Catalog Archive
Auction 167, Lot 408

"Presbiteri Iohannis sive Abissinor Imperii Descriptio", Ortelius/Marchetti

Subject: Central Africa

Period: 1667 (published)

Publication: Il Theatro del Mondo

Color: Hand Color

Size:
4 x 2.9 inches
10.2 x 7.4 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.

Miniature map showing the domain of the legendary Christian king, Prester John. The map is dominated by the Nile River, which is shown emanating from twin lakes south of the equator. The map is handsomely embellished with two elephants and an oared ship firing towards the coast. Italian text on verso.

Pietro Maria Marchetti produced the second pocket atlas based on Abraham Ortelius' folio Theatrum. It is often referred to as the plagiarized version of the Epitome. The copper plates are closely copied from those of Philip Galle's 1593 Italian edition.

References: King (2nd ed.) pp. 78-79.

Condition: A

Excellent impression with minor marginal soiling.

Estimate: $120 - $150

Sold for: $85

Closed on 3/28/2018

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