Catalog Archive
Auction 134, Lot 701

"Presbiteri Iohannis, sive Abissinorum Imperii Descriptio", Ortelius, Abraham

Subject: Central Africa

Period: 1574-75 (published)

Publication: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum

Color: Hand Color

17.3 x 14.8 inches
43.9 x 37.6 cm
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This great map depicts the central African kingdom of the mythical Christian king, Prester John, who, according to legend, provided a stronghold against Barbarians and was an ally to the Crusaders. Ortelius designed this map himself using geographical information including Gastaldi's 1564 map of Africa. The mythical twin lakes of Zaire and Zaflan are shown as the origin of the Nile, with the Mountains of the Moon located as the source of the lakes. It includes two pair of large elephants in the interior and sea monsters and an Arabic ship (dhow) in the Atlantic. Two large strapwork cartouches balance the sheet, one enclosing the title and the other with text of the legend. The dedication is to King David, with a long genealogy tracing Prester John's lineage back to that of the Biblical king. Latin text on verso.

References: Norwich #11; Van den Broecke #175.

Condition: C+

Marginal defects include damp stains, a tear at bottom, and a fold separation with a small hole at top centerfold. The lower fold is cleanly split 2" into the map. There is a small spot of candle wax in the legend.

Estimate: $950 - $1,100

Sold for: $700

Closed on 12/1/2010