Exploring Africa

Introduction | Island 1 | Island 2 | Island 3 | Island 4 | Island 5 | References

Island 2: Portuguese Discoveries and
Dutch Map-makers


Theodor Johann de Bry, c. 1527-1598, and Johann Israel de Bry
"Tabula hanc Aegypti"
in Philip Pigafetta, 1533-1604; Augustus Reinius, transl.
Vera descriptio regni Africani, quod tam incolis quam Lusitanis Congus appellatur [de Bry's Lesser Voyages, part one]
Frankfurt: Wolfgang Richter, 1598.

The Frankfurt engraver Theodor de Bry issued two major series of exploration narratives, with fine illustrations and beautiful, now very rare, maps. The University is fortunate to possess a set of de Bry's Greater Voyages (1590-1630), with the accounts of voyages to North and South America, but does not own his second series, the Lesser Voyages (1598-1628), which prints voyages to Africa, India and the Far East; the set displayed here has been generously loaned by a University of South Carolina alumnus, Mr. James P. Barrow. Early Portuguese penetration of the African interior was long underestimated, and this map of southern Africa, inserted in the first account, derived from that of the Portuguese explorer Duarte Lopez as redrawn by the Italian geographer Filippo Pigafetta, is notable for including much more realistic detail about inland Africa interior (notably the existence of large lakes). Lopez had first gone to Africa in 1578. The map's dedication, referring to the empire of "John the Presbyter, King of the Congo and surrounding regions," draws attention to longstanding European fascination with the legendary Prester John.
On loan from James P. Barrow, Class of '62.

Theodor Johann de Bry, c. 1527-1598, and Johann Israel de Bry
"Plate IV: The Famous Marketplace in Cabo Corso"
in Icones seu verae vivaere praesentationes omnium . . . in aurifero Guineae littore [de Bry's Lesser Voyages, part seven]
Frankfurt: Wolfgang Richter, 1603.

Theodor de Bry's original inspiration for the Voyages had been the Englishman John White's illustrations for Harriot's account of Sir Walter Raleigh's voyage to Virginia (London, 1588), and both of de Bry's series included engravings of people, dress and places described in the narrative accounts. This plate, with its detailed annotation keyed to letters on each group of market traders, testifies to the developed African trading economy encountered by Portuguese explorers such as Lopes. "Cabo Corso" was the Portuguese name for the low bank of slate that protected the landing place at their major settlement on the Gold Coast (hence the later English corruption of Cape Castle).
On loan from James P. Barrow, Class of '62.

Jacob Hondius, 1563-1612
"Hondius his Map of Africa"
from Samuel Purchas, Haklvytvs posthumus or Pvrchas his Pilgrimes
London: Printed by W. Stansby for H. Fetherstone, 1625.

Jacob Hondius and his son fled from Holland to London in 1584, to escape religious persecution, and their reengravings of Mercator's projection, together with original maps, became among the most frequently reprinted of the early 17th century. This volume was one of the original books from South Carolina College, now needing preservation work.

Jacob Hondius, 1563-1612
"Hondius his Map of Congo"
from Samuel Purchas, Haklvytvs posthumus or Pvrchas his Pilgrimes
London: Printed by W. Stansby for H. Fetherstone, 1625.

This map of the Congo illustrates the Lopez Congo account, here made available in yet another translation, for English readers. The many placenames both on the coast and inland testify to the international and exploratory nature of precolonial contact with coastal Africa and to European recognition of existing African power structures.

Jeronimo Lobo, 1596?-1678; Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784, transl.
A voyage to Abyssinia. . . . From the French
London: A. Bettesworth, and C. Hitch, 1735.

Portuguese penetration of Africa ran down the east coast as well as the west, and the ancient civilization of Ethiopia held a special fascination. King Joao II, avid for knowledge of Prester John, sent envoys to Ethiopia as early as the 1490s, and subsequently, in the 1540s, the Portuguese gave military aid to the Ethiopian emperor and court against Muslim invasion. In 1625 the emperor declared himself Catholic. This chatty account by a Portuguese Jesuit missionary, who visited Ethiopia in 1625-1634, lay unpublished in a Lisbon monastery until rescued by the French scholar Joachim LeGrand in 1728; it was LeGrand's version that, translated into English, became the first published book of the young scholar Samuel Johnson (for which he earned 5 pounds); in Lobo, Johnson wrote approvingly, are "no romantick absurdities . . . here are no Hottentots without Religion, Polity, or Articulate Language." Twenty-five years later, Johnson was to make Ethiopia the setting for his philosophical novel Rasselas (1759).

Willem Janzoon Blaeu, 1571-1638
"Africae Nova Descriptio"
in Afrique, qui est la troisieme parte de la Geographie Baluiane, livre unique [bound with vol. XII: Espagne of Joan Blaeu's Le grand atlas]
Amsterdam: chez Jean Blaeu, 1667.

This decorative hand-colored copperplate engraving is among the earlier work of one of the best-known early seventeenth century Dutch map-makers, Willem Blaeu, and was originally prepared in 1617 for his series of maps of the continents. Subsequently, the plate was reused in his own Atlantis Appendix (1630), and in his son Joan's great series the Atlas Maior, with different editions with text in various languages (1662-1672). Among its inland features, note the westward direction of the river Niger.

Willem Bosman
A new and accurate description of the coast of Guinea, divided into the Gold, the Slave, and the Ivory Coasts . . . with a particular account of the rise, progress and present condition of all the European settlements upon that coast; and the just measures for improving the several branches of the Guinea trade. To which is prefix'd, an exact map of the whole coast of Guinea, that was not in the original
London: J. Knapton, 1705.

The immediate appearance in both English and French of this book, only a year after its initial Dutch publication, is a sign of the growing multinational involvement in the coastal trade of West Africa. Its author, the Dutchman Willem Bosman, had spent fourteen years trading on the West African Guinea coast before writing this account. The foldout map mentioned on the English title-page indicates the increased number and variety of coastal European settlements by the early 18th century; it was engraved by the emigre Dutch cartographer, Herman Moll (fl. 1678-1732), who moved to London about 1680, and who had recently produced a much larger map of Africa (c. 1700) with inset views of various coastal forts and castles.

Thomas Clarkson, 1760-1846
The history of the rise, progress, and accomplishment of the abolition of the African slave-trade by the British parliament
2 vols. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1808.

In his account of the lengthy British parliamentary agitation for the abolition of the Atlantic slave-trade, Clarkson records that this well-known plan and section of a typical slave-ship, originally published in 1788 and "designed to give spectators an idea of the sufferings of the Africans in the Middle Passage" across the Atlantic, "seemed to make an instantaneous impression of horror on all who saw it, and . . . was therefore very instrumental in serving the the cause of the injured Africans." Slavery itself was not abolished in the British empire till 1833, but in the early and mid-19th century, much European exploration in Africa would be justified by the aim of reaching inland slaving centers to end the trade there also.
Donated by Richard Wingate Lloyd, Camden.

Olaudah Equiano (Gustavus Vassa), 1745?-1797

Some of the most important sources of information about precolonial African society are the writings of ex-slaves such as Olaudah Equiano. Equiano, an Igbo from the eastern part of Nigeria, was taken when he was ten by local slavers and sold down to the coast. After a period in the West Indies and the United States, mostly working as a seaman, he was freed in 1766, at the age of twenty-one, and eventually settled in Britain, where he attempted, unsuccessfully, to return to Africa with the first grooup of freed slaves at the Sierra Leone settlement. The early chapters ofhis autobiography, first published in 1789 and several times reprinted, give one of the fullest pictures of traditional Igbo life before Chinua Achebe's novels nearly 200 years later.


Introduction | Island 1 | Island 2 | Island 3 | Island 4 | Island 5 | References

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