Sale 624 Lot 118
* LEO AFRICANUS, Johannes (ca 1490-ca 1552). A Geographical Historie of Africa, Written in Arabicke and Italian. London: George Bishop, 1600.
4to (242 x 170 mm). Engraved folding map (possibly supplied), woodcut initials. (Map with a few small wormholes and some light dampstaining, some minor toning.) Original English vellum (covers and spine rebacked preserving original vellum, endpapers renewed); black morocco folding case gilt.
FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH OF THE FIRST BOOK DESCRIBING AFRICA WRITTEN BY AN AFRICAN. Joannes Leo Africanus, born al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan al-Fasi, was a noble-born Moor from Granada who, after the Spanish conquest, was educated in Morocco, principally in geography; he was influenced by the writings of two other great Spanish Moorish geographers: 12th-century al-Idrisi (not translated into Latin until 1619) and 11th-century al-Bakri (the "Nubian geographer"). His Geographical Historie, first published as a separate work in Antwerp in 1556, describes the geography of Africa, and was the chief authority on the subject until the end of the 18th century. The map shows the Nile, Congo and Zambezi rivers all originating from a lake in present-day Congo, and the Niger, Senegal and Gambia rivers all flowing into a single delta.
Leo Africanus accompanied his uncle on a diplomatic mission to Timbuktu, and then continued in the diplomatic service, traveling to Egypt, Constantinople, Mecca and Persia. On his return, he was captured by pirates off Tunisia and taken to Rome as a slave for Pope Leo X; the pope recognized his abilities and freed him and gave him a pension to continue researching and writing. While at the Vatican, he was baptized, taking the name Leo. Brunet III, 981-2; Cox I, 356-7; ESTC S108481.
Provenance: Humphrey Winterton (sold Sotheby's London, 29 May 2003, lot 486).