Catalog Archive
Auction 125, Lot 836

"Aethiopia Superior vel Interior; vulgo Abissinorum sive Presbiteri Ioannis Imperium", Blaeu/Covens & Mortier

Subject: Central Africa

Period: 1730 (circa)


Color: Hand Color

21.5 x 16.5 inches
54.6 x 41.9 cm

Decorative map of eastern and central Africa depicting the legendary Christian kingdom of Prester John. Prester John was considered the good king who defeated the enemies of Christianity and was in part a response to Mongol and Islamic pressures on Christian Europe. The myth first located Prester John's kingdom in Asia, but it was later moved to Africa when explorers failed to find the kingdom in Asia.

Fabled rivers and numerous exotic animals, including ostrich, elephants and a monkey fill the otherwise empty spaces of the unexplored interior on this map. There is a fair amount of detail on the eastern coast, reflecting the Portuguese and Arab trading interests. Mogadishu, Mombassa, Quiloa [Kilwa] and Mozambique are shown as major towns. The west coast is shown from Benin to Angola with the major feature being the Zaire River. Two large Ptolemaic lakes of Zaflan and Zaire located below the equator form the source of the Nile River, with the Mountains of the Moon located just south of them. Much else of interest in this fine decorative map with a figurative title cartouche featuring natives with chubby infants fending off the sun with umbrellas and a scale of miles.

The copper plate for this map was among those that survived the fire at the Blaeu printing house in 1672. After the death of Johannes Blaeu the following year, the remaining stock was sold to other Dutch cartographic publishers including Frederick de Wit, Pierre Mortier, and Schenk and Valck. Many of these maps were included in composite atlases, even as late as 1730.


Condition: A+

Very sharp impression and original outline color on a beautiful sheet of wide margined paper.

Estimate: $550 - $650

Sold for: $350

Closed on 9/24/2008