Southern sheet of John Wolfe's rare 2-sheet map of Africa, based upon Filiippo Pigafetta's important early map of Africa, which appeared in the rare English edition of Linschoten's Itinerario, Iohn Huighen van Linschoten. His discours of voyages . . . , published in London in 1598, and engraved by English engraver William Rogers.
Filippo Pigafetta's map of Africa was based on the explorations of Duarte Lopes, a Portuguese whose voyages to the Congo Basin added to the speculation about the source of the Nile. Upon Lopes' return to Europe, he went to Rome to make a report to Pope Sixtus V and met Pigafetta who compiled the information and published Relatione del reame di Congo in 1591.
Rather than following the Ptolemaic convention of twin sources in the Mountains of the Moon, Pigafetta depicts the two lakes in series, with the upper lake also being the source of the Congo.
The map provides a marvelous, if highly fanciful image of the interior of Africa, with elaborate topographical details and numerous ships and sea monsters off of Africa's coastlines.
Wolfe's map is an entirely new plate, with significant changes from Linschoten's map of the prior year. The cartouche, coat of arms and embellishments in the upper right corner are completely changed, with Wolfe placing the key identifying approximately 40 places within the map in the upper part of the map. In the bottom right corner, Wolfe includes an additional coat of arms with the inscription "Iln'est Rose Sans Espine" (There is no rose without a thorn). The very large sea monster at the bottom right corner is also unique to the Wolfe edition.
In the interior, Monomotapa is located and most place names and geographical features have Portuguese nomenclature. Take Monomotapa as an example. In the early fifteenth century, a prince of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe established his own seat of power called the Kingdom of Mutapa to the north. The kingdom expanded quickly, fed by the region's gold reserves and trade connectivity.
The Portuguese heard of the empire, which reached its peak in 1480, when they rounded the Horn at the end of the fifteenth century and began trading along the coasts of southern Africa. The Portuguese traders transliterated the word for ruler, Mwenemutapa, to Monomotapa, which was then used to describe the region on maps.
In the 1560s, the Portuguese Crown entered into direct relations with Mutapa; in 1569, King Sebastian gave a coat arms to the Mwenemutapa, the first grant of arms to a native southern African. However, this interaction was not characteristic of Portuguese-Mutapa relations, which were often combative as the Portuguese sought to take over the local gold reserves. These gold reserves were connected in European minds to the gold mines of King Solomon, ensuring Monomotapa an enduring place in the European geographic imagination.
Wolfe's map is very rare, with only one dealer catalogue appearance in AMPR in the past 30 years (Suarez, 1994).