Monday, May 14, 2012

Africæ Tabula Nova, 1570

Two details from a plate of the 16th century Theatrum orbis terrarum, depicting the African continent. This masterpiece is part of the collection of the Boston Public Library's Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, which tweeted out a link to this item last week. 

The details above show West Africa and the Guinea coast. Cape Verde and Sierra Leone are already known as such, although the Niger River is incorrectly shown to flow into the Atlantic between the two, a fallacy that would exist for centuries to come.

Benin and Biafra are labeled, as is Guinea, somewhat ironically exactly where modern-day Guinea is. I presume Dauma is kindred to Dahomey, as Melli surely is to Mali. Melegueta, the early Portuguese name for the Liberian coast, is probably the same as Melegete, which this map puts at somewhere near modern-day Ghana. Its fascinating not only that Cape Palmas is clearly labeled, but also the St. Paul River-- showing just how ancient that river's Christian name really is.

I don't recognize a single town name, (although I wonder if Gago is now Gao) and its notable that they are depicted with as tiny clusters peaked by a church spire, in the European style of the era. I love the swordfish, too.


Our Man in Africa said...

Thanks for posting these. I wonder what the cape is to the immediate east of Palmas. There's really nothing there but a gentle arch to Ghana's Cape Three Points.

David Haas said...

I have a quick question about your blog, do you think you could email me?

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