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Africa Ex magna orbis terre descriptione Gerardi Mercatoris desumpta, Studio & industria
Estimated value: $1050 - $1500
This is a very fine example of an iconic antique map of the African continent, by Gerard Mercator Junior (grandson of Gerard Mercator). The map was published out of Amsterdam sometime between 1606 and 1613 but deviates little from how Africa was presented by Mercator (the elder) in his monumental, twenty-one sheet wall map of the World, first published in 1569.
This old color map of Africa was one of the most influential 16th - 17th century maps of the continent and was widely regarded as one of the most geographically accurate maps of Africa of the era. With great detail, the map delineates the course of rivers and locations of regions, villages, and cities (some fictitious) throughout the continental interior and along the coasts.
European exploration is depicted throughout the map, but especially so with the delineation of the Cuama (Zambezi) River in the northern portion of Benamataxa. Much of the interior geography of the map was derived from Ptolemaic beliefs, most notably is the depiction of the Nile originating from two lakes within “Lune Montes,” (Mountains of the Moon). This theory of origination for the Nile river would last centuries, and one day bring about the many expedition financed by the Royal Geographical Society in the 19th century, the most famous of which being that of Dr. Livingston.
Unlike many other maps of Africa from the 16th and 17th centuries, this map lacks the numerous vignettes of animals and scenes of indigenous people that were often times schematically placed in area of geographic uncertainty to hide the cartographer’s ignorance of the massive continent. The only figure placed on the map is that of the legendary Prester John along the western bank of the Nile River. Prester John was mythical Catholic king / priest believed to rule over a vast and wealthy kingdom somewhere within the interiors of Ethiopia. The myth of Prestor John lasted from the twelfth to seventeenth century, with his supposed kingdom believed to originally be located in Asia, but from 1300 onwards was increasingly associated with Ethiopia.
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