By: Nicolas Sanson heirs, engraved by Winter
Date: 1699 (published) Paris
Dimensions: 8 x 10.4 inches (20 x 26.5 cm)
This attractive antique map is of the Kingdom of Congo, a large kingdom on the west coast of Africa which thrived from 1390 to 1914. Sanson included the kingdom in his atlas due to its long history of trade and commerce with western Europe, and especially with Portugal.
Thanks to a number of technological and cultural advantages, Portugal dominated world trade for approximately 200 years, in the 15th and 16th centuries. Portugal’s extended contact with Islam with its superior mathematical knowledge and sailing technologies, including sail shapes, hull designs, and maritime weaponry, resulted in a Portuguese fleet capable of negotiating the high Atlantic seas.
One result of their maritime superiority was exploration of places hitherto unknown to Europeans. One of those regions was the west coast of Africa, which they explored quite thoroughly. Along the coast the Portuguese encountered urban centers comparable to those back in Europe, governed by elaborate dynasties, organized around apprenticeship-based artistic guilds, and with agricultural systems capable of feeding their large populaces. Maps from this period reflect this sophistication and reveal an acute understanding of the coastline from where gold, ivory and pepper were being traded.
After 1600, and throughout the lifetime of Sanson, slaves were exported in increasing numbers. Initially slaves for foreign trade had been taken by the Kingdom in wars with neighbors. After 1600 there were fewer wars, and as this source began to dry up, the government turned to its own populace as a source of supply, passing laws which made it relatively easy for commoners to lose their freedom, and which gave rise to internal conflicts. During this period a large number of prisoners of war, refugees, and conquered peoples were captured by British, Portuguese and Dutch slave traders and shipped across the Atlantic. Despite internal conflict, the kingdom thrived, and reached its peak in the mid seventeenth century. It eventually fell due to scheming nobles, feuding royal factions and the slave trade, all of which contributed to its decline.
In his map Sanson clearly delineates the vast river systems of western Africa, their estuaries and confluences, and their drainage systems in general. The amount of water flowing into the Atlantic from this part of Africa is substantial. The Congo is second only to the Amazon by discharge volume, and its basin has a total area of about 4,000,000 km2 (1,500,000 sq mi), or 13% of the entire African landmass. Forests and mountainous regions are depicted, and fortifications, cities, villages and ports are delineated.
Condition: This hand colored map is in A condition with light even toning.
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