Catalog Archive
Auction 138, Lot 804

Ortelius' Cornerstone Map of Africa

"Africae Tabula Nova", Ortelius, Abraham

Subject: Africa

Period: 1570 (dated)

Publication: Theatrum Orbis Terrarum

Color: Hand Color

Size:
19.8 x 14.8 inches
50.3 x 37.6 cm

This striking map is one of the cornerstone maps of Africa and remained the standard map of Africa well into the seventeenth century. It was designed by Ortelius from elements of contemporary maps by Gastaldi, Mercator, and Forlani and used several recent sources: Ramusio in Navigationi et Viaggi (1550), Joao de Barros in Decadas da Asia (1552), and Leo Africanus in Historiale description de l'Afrique (1556). The majority of the nomenclature is taken from Gastaldi. The Nile is based on the Ptolemaic concept, originating from two large lakes south of the equator. Curiously Ortelius did not represent the Mountains of the Moon (a prominent feature on most prior maps) and the twin lakes are not named. Ortelius introduced two important changes to the shape of the continent on this map; the Cape of Good Hope is more pointed, and the eastward extension of the continent was reduced significantly. The map is decorated with a strapwork title cartouche, a grand sea battle (copied from Diego Gutierez' wall map of the Americas), and sea monsters. The presence of the ghost monster is barely visible in the sea off the Arabian peninsula. This beautiful map was engraved by Frans Hogenberg who engraved many of the maps for the Theatrum. This is the first state, published in a German edition between 1572-1602.

References: Betz #12.2; Van de Broecke #8; Norwich #10.

Condition: B

Lovely color with a few small cracks due to the oxidation of the original green pigment, which have been closed on verso with Japanese tissue. A few short tears in blank margins have been expertly repaired, and the top blank margin has been remargined. There are some scattered faint, old ink marks. Despite these imperfections, this is a very nice example.

Estimate: $1,900 - $2,300

Sold for: $1,400

Closed on 12/7/2011

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