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Morocco on the Eve of the Alaouite Dynasty

A striking map of Morocco, oriented with West at the top, showing large fortified towns of Marakesh (Marruecos), Taradante and Fez, towns, mountains, rivers, lakes, etc. Tanger, Cueta and Rio Rabata also appear.

Published by the Dutch cartographer Jan Jansson and credited to the earlier cartographer Abraham Ortelius, the map offers a fascinating visual record of the kingdoms of Fez and Morocco during a transformative period in their history.  

In the early 16th century, Morocco was divided into two Berber dynasties: the Wattasids in the north, ruling from Fez, and the Saadians in the south. Fez, one of the world's oldest university cities and a center for Arab culture and learning, was represented prominently on the map.   The Wattasids maintained control over Fez until 1549 when the Saadians took over, uniting the kingdom under a single rule.

As indicated on the map, the Saadian era, particularly in the late 16th century, was a time of economic prosperity and architectural flourishing in Morocco. It was during this period that the Saadians successfully repelled the Portuguese invaders in the Battle of the Three Kings in 1578.

However, by the early 17th century, the Saadian Dynasty was in decline, weakened by internal strife and conflict.  In 1666, the Alaouite Dynasty took power, beginning a reign that would continue into the present day. 

The city of Marruecos (Marakech)  stands out as one of the significant urban centers. Marakech was established by the Almoravids in the 11th century and rapidly grew into a cultural, religious, and trading center for the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. During the Saadian period (16th to 17th century), Marakech regained its status as the capital of the kingdom, and significant architectural works were completed, including the Ben Youssef Madrasa and the Saadian Tombs. Its position on the map underscores its importance and hints at the rich cultural life that made Marrakesh the vibrant city it is known as today.

"Taradante emporium" likely refers to the city of Taroudant, sometimes referred to as 'Little Marakech.' Located in the Sous Valley in the southern part of Morocco, it was a bustling market town and an important stop on the caravan trade route. As an emporium, it was likely a vibrant hub of commerce, with goods from Africa, Europe, and the Middle East passing through, an aspect that would have drawn significant interest from European traders and, consequently, cartographers.

The reference to "Specus perpetuo ignem evomens," which translates to "cave perpetually emitting fire," is particularly intriguing. This phrase likely refers to a geographical feature resembling a volcano. However, Morocco isn't known for its volcanic activity, especially in the 17th century. It's possible this could be a depiction of a mythical or misunderstood natural phenomenon. Cartographers of the era, despite their increasing accuracy, still grappled with the limitations of knowledge about distant lands, and maps sometimes included elements of local lore, travelers' tales, or misinterpretations.

Condition Description
Old color. Minor soiling.
Jan Jansson Biography

Jan Janssonius (also known as Johann or Jan Jansson or Janszoon) (1588-1664) was a renowned geographer and publisher of the seventeenth century, when the Dutch dominated map publishing in Europe. Born in Arnhem, Jan was first exposed to the trade via his father, who was also a bookseller and publisher. In 1612, Jan married the daughter of Jodocus Hondius, who was also a prominent mapmaker and seller. Jonssonius’ first maps date from 1616.

In the 1630s, Janssonius worked with his brother-in-law, Henricus Hondius. Their most successful venture was to reissue the Mercator-Hondius atlas. Jodocus Hondius had acquired the plates to the Mercator atlas, first published in 1595, and added 36 additional maps. After Hondius died in 1612, Henricus took over publication; Janssonius joined the venture in 1633. Eventually, the atlas was renamed the Atlas Novus and then the Atlas Major, by which time it had expanded to eleven volumes. Janssonius is also well known for his volume of English county maps, published in 1646.

Janssonius died in Amsterdam in 1664. His son-in-law, Johannes van Waesbergen, took over his business. Eventually, many of Janssonius’ plates were sold to Gerard Valck and Pieter Schenk, who added their names and continued to reissue the maps.