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1739 Anville Wall Map of Africa (one of the most important 18th cntry maps of Africa)


Afrique Publiee sous les Auspices de Monseigneur le Duc D'Orleans Premier Prince du Sang.
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Title:    Afrique Publiee sous les Auspices de Monseigneur le Duc D'Orleans Premier Prince du Sang.

Description:    This is one of the largest and most influential maps of Africa to appear in the mid-18th century. Anville's map covers the entire continent of Africa from the Mediterranean to the Cape of Good Hope and from the Cape Verde Islands to Madagascar. Anville was a careful cartographer known for his scientific approach to mapmaking, and nowhere is this more evident than in this, his greatest and most innovative map of Africa. Following the trajectory set by Guillaume de L'Isle half a century earlier, D'Anville takes a number of significant steps forward in addressing the confusions inherent in mapping this vast though mostly, in the mid-17th century, unexplored continent. These include unreliable cartographic suppositions regarding the African interior dating practically to antiquity. Many of these, including such speculative ideas as the 'Mountains of Kong', have been diminished if not removed entirely from this map, leaving vast unexplored areas throughout.

What was known of Africa, however, Anville incorporates here in an impressive compilation of the most up to date reports from colonial, missionary, and exploratory entradas into the interior of the continent. Thus well mapped parts of the continent are limited to the Mediterranean Coast, Morocco, the Senegambia, the Congo, South Africa, the Kingdom of Monomatapa, Abyssinia, and egypt. Morocco, egypt, and the southern Mediterranean Coast (Barbary) were well known to europeans since antiquity and Anville's accurate mapping of these regions reflects continual contact. Further south the colonial enclaves along the Niger River (Senegal and Gambia), the Congo River, and South Africa reflect considerable detail associated with european penetration by trader and missionaries. The land of Monomopota around the Zambezi River was explored early in the 16th century by the Portuguese in hopes that the legendary gold mines supposedly found there would counterbalance the wealth flowing into Spain from the New Word. Unfortunately these mines, often associated with the Biblical kingdom of Ophir, were mostly tapped out by the 15th century. Abyssinia (modern day ethiopia) was mapped in detail by early Italian missionaries and of considerable interest to europeans first, because it was (and is) predominantly Christian; second, because it was a powerful well-organized and unified kingdom; and third because the sources of the Blue Nile were to be found here.

The remainder of the continent remained largely speculative though Anville rarely lets his imagination get the upper hand. He does however follow the well-established Ptolemaic model laid down in the Geographica regarding the sources of the White Nile here seen as two lakes at the base of the semi-apocryphal Mountains of the Moon. However, he also presents a curious network of interconnected rivers extending westward from the confused course of the White Nile following the popular 18th century speculation that the Nile may be connected to the Niger. To his credit Anville does not advocate this and offers no true commerce between the two river systems.

Lake Malawi, here identified as Maravi, appears in a long thin embryonic state that, though it had not yet been 'discovered,' is remarkably accurate to form. Lake Malawi was not officially discovered until Portuguese trader Candido Jose da Costa Cardoso stumbled upon it in 1849 one hundred years following Anville's presentation of the lake here. Anville's inclusion of Lake Malawi is most likely a prescient interpretation of indigenous reports brought to europe by 17th century Portuguese traders. Its form would be followed by subsequent cartographers well into the mid-19th century when the explorations of John Hanning Speke, David Livingstone, Richard Francis Burton and others would at last yield a detailed study of Africa's interior.

Anville published this map in 1749 to update his earlier map of Africa issued in 1727. As a whole it is a complete reimaging of the continent with numerous updates and revisions throughout. Its accuracy and the influence of the Anville name made this the basis for most subsequent maps of the continent, including Boulton's enlargement and revision in the late 1700s. This, like most J. B. B. Anville maps, was not compiled into a singular atlas, but was rather sold individually and compiled into atlas, case, or wall map format by the purchaser. The present example is on four panels joined as a single map.


Date:    1749 (dated)

Source:    Anville, J. B. B., Atlas Generale, (Paris, Composite Atlas) 1749.

References:    Rumsey, 2603.008,2603.009, 2603.010 . Tooley R. V., Maps of Africa p. 3-4. Phillips (Atlases) 571, 572, 599. National Maritime Museum, 200.

Cartographer:    Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville (1697-1782) was perhaps the most important and prolific cartographer of the 18th century. D'Anville's passion for cartography manifested during his school years when he amused himself by composing maps for Latin texts. There is a preserved manuscript dating to 1712, Graecia Vetus, which may be his earliest surviving map - he was only 15 when he drew it. He would retain an interest in the cartography of antiquity throughout his long career and published numerous atlases to focusing on the ancient world. At twenty-two D'Anville, sponsored by the Duke of Orleans, was appointed Geographer to the King of France. As both a cartographer and a geographer, he instituted a reform in the general practice of cartography. Unlike most period cartographers, D'Anville did not rely exclusively on earlier maps to inform his work, rather he based his maps on intense study and research. His maps were thus the most accurate and comprehensive of his period - truly the first modern maps. Thomas Basset and Philip Porter write: "It was because of D'Anville's resolve to depict only those features which could be proven to be true that his maps are often said to represent a scientific reformation in cartography." (The Journal of African History, Vol. 32, No. 3 (1991), pp. 367-413). In 1754, when D'Anville turned 57 and had reached the height of his career, he was elected to the Academie des Inscriptions. Later, at 76, following the death of Philippe Buache, D'Anville was appointed to both of the coveted positions Buache held: Premier Geographe du Roi, and Adjoint-Geographer of the Academie des Sciences. During his long career D'Anville published some 211 maps as well as 78 treatises on geography. D'Anville's vast reference library, consisting of over 9000 volumes, was acquired by the French government in 1779 and became the basis of the Depot Geographique - though D'Anville retained physical possession his death in 1782. Remarkably almost all of D'Anville's maps were produced by his own hand. His published maps, most of which were engraved by Guillaume de la Haye, are known to be near exact reproductions of D'Anville' manuscripts. The borders as well as the decorative cartouche work present on many of his maps were produced by his brother Hubert-Francois Bourguignon Gravelot. The work of D'Anville thus marked a transitional point in the history of cartography and opened the way to the maps of English cartographers Cary, Thomson and Pinkerton in the early 19th century. Click here for a list of rare maps by Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville.

Size:   Printed area measures 39 x 40 inches (99.06 x 101.6 centimeters)

Condition:    Very good condition. Original centerfold. Blank on verso. Original platemark visible. Four sheets joined.

Code:   Africa-anville-1749 (to order by phone call: 646-320-8650)


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