[Gulf of Guinea].
13.75 x 15.75 in (34.925 x 40.005 cm)
This is the Gulf of Guinea sheet from Giovanni Francesco Camocio's extraordinary twelve-sheet 1570 wall map of Africa. It is for-all-intent-and-purposes a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the serious Africa collector. The complete Camocio map exists in a single known complete example, and even separate sheets, as here, are unobtainable. The map is loosely derived from Giacomo Gastaldi's 1564 map, itself surviving in only 12 examples. Gastaldi's geography was informed by Claudius Ptolemy, the Berber Andalusi diplomat Joannes Leo Africanus (1494 - 1554), the writings of Portuguese scholar João de Barros (1496 - 1570), and the reports of Magellan circumnavigation survivor Duarte Barbosa (c. 1480 - 1521). Gastaldi is also thought to have had access to lost Portuguese portolan charts, influencing the exceptional coastal detail evident here.
The Gulf of Guinea Sheet Following Betz's numbering, this is sheet number 6 of the complete wall map. It focuses on the western-central coast of Africa and the Gulf of Guinea, from 'Cape 3 Points' in Ghana to coastal Angola. In the Gulf, the islands of Bioko (Fernando Po, Y. de Fernando Poon), Principe, São Tomé, and Annobón are depicted. Typical of the early mapping of Africa, the relatively detailed coast gives way to a speculative interior, here beautifully engraved with dramatic mountains, extensive imaginary river systems, and massive inland lakes. These latter include the legendary Lake Niger and the great Lake Zaire, proposed by Ptolemy as one of the sources of the White Nile, yet here simultaneously the source of the Zaire River (Congo).
Here Be DragonsDespite the common cliché, vanishingly few old maps actually sport dragons. This one has two, one of which is breathing fire. In this respect, and indeed the generally more finished artistic treatment of the map's cartouches, Camocio's work is indisputably superior to Gastaldi's 1564 precursor map. The whole exhibits an extraordinary virtuosity of engraving and the fragmentary cartouche in the lower left gives evidence of what must have been an ultimately magnificent composite production.
Publication History and CensusThe twelve-sheet map of Africa was engraved and printed as part of a four-continent set in the shop of Giovanni Camocio. Though undated, Woodward estimates the map was produced between 1570 and 1575. The complete map is known to survive in a single complete copy at the Bell Library of the University of Minnesota. Betz cites an incomplete example (lacking the present sheet) in private hands. In some 30 years in the trade, we have never encountered or found reference to any example of any separate sheet on the market. On its own, this is an otherwise unacquirable cartographic artifact. The prospect that other sheets might one day surface represents a towering challenge for the dedicated and patient Africa collector.
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