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2008 Catalog > 3. Homann, Totius Africae Nova

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3. Johann Baptist Homann. “Totius Africae Nova Repraesentatio qua praeter diversos in ea Status et Regiones, etiam Origo Nili ex veris R.R.P.P. Missionariorum Relationibus ostenditur [All Africa Newly Represented along with regional divisions, as well as the probable Origin of the Nile as revealed by Missionaries]” (Nuremberg: J. B. Homann, c. 1740 [1716]). Published in Grosser Atlas Ueber Die Ganze Welt. Double-page copperplate engraving with excellent full original hand color. 18 3/4 x 22" at neat line. Frame size: 27½ x 30". The large title cartouche is filled with interesting imagery including the pyramids, ivory trading, the source of the Nile, a great white hunter, chiefs, and cherubs bringing salvation to the continent. A few minor spots and faint surface soiling. Excellent condition (by sight). Handsome archival presentation.


A large and bold portrayal of the African continent with a surprising number of details in the interior for this early period, Homann’s map displays the typical inaccuracies of eighteenth-century cartography. The shape of the continent is wrong, as is much of the nomenclature. Rivers, lakes, raised topography, and towns are all depicted, but the interior cartography is based largely on hearsay and not on direct documentation. The map conforms to the twin-lake configuration for the source of the Nile and a lengthy paragraph on the map purports to provide evidence of the accuracy of this theory. Indeed, the Latin inscription at lower left addressed to the “Kind Viewer” (Benevole Spectator) explains that the origin of the Nile, improperly understood before, has now been updated according to recent information presented by the famous geographer P. Henry Scherer.

Homann’s Totius Africae is one of five richly embellished maps of the world and four continents that constitute the centerpiece of his beautiful Grosser Atlas, first published in 1716 and reissued in subsequent editions up to 1748. The five maps all feature the well-engraved thematic cartouches and ornamental flourishes that are the hallmarks of Homann’s style.

Homann, a former Dominican monk, was one of the major German cartographers of the eighteenth century. When he began his business as a cartographer in 1702, he founded a dynasty that was to last into the nineteenth century. Following the long period of Dutch domination, the Homann family became the most important map publishers in Germany. After the founder's death in 1724, the firm continued under the direction of his son until 1730 and was then bequeathed to his heirs on the condition that it trade under the name of Homann Heirs. Maps under this imprint continued to exert a wide influence on map publishing in Germany.

A nice example of Homann’s style, the present map displays his emphasis on aesthetic appeal. Some regions of the continent are rendered in lovely full color, which, in combination with the decorative cartouche, makes for an outstanding and visually rich example of the eighteenth-century mapmaker’s art.

Refs.: LeGear, 5966 (1716 edition); Moreland and Bannister, Christie’s Antique Maps, pp. 84–86; Phillips, Atlases, 586 (later edition).

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