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The Kraus Map Collection


Kraus 22, Africa (Circa 1520)

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Title   Africa
Cartographer   Unknown
Subject   Africa--Maps
Publisher   Unpublished
Repository   Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
Place of publication
     or creation
Date(s)   Circa 1520
Format   Manuscript map
Kraus catalog no.   22
Dimensions in mm.   870 x 630 mm.
Rights   No known U.S. copyright restrictions. Please cite the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin, as the image source.


Manuscript chart of the West Coast of Africa and the South Atlantic Ocean. The coastline drawn in pen and outlined in green; place names in sepia and red; degrees of latitude marked northwards from the Equator on o° longitude (Cape Verde Islands) to 370 north; scale of leagues; net of wind-rose lines radiating from 15 centers; half of a compass rose on the Equator at o° longitude. A few small holes, none affecting the coasts depicted; a few of the red place names very faint or illegible. On vellum, cloth mounted. From the collection of Baron Dartmouth. Large folio (870x630 mm.).

A handsome large Portuguese portulan chart of the early sixteenth century.

It depicts the coasts of Africa in great detail, from the Straits of Gibraltar south to the Cape of Good Hope, then eastward to a bay marked simply "aguada" (watering place), probably Mossel Bay, where Bartholome Dias made his first landfall in South Africa in 1487, and where da Gama's fleet rested both going and returning from India. About 150 places along the coasts are named.

The chart has been examined by Dr. Armando Cortesao, author of Cartografia e cartografos Portugueses de seculos XV e XVI, who has assigned a tentative date of c. 1520. It may have been originally joined on the west to another sheet depicting the American coast, as on the left edge, in mid-Atlantic, we read de san p° (paulo), which must have been preceded by penedo (St. Paul's rocks).

The exploration of the coast of Africa was the great accomplishment of Portuguese exploration of the 15th century, paving the way for their farther voyages of commerce and discovery to India and the East Indies. Prince Henry the Navigator was the patron of the earlier efforts, which traversed the coasts as far as Sierra Leone (1447). This was followed by the voyages of Ca da Mosto (1445-1446), Fernando Pó (1472), Dias (1487) and Vasco da Gama (1497-1499).

This chart, dating from only a few years after the voyages of Dias and da Gama, is a precious record of these stirring events, and is deserving of further careful study.

No similar chart in Cortesao and Teixeira de Mota, Portugaliae Monumenta Cartographies.