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Important, Early Map of Africa

Africa. MUNSTER, S. [Basel, 1559]
Totius Africae tabula, & descriptio universalis, etiam ultra Ptolemaei limites extensa. 10 ½ x 13 ½ inches.
Fine hand color; excellent condition.

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Beautiful, finely colored example of “the earliest, readily available, printed map to show the entire continent of Africa” (Betz). Richly evocative of its early period, it is embellished with a galleon in full sail, a relatively realistic elephant, parrots, and a Cyclops. The map is an interesting blend of then current information with classical sources that formed the basis of all mapping in the 16th century. It "is based partly on Ptolemaic, partly on Portuguese and partly on Arabic sources" (Tooley), the overall shape of the continent having been derived from the Portuguese. Betz believes “a source for the interior of North Africa may have been the Descrittione dell‘Africa written in manuscript by al Hassan (Leo Africanus) in 1526.” As would be the case with virtually all 16th and 17th century maps of Africa, Munster’s depiction of the Nile and its headwaters follows that of Ptolemy, with the source of the White Nile presented as two lakes fed by streams emanating from Ptolemy’s Mountains of the Moon. In approximate accord with reality, another lake is shown as the source of the Blue Nile (though considerably to the south of Lake Tana).


Betz, Mapping of Africa, no. 3 var.11; MCCS No.29, #6; Norwich, O.I. Maps of Africa, Map 2.

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