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Maps of Africa

Antique maps of Africa are a combination of cartography and creativity. Half reality, half mythology, African maps add a colorful touch to map collections.

One of the earliest maps featuring the entire continent of Africa is a woodcut by 16th-century mapmaker Sebastian Munster from his "Cosmographia Universalis." It features a one-eyed giant, forest in the Sahara desert, and a ship sailing off the coast, a common addition to antique maps. Another notable early African map is "Africae nova descriptio" created in 1630 by Dutch mapmaker Willem Blaeu. It is a fine example of Blaeu engraving, elaborate pictures, and delicate calligraphy with oval cutouts of major African cities and ports. Like other antique maps of virtually unexplored territories, the map is representative of a European perspective of the unknown.

Later maps of Africa following the period of exploration continued a tradition of Eurocentrism. Maps of Africa from the late 1800s in particular reveal the struggle between European powers for the continent, as portrayed in the color-coded occupied territories and ill-defined political borders.

Quick Facts

  • "Africae Tabula Nova" by Abraham Ortelius sold for $2,400 at Old World Auctions in 2009
  • "Africa Prima Tavola" sold at Bonhams for $1,097 in 2011. This engraved map by Giovanni Gastaldi followed an early Ramusio-Gastaldi woodcut of Africa with two added sea monsters in the Atlantic
  • A 1593 engraved map of Africa by Cornelis de Jode with native figures on land and ships and sea monsters at sea sold for $3,108 in a 2011 Bonhams auction

Recommended Items at Auction

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Munster, pub. 1592 - Map of Africa
Apr 01, 10:00 AM CDT
Munster, pub. 1592 - Map of Africa
by Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books
Est: $500- $1,500
$501 Bid
Apr 29, 1:00 PM CEST
by Arenberg Auctions
Est: €100- €120
€500 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Maps of Africa

Arenberg Auctions

Arenberg Auctions

Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books

Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books