Antiquarian Auctions

Auction #78 ends in

John Speed

Africae described

The manners of their Habits and buildings newly done into English by I.S. Are to be sold by Thos Basset in Fleet Street and Ric: Chiswell in St. Paul's Churchyard

Published: Basset & Chiswell, London, 1676

Edition: Third

Current Bid: $0

Reserve: $2,000


Estimate: $2500 - 3000

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This is the 1676 edition of first map of Africa prepared by an English cartographer. This decorative carte-a-figure map is by John Speed, a notable cartographer and historian of Britain.

Speed's Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine was widely influential, later editions of which included this map of Africa. However, the map first was published in 1626 by George Humble in Speed's Prospect of the most famous parts of the world, which was a supplement to Speed’s Theatre. 

Somewhat paradoxically, this first English map of Africa was engraved by the famous Abraham Goos, from Amsterdam; he was a relative of the Hondius family (which had been refugees in England) and therefore knew well the Dutch maps, from which he derived this map for Speed.  

The map is based on maps by Jodocus Hondius (whose Latin annotations are translated into English) and Willem Blaeu (his geography). The geography is typically early seventeenth century with its legendary Ptolemaic mountains, rivers and lakes; typically, the Nile arises from two lakes. The Europeans knew little about the interior of Africa and, therefore, there are numerous illustrations of terrestrial animals (‘elephants for want of towns’, according to Jonathan Swift); the oceans have ships and sea serpents. 

The map has a long publication history (see Betz #62): published first by George Humble (the scarce first state has the date of 1626); then Roger Rea, most of whose atlases were destroyed in the Great Fire of London (2nd state). Basset & Chiswell acquired Speed’s plates after 1668 and published this 3rd and most commonly available state of the map, together with maps of the other continents and the world map. 

The English text on verso provides a fascinating view of the European concept concerning the wildlife, customs and manners of the African people. There is a description of Anthropophagi, cannibals, who kill their own babies to avoid the trouble of raising them; but, in order to preserve their race, steal children from their neighbors. The side borders of this carte-a-figure map comprise sets of 5 decorative costumes of African peoples. Some of the side border illustrations are copied from Willem Blaeu. At top is a panel of panoramas and plans illustrating Tanger, Ceuta, Alger, Tunis, Alexandria, Cairo (Alca), Mozambique and the Canaries. 

The map is in very good condition although there is a light brown stain at the bottom left. The side panels are in very good condition and the colours are attractive.

This is an historically important and very attractive English map of Africa.


Richard Betz. Mapping of Africa. # 62.3O

Tooley's Collectors Guide to maos of Africa ... p.114

Norwich's Maps of Africa map #30 

  • Overall Condition: Very good
  • Size: 51.5 x 39.5 cm
  • Name: Roger Stewart Antiquarian
  • Contact Person: Dr. Roger Stewart
  • Country: South Africa
  • Email:
  • Telephone: +27836541081
  • Preferred Payment Methods: LOCAL: EFT; INTERNATIONAL: PAYPAL or Bank Transfer; no credit cards
  • Trade Associations: IMCOS

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