We are now six months into the #ManGeogSoc Map Cataloguing project. Back in August, I completed inputting metadata, photographing and physically ordering a grand total of 1,106 map-sheets of Africa, including single sheets, multi-sheet and series maps.
Africa was a focal point for the Manchester Geographical Society and therefore a large portion of the collection is Africa-related. Andrew Lloyd, in his introduction to the catalogue of the rare books and atlases within this collection in 1991, states that the significance of Africa is particularly indicative of many of the Society’s early prominent members and the period illustrated was one in which significant exploration occurred in Africa. This focus can be seen from the launch of the Manchester Geographical Society, at which H. M. Stanley gave a lecture on ‘Central Africa and the Congo Basin; or the importance of the scientific side of geography’, in 1884. For a number of years after their formation, the Manchester Geographical Society held lectures on areas which were little known, and Africa featured prominently.
Whilst working through the maps of Africa, I noted down some items that I found interesting, so I thought I would share these in a series of three blog posts. This is the first post, featuring two very beautiful Antiquarian maps. The second blog post in the series will be on the provenance found, and the third will be an interesting find – in this case, William Willcocks’ irrigation plans in Egypt.
John Overton’s ‘A New and most Exact map of Africa’ (MMGS E: (267))
This map was created by John Overton and was published in 1670, when Overton’s shop had moved to the Whitehorse ‘neere ye Fountaine Tavern without Newgate’ in London. John Overton was an English cartographer and map publisher, active in the 17th century. The cartouche names Dutch cartographers, Nicolas Visscher and Willem Blaeu, as Overton’s influences. This map features illustrations of decorative sea monsters, ships, and animals which were typically included in Visscher and Blaeu’s works. The surrounding vignettes represent the lands and societies of areas within the African continent.
John Speed’s ‘Africae, described the manners of their habits, and buildinge’ (MMGS E: (235))
John Speed’s ‘Africa’, printed in 1626, was the first map in English of the African continent. This map was a second publishing in 1676, featured within The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine atlas, which was published by Thomas Bassett of Fleet Street, and Richard Chiswell of St Paul’s Churchyard, whose names are included in the cartouche. John Speed was a famous English cartographer, creating many sought-after maps in the early 17th century. On the reverse is a ‘Description of Africa’, in English. The engraver of this map was Abraham Goos, of Amsterdam, who was related to Jodocus Hondius and worked closely with Visscher. The layout and style of the maps are similar and so Speed’s map also includes many sea monsters, ships and animals.
Thanks for reading!