"Abyssinorum sive Magni Regis Davidis, quem Vulgo Presbyterum Joannem Vocant, Imperium", Quad, Matthias von Kinckelbach
Subject: Central Africa
Period: 1600 (dated)
Publication: Fasciculus Geographicus...
Color: Hand Color
11.4 x 8.6 inches
29 x 21.8 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.
This map is from a scarce pocket atlas published by Johannes Bussemacher. It is largely based on Mercator and covers the kingdom of the Christian king Prester John, who is depicted sitting on his throne. The map is covered with mountains and rivers, most of which are completely fictional. A cartouche containing German text at bottom right traces Prester John's lineage. Latin text on verso, published in 1608.
References: Mickwitz & Miekkavaara #240-3.
A crisp impression on watermarked paper with some short edge tears, including a few that enter into the map image at bottom that have been repaired with archival materials on verso. There is some light soiling and dampstaining, most of which is confined to the blank margins.