Nice example of Blaeu's decorative map of Eastern Africa and the fictitious kingdom of Prester John.
The map shows a major section of central and eastern Africa including Mozambique north to present day Sudan. The map contains numerous rivers, villages and settlements throughout, and is highly embellished with elephants, ostriches and other animals within the map, as well as the decorative cartouche.
The two Ptolemaic lakes of Zaire and Zaflan are in the lower portion of the map. Lake Niger, and the supposed course of the Niger River, is shown flowing westward.
This map is based on Ortelius' map of Prester John of 1573. The myth of Prester John, the good Christian King of Africa waging his own crusade and defeating the enemies of Christianity, was based upon earlier legends of the Crusaders and is a fascinating piece of early mythological cartographic history.
Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) was a prominent Dutch geographer and publisher. Born the son of a herring merchant, Blaeu chose not fish but mathematics and astronomy for his focus. He studied with the famous Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, with whom he honed his instrument and globe making skills. Blaeu set up shop in Amsterdam, where he sold instruments and globes, published maps, and edited the works of intellectuals like Descartes and Hugo Grotius. In 1635, he released his atlas, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, sive, Atlas novus.
Willem died in 1638. He had two sons, Cornelis (1610-1648) and Joan (1596-1673). Joan trained as a lawyer, but joined his father’s business rather than practice. After his father’s death, the brothers took over their father’s shop and Joan took on his work as hydrographer to the Dutch East India Company. Later in life, Joan would modify and greatly expand his father’s Atlas novus, eventually releasing his masterpiece, the Atlas maior, between 1662 and 1672.