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I speak of Africa

Sanson's Africa

Map of Africa, from: Nicolas Sanson. L'Afrique en plusieurs cartes nouvelles et exactes & en divers traictés de geographie et d'histoire. A Paris: chez l’autheur, 1656 [FCO Historical Collection]Map of Africa, from: Nicolas Sanson. L'Afrique en plusieurs cartes nouvelles et exactes & en divers traictés de geographie et d'histoire. A Paris: chez l’autheur, 1656 [FCO Historical Collection]The first European expeditions to sub-Saharan Africa took place in the fifteenth century, with the Portuguese taking the lead. Rumours of earlier French explorations to Cape Verde and the Gold Coast are now regarded as fabrication. The Portuguese advanced steadily along the west coast of Africa and explored more and more of the coastline.

By 1460 they had reached Sierra Leone. In 1475 they passed the Equator and in 1483 Diogo Cão (1450-86) discovered the mouth of the Congo river. In 1487 Bartolomeu Diaz (ca. 1450-1500) was the first to sail past the Cape of Good Hope and during the years 1497-9 Vasco da Gama (1469?–1524) sailed round the Cape and up the east coast to arrive in India.

By the time Nicolas Sanson (1600-67), geographer to the French King Louis XIV, published this work in 1656, the coastline of Africa was well known; the interior of the continent, however, remained to a large extent a mystery. Therefore Sanson’s map of the interior of Africa is to a certain degree fictitious.

Sanson based his work on information gained from works by Ptolemy, Idrīsī and Livio Sanuto (1520-76), who himself had used Leo Africanus’s work as a reference, as well as on maps by Gerhard Mercator (1512-94) and Abraham Ortelius (1527-98).

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