"Abissinorum sive Pretiosi Ioannis Imperiu", Mercator/Hondius
Subject: Central Africa
Period: 1606 (published)
Publication: Gerardi Mercatoris - Atlas sive Cosmographicae
Color: Black & White
19.3 x 13.5 inches
49 x 34.3 cm
The mythical kingdom of Prester John is one of the most persistent legends of all time and often appears on early maps. This myth had its origins in rumors spread throughout Europe in about 1150 A.D. that there was a powerful Christian priest-king who had conquered the Muslims and founded the kingdom of Kara Khitai in Asia. This mysterious king became a symbol of hope in the Christian world, which at the time was beset by the Mongol hordes. A succession of Dominican and Franciscan missionaries and civil ambassadors were dispatched by popes and European monarchs to search for the kingdom. Many of these emissaries never returned, and those that did reported that the Christian kingdom in deepest Asia could not be found and was probably a myth. But the popular fancy was not easily dispelled, and so over time the location of the kingdom was merely transferred to Africa. Prester John's kingdom can be found on early maps in Scythia, India, Central Asia and Abyssinia.
The legendary kingdom of the Christian Prester John is the central focus of this impressive map of central Africa. It is cartographically similar to Ortelius' map, based on the travels of the Portuguese explorer, Francisco Alveres, who searched for the mythical kingdom in 1520. The kingdom itself is shown atop the Amara Mons in the region that Alveres encountered the Coptic Christian ruler David II. The large inset of the Congo region, also based on Ortelius, illustrates the travels of another Portuguese explorer, Duarte Lopez. The Nile is shown with its source in the Ptolemaic twin lakes of Zaire and Zaflan, at the foot of the Mountains of the Moon (Lunae Montes). The stunning sheet is graced with strapwork title and scale of miles cartouches and a bold moiré patterned sea. Latin text on verso.
References: Van der Krogt (Vol. I) #8720:1A.
A dark impression on a moderately toned sheet with light soiling, minor offsetting, and two tiny holes adjacent to the centerfold. There is a piece of paper tape running the length of the top edge of the map on verso.