Catalog Archive

Auction 132, Lot 658

"A Description of Aegypt from Cair downeward", Pigafetta, Filippo

Subject: Africa - Eastern

Period: 1597 (published)


Color: Black & White

17.3 x 24.5 inches
43.9 x 62.2 cm

This is John Wolfe's rare English edition of Pigafetta's important map that was significant in the mapping of the African continent. The map covers the eastern part of the continent and takes a major deviation from the long-held Ptolemaic beliefs concerning the source of the Nile. In this depiction, the Ptolemaic side-by-side lakes in the Mountains of the Moon are replaced by two large lakes in central Africa. The lakes are on a north-south axis with the northern one being the source of the Nile. These lakes, connected by a river, form the source of virtually the entire continental river system, spawning rivers that flow into the Atlantic and Indian oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. The large cartouche includes an extensive key and Wolfe's armorial imprint is in another cartouche at lower right. The map is beautifully engraved in the Italian style with a stippled sea that is filled with sailing ships and fantastic sea monsters.

Pigafetta's map was an important source on central Africa and the Congo for subsequent mapmakers. The map is the result of the travels of the Portuguese explorer, Duarte Lopes, who journeyed through the Kingdom of the Congo from 1578 to 1587. On his return to Europe, he went to Rome to make a report to Pope Sixtus V and met Filippo Pigafetta who compiled the information and published Relatione del reame di Congo in 1591. The work was immediately popular and translations soon appeared in Dutch, English, Latin, and German. This is from the English edition published by John Wolfe, with the map engraved by William Rogers. Printed on two joined sheets, as issued.

References: Betz pp. 34-35; Norwich #23.

Condition: B+

There is some minor toning and a few unobtrusive spots. Professionally repairs of some paper weakness and fold intersections and partially remargined at top and left side. This work was very skillfully accomplished with the leaf casting method.

Estimate: $5,500 - $6,500


Closed on 6/2/2010