia: M. Carey & Son, 1820. Map, 11 x 11 1/2; full sheet with text, 16 5/7 x 20 3/8. Engraving by Young & Delleker. Full original color. Very good condition.
A map of Africa issued is illustrate Lavoisne's Historical Atlas. The maps in this atlas were issued on sheets containing text around the maps giving the situation and history of the areas depicted. The map of Africa shows the political situation of the continent near the beginning of the nineteenth century, as known at the time. The text surrounding presents the history, physical description and political state of the continent. An excellent visual and verbal history of the country. $250
John Thomson. "Africa." From A New General Atlas. Edinburgh: J. Thomson, 1821. Engraving by Neele & Son. 19 1/2 x 23 1/4. Full original hand color. Full Very good condition.
A lovely and detailed map of Africa from Scottish mapmaker, John Thomson. This map was issued shortly before the period of extensive European exploration on the interior, so much of the continent is shown as "Regions unexplored." However, by the time this map was published, James Bruce had penetrated into Ethiopia and Mungo Park had explored in western Africa. Thomson shows good details based on these exploration and where else he had information, such as in the Congo and Southern Africa. The map is divided (somewhat arbitrarily) into regions with lovely pastel coloring, making the map as attractive as it is interesting. $525
In 1831, Thomas Starling issued his Family Cabinet Atlas in 12mo format, each small map filled with precise detail. A year later, the Philadelphia firm of Henry Charles Carey and Isaac Lea issued their version of this atlas, "Revised, Corrected and Enlarged." The maps were based on the British atlas, but with the plates re-engraved. This is an interesting map showing the state of understanding of the "dark continent" at the time. The coastal regions show different 'nations,' with towns and rivers noted. The middle of the continent is mostly empty, except the Donga Mountains are shown as the source of the Nile. The hand color and small size makes this map as charming as it is interesting. $75
A nice group of maps from Boston publisher and cartographer, Thomas G. Bradford. Issued in 1835, Bradford's Atlas contained maps of the United States and other parts of the world, based on the most up-to-date information available at the time. Cities, rivers, lakes, and some orography are depicted. Because Bradford continued to update his maps as he issued them in different volumes, this political information is very interesting for historic purposes.
A fascinating map from the early 19th century. This map shows the continent shortly after slaves were emancipated in the Cape Colony. Detail is impressive, with topography, settlements and political divisions indicated. Also many notes on local tribes. $225
Other Lothian maps of Africa:
A pair of maps of northern and southern Africa from a series of precisely detailed maps of the world from one of the leading British mapmaking firms of the nineteenth century. Adam and Charles Black issued atlases from the 1840s through the 80s, keeping their maps as current as possible. This handsome pair is a good example of their output. $110
"Map of Africa from the Latest Authorities." Philadelphia: Charles Desilver, 1856. 12 1/4 x 15 1/4. Lithograph. Original hand color. Very good condition. With decorative border.
Charles Desilver, one of the many publishers working in Philadelphia during the mid-nineteenth century, issued an atlas of maps based on the famous Tanner-Mitchell-Cowperthwait series. Desilver used much the same information as originally drawn in the 1840s, but updated the maps with new roads, towns, and other information. This map is typical of the rather unusual and scarce Desilver atlas. Inset showing "Map of the Republic of Liberia from Gurley's Report". An attractive and fascinating document. $160
Frank A. Gray. "Gray's New Map of Africa." Philadelphia: O.W. Gray & Son, 1881. 15 x 12. Lithograph, engraved on stone by J.M. Atwood & W.H. Helms. Original hand color. Chip in top right corner; else very good condition. Backed with map of Asia.
The last part of the nineteenth century was a period of intense European exploration of Africa and this map reflects the latest information available on the "dark continent." For instance, information from Stanley's 1874-77 explorations to Lake Victoria and the Congo are included, as is much other interior detail that is impressively updated from earlier maps. The political situation of the continent is also up-to-date, with the Orange River Free State and Natal shown, and other nations/colonies along the coasts. Insets are included of St. Helena and the delta of the Nile. A wonderfully detailed and current snap-shot of Africa at an exciting period of its history. $150
James Wyld. "Wyld's New Map of Central Africa, Shewing All The Most Recent Discoveries & Explorations." London: J. Wyld, 1891. Separately issued, folding map: dissected into 32 sections and mounted on line. 23 x 30. Engraving. Full, original hand color. Some light surface soiling and scattered, neat manuscript notes and underlines. Very good condition and appearance. Folding into worn, original cloth covers.
From 1874 to 1877, H.M. Stanley's second expedition into Central Africa explored from the east coast, up to Lake Victoria, and then ending on the Congo. Inspired by Stanley's reports of the rich potential of this region, King Leopold of Belgium, in 1876, founded the International Association for the Exploration and Civilization of Central Africa. The Belgians were not the only European power interested in this region. The Portuguese had control of the mouth of the Congo River, with the French controlling the north side and the International Association the southern side and most of the vast interior. By 1884 the Association had become the Congo State, which the following year lost any International nature, becoming the personal possession of King Leopold. In the meantime, France, Germany, Britain, and the Portuguese jockeyed for land in the rest of Central Africa, making treaties and exerting power without much regard for native African wishes. This map shows the various spheres of control of these powers, their lands indicated with colors explained in a key in the lower left. $525
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