1550 Münster - Totius Africae tabula, & descriptio universalis...[manuscript notations]

1550 Münster - Totius Africae tabula, & descriptio universalis...[manuscript notations]

Exceptional example of one of the earliest maps to focus on the entire continent of Africa


Totius Africae tabula, & descriptio universalis, etiam ultra Ptolemaei limites extensa.

Map maker:

Sebastian Münster

Place and Year:

Basel, 1554


34 x 25.5 cm (13.5 x 10 in)


Copperplate engraving


Hand colored

Condition Rating:


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Lovely map of Africa based on Ptolemy, with a distinct river system and mountain ranges. This geography is augmented from Portuguese and Arabic sources, from which comes Caput Bonespei (Cape of Good Hope) and a small group of islands off the eastern coast named Zaphala Aurifodina that were supposedly the region from which King Solomon imported gold and silver. The coastal outline of Africa had only recently been understood by Europeans. Bartolomeo Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, while Vasco de Gama reached India by sea a decade later.

The Arab kingdoms of Quiola and Melinde appear in eastern Africa and Hamarich, the capital of the mythical Christian king Prester John, is shown at the confluence of the twin sources of the Nile.

The island of Madagascar is strangely absent, even though its presence was known from the time of Marco Polo.

The map is illustrated with crowns and scepters indicating kingdoms, forests, parrots, an elephant, and a large galleon under full sail. In what is today Nigeria and Cameroon, there is a Cyclops or one eyed man, a reference to the fabled tribe of the Monoculi.


Early manuscript additions in the right margin.




Norwich 2.