1790 James Bruce Map of Ethiopia and the Source of the Nile
Description: This is a fascinating, significant, beautifully engraved, intricately detailed 1790 map of ethiopia (Abyssinia) and the source of the Blue Nile by the Scottish adventurer James Bruce. Centered on Lake Tana (Tzana), this map covers from the ethiopian capital at Gondar south as far as the Saccala District and the Geesh Abay (Geesh Springs).
The map plots Bruce's travels in search of the source of the Blue Nile starting from the ethiopian capital of Gondar. Local guides led Bruce southwards around Lake Tana (Tzana) and eventually down the Abay River to Gish Abay, the source of the Blue Nile. Bruce claimed to have discovered the Gish Abay springs, but in a fact that he was well aware of, was merely retracing the steps of the Jesuit missionaries Pedro Paez and Jeronimo Lobo. Bruce then traveled northwards, following the Blue Nile to its confluence with the White Nile in Nubia, before following an overland caravan route to Syene and thence back into egypt and europe. Bruce's exploits were ridiculed in his day, but much of the information he collected worked its way into the cartographic corpus, appearing in later maps of the region by Cary, Thomson, Pinkerton, and others.
Cartographically this map makes a number of advances and well as promotes a number of misconceptions associated with Bruce's theories. The course of the Blue Nile as well as much of the Abyssinian interior is meticulously mapped and, by and large, accurate.
Many claim that this map and Bruce's explorations in Abyssinia also contain a subtext relating to his Masonic and Templar associations. Bruce's ancestor, the Scottish King Robert the Bruce, harbored many of the Knights Templar during their prosecution in the 14th century. Some believe that Bruce inherited secret knowledge that sent him to ethiopia in search of Templar artifacts including, among other things, the Ark of the Covenant. Bruce himself remained silent on this matter – which is perhaps as telling as not – but to this day many, including most ethiopians, strongly believe that the Ark resides in the Coptic sanctuary of Axum, which Bruce indeed visited.
engraved by J. Walker of Cavendish Square for James Bruce's five volume 1790 opus, Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile. First edition.
Date: 1790 (undated)
Source: Bruce, James, Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile, In the Years 1768, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772 and 1773, Five Volumes, (G.G.J. and J. Robinson, London) 1790.
References: Afriterra 1896 (3rd edition).
Cartographer: James Bruce (December 14, 1730 - April 27, 1794) was a Scottish explorer, traveler, and nobleman active in the later part of the 18th century. Bruce's romantic adventures in North Africa and Arabia make a tale worthy of Hollywood. Descended from the great Scottish King Robert the Bruce, James Bruce was born at his family seat in Kinnaird, Stirlingshire, Scotland. He was educated in Law at Harrow School and Edinburgh University and, marrying into a family business, became a wine merchant. Following the 1762 war with between England and Spain, Bruce was sent to Algiers with a commission to study Roman antiquities in the region. Many adventures followed that eventually led Bruce to Alexandria, Egypt, where he determined to discover the source of the Nile, which he believed to be in Ethiopia. Bruce traveled up the Nile and, after visiting Luxor worked his way overland to the Red Sea port of Kosseir (Old Cosseir), where he embarked upon a merchant ship disguised as a Turkish sailor. In this guise Bruce made his way to Massawa, where is disembarked and, traveling overland via Axum, arrived at the Abyssinian capital at Gondar. From Gondar, local guides led Bruce southwards to Laka Tana, and then along the Abay River to the Gish Abay springs, the legendary source of the Blue Nile. Bruce believed that the Blue Nile was the Nile of antiquity and claimed, falsely, that it was the larger of the two Nile tributaries. In his narrative Bruce further announced that he had discovered the source of the Nile, while in fact, the first Europeans to visit Gish Abay were the 16th century Spanish Jesuit Pedro Paez and, later, the 17th century Portuguese Jesuit Jeronimo Lobo. On his return journey, Bruce followed the Blue Nile to its confluence with the White, becoming the first European to visit the site. Bruce's explorations were significant and, on his return to Kinnaird, he published a lavishly illustrated narrative of his travels in five volumes. Bruce's tales of Ethiopian architecture, culture, and life where heavily ridiculed by the scholars of this day. Modern researchers, however, have proven that much of Bruce's narrative was substantial and accurate, thus affirming his significant contribution to the cartographic corpus. Snubbed by his peers, Bruce retired to Kinnaird, where he remained until his death in 1794. Modern day conspiracy theorists have added an interesting twist to Bruce's Ethiopian adventures. They claim that Bruce had a second, more important motivation - to rediscover ancient Templar secrets and artifacts hidden in Ethiopia. Some believe that Bruce, having inherited secret Templar knowledge from his ancestor, Robert the Bruce - who sheltered the Templars during their prosecution in the 14th century - was searching Ethiopia for the secrets of the Ark of the Covenant and other religious artifacts. Though Bruce kept silent on what he found, if anything, many Ethiopians maintain that the Ark of the Covenant is, to this day, kept at a sacred sanctuary in Axum. Click here for a list of rare maps by James Bruce.
Size: Printed area measures 13 x 21 inches (33.02 x 53.34 centimeters)
Condition: Very good condition. Original pressmark visible. Blank on verso. Some margin repairs. Some wear and verso reinforcement along original fold lines.
Printable Info Sheet
Code: BlueNileSource-bruce-1790 (to order by phone call: 646-320-8650)