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Astronomical maps and atlases, rare celestial and terrestrial spheres dated to the XV-XVII centuries, old solar and lunar calendars...
 
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Abraham Ortelius Africa map

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Series : Navigation and Geography
Unique ID : gc.02.0007
Authors : Abraham Ortelius
Issued : Antwerp
Edition : 1603
Area shown : central Africa

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Presbiteri Iohannis, sive, Abissinorum Imperii description. This map of Africa was made by Abraham Ortelius (1527-1598), and its copperplate was published in Ortelius’s Theatrum orbis terrarium in Antwerp, 1603. Often called the Prester John map, the map was not added to Ortelius’s landmark atlas till the 1573 editions. This 1603 copy, as is often the case with early Africa maps, shows that no changes were made in the interval. The many notes added by Ortelius provide insights into the prevailing myths of the time. For example, he says that the Niger River, shown flowing north from Lake Niger (Niger lacus), goes underground for sixty miles and emerges in Lake Borno (Borno lacus); that sirens and sea gods live in Lake Zaire (Zaire lacus); and that the sons of Prester John were kept captive by rulers at Mount Amara (Amara mons). Prester John’s coat of arms occupies the upper right corner. Oddly, an Egyptian dhow is pictured off the west coast. This is certainly one of the maps that Jonathan Swift had in mind when he quipped in verse: So Geographers in Afric-maps With Savage-Pictures fill their Gaps; And o’er uninhabitable Downs Place Elephants for want of Towns. (On Poetry: A Rhapsody, 1733).


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