Africae Vera Forma, et Situs

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Cornelius de Jode’s superb 1593 map of Africa. Exceptionally rare!

Cartographer(s): Gerard & Cornelius de Jode
Date: 1593
Place: Antwerp
Coloring: Uncolored
Dimensions: 45.3 x 32.8 cm (17.8 x 12.9 in)
Condition Rating: VG

Out of stock

SKU: NL-00157 Category:

Description

Maps by the De Jode family are highly coveted for the rarity of their atlas, originally published as Speculum Orbis Terrarum, by Gerard de Jode in 1578. Cornelius, Gerard’s son, re-issued the atlas in 1593 with the title Speculum Orbis Terrae, and ten new copperplate engravings, including this map of Africa, which Cornelius prepared to replace the map of Africa used in the 1578 atlas, which followed the work of famed Venetian cartographer Giacomo Gastaldi. After the premature death of Cornelius, the copper plates were sold to Jan Baptist Vrients, the publisher of Ortelius’ atlas, who acquired them merely to stop their re-issue, adding to their rarity today.

Africae Vera Forma, et Situs (The true shape and situation of Africa) is a finely-executed copperplate production. The title, placed at the top in large lettering, is flanked by intricate jeweled strapwork bands. Balancing out West Africa on the right side of the page is a text box with seventeen lines of descriptive text about Africa. The map is richly adorned with ships and sea monsters and various vignettes scattered across the map.

As usual for contemporary maps of Africa, there is a significant gap between the accuracy and detail of the coast, and the lack of detail and invention of the interior of the continent. This map retains the coastal outline from Gastaldi, with the interior based primarily on Mercator’s world map of 1569. This is most evident in the river systems, including Sachaf lac as the source of the Zabere (Zembere), Cuama and R. d S. Spirito rivers in southern Africa. The map also incorporates information from Ortelius, including the placement of Zanzibar on the southwest coast.

Verso Text: Latin

Cartographer(s)

Gerard & Cornelius de Jode

Gerard de Jode (1511-91) was a Dutch printer and mapmaker born in Nijmegen, but working from the metropolis of Antwerp. One of the most competent and reputable Dutch cartographers of the 16th century, he did not fare so well business-wise, as competition was stark and his mercantile sense perhaps not so shrewd. In 1547 he was accepted into the Guild of St Luke’s in Antwerp and began working as a publisher and printer. De Jode quickly won recognition as an expert mapmaker in a city that already was renowned for its cartographic output. His greatest achievement was a magnificent two-volume atlas entitled Speculum Orbis Terrarum, which came out in 1578. The idea was to create an atlas that could compete with Abraham Ortelius’ hugely popular Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, which had been published to great acclaim only eight years earlier. Despite De Jode’s status and reputation, however, his atlas was not a commercial success. The lack of circulation in 1578 has a lasting legacy today in that it is now one of the most rare and sought after atlases, with only about a dozen copies known to exist.

Despite this lack of commercial success (or perhaps because of it), Gerard began working on a new and revised atlas. For this task he recruited his son, Cornelis De Jode (1568-1600), as an assistant and together they compiled another great and innovative atlas entitled Speculum Orbis Terrae, which was published in 1593. Sadly, Gerard de Jode died of old age a little less than two years prior to its publication, but perhaps he was spared the embarrassment of another commercial failure. Even though the new atlas contained both Gerard’s original maps, it also included a number of key revisions, and perhaps most importantly, a range of entirely new maps compiled by Cornelis himself.

Like their 1578 predecessors, these 1593 maps are also very rare, especially since after Cornelius’ death, the engraving plates were sold to his competitor, J. B. Vrients (who also owned the Ortelius plates), who assured the complete work was never published again. Thus while myriad editions of Ortelius were published and survive today, only the 1578 and 1593 form the legacy of the De Jode family.

Condition Description

A clear impression on watermarked paper, with little fading, no tears and only minor marginal soiling.

References

Betz, Richard L. The Mapping of Africa: A Cartobibliography of Printed Maps of the African Continent to 1700. Goy-Houten: Hes & De Graaf, 2007, #27. Norwich, I., and Pam Kolbe. Maps of Africa: An Illustrated and Annotated Carto-bibliography. Johannesburg: Ad. Donker, 1983, #19.