"Abissinorum sive Pretiosi Ioannis Imperium", Mercator/Jansson
Subject: Central Africa
Period: 1630 (published)
Publication: Atlas Minor
Color: Hand Color
7.6 x 5.3 inches
19.3 x 13.5 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.
Charming map of the legendary land of the Christian king, Prester John, with his fortified kingdom shown atop a mountain. The Nile River emanates from two large lakes near the Lune Montes (Mountains of the Moon). The map includes a collection of offshore islands between the east African coast and Madagascar and is adorned with a large strapwork title and scale cartouche. Engraved by Petrus Kaerius (Pieter van den Keere). Dutch text on verso.
This map was re-engraved for Jan Jansson's editions of the Atlas Minor, published in 5 editions between 1628-48. The copperplates for the original Atlas Minor editions published by Hondius were sold to parties in England between 1621-25. Jansson commissioned Pieter van den Keere and Abraham Goos to engrave new plates, which were close copies of the original editions.
References: Van der Krogt (Vol. III) #8720:352.1.
A dark impression with a bit of show-through of text on verso, light dampstaining along the edges of the sheet, and chips in the top corners of the sheet.