A Geographical Historie of Africa,


£18750.00  [First Edition]

Please contact us in advance if you would like to view this book at our Curzon Street shop.


Written in Arabicke and Italian by Iohn Leo a More, borne in Granada, and brought up in Barbarie. Wherein he hath at large described, not onely the qualities, situations, and true distances of the regions, cities, townes, mountaines, rivers, and other places throughout all the north and principall partes of Africa; but also the descents and families of their kings, the causes and events of their warres, with their manners, customes, religions, and civile government, and many other memorable matters: gathered partly out of his own diligent observations, and partly out of the ancient records and Chronicles of the Arabians and Mores. Before which, out of the best ancient and moderne writers, is prefixed a generall description of Africa, and also a particular treatise of all the maine lands and Iles undescribed by Iohn Leo. ... Translated and collected by Iohn Pory, lately of Gonevill and Caius College in Cambridge.

First edition in English. Folding engraved map (with a few small wormholes and some light dampstaining, some minor toning, supplied from another copy). Large 8vo. Contemporary vellum, recased with new endpapers, ties lacking, ink ms. title and date stamped in gilt to spine, faded early ink ms. title to rear cover, blue edges, two ms. ownership inscriptions, bookplates to front pastedown and free endpaper, minor tissue repairs to corners and margins of final leaf. Housed in a morocco dropback box, gilt. [1 blank], [8], 420pp. London, [Eliot's Court Press] Imp. Georg. Bishop,

Leo Africanus (c.1485-c.1554), whose arabic name was Al Hasan Ibn Muhammad Al-Wazzan Az-Zayyatti, or Al Fasi, was born in Granada and educated at Fez. He travelled extensively in northern Africa before being captured by Christian pirates on his return from an ascent of the Nile to Aswan. The pirates, impressed with his intelligence, presented him as a gift to Pope Leo X who persuaded him to convert and stood sponsor at his baptism in 1520 when he took the name Giovanni Leone. He subsequently returned to Africa and died at Tunis. After leaving Cambridge the translator John Pory (1570?-1635) became an assistant to the travel writer Richard Hakluyt who encouraged him to produce this work which is dedicated to Sir Robert Cecil and contains 60 pages of additional material consisting of a general description of Africa and of places undescribed by Leo. He later became M.P. for Bridgwater (1605) and travelled extensively in Europe as far as Constantinople and visited Virginia in 1619-21 and 1623-24.  


Originally published in 1550 by Ramusio in Italian, this text subsequently became the basis of all future translations. Pory's translation was a "major landmark in the spread of knowledge of Africa in England" (Eldred Jones), and the book remained a standard work of reference until the nineteenth century. It is credited by the OED with the first use of the words hippopotamus and zebra in the English language; and literary scholars engaged on the never-ending quest for Shakespearian source-books have suggested that it may have been one of the sources for Othello. Although the evidence is only circumstantial, it is entirely possible that Pory's description of the Moors as credulous, violent and jealous ("whomsoever they finde but talking with their wives they presently go about to murther them") may have influenced Shakespeare. Ben Jonson certainly knew the work, as he cites "Leo the African" in the notes to his Masque of Blackness (1605).


Provenance: inscription of Rich. Relfe to front blank with code indicating perhaps price he paid, beneath is inscription of Christopher Daretts with his note reading: "This author is esteemed by Dr Rawlinson but the edition he recommends is yt of 1556 in French"; inscription of "Sr John Franklin. Dorothy Francklin" to a1; note to final leaf in an unknown c. late 17th century hand "Fallron May 19th 4d - 2l" bookplate of Humphrey Winterton to front pastedown; bookplate of Steve Fossett to new ffep.


See: Jones (Eldred), Othello's Countrymen: the African in English Renaissance Drama, 1965; Powell (W. S.), John Pory, 1572-1636: the life and letters of a man of many parts, 1977; STC 15481; James Howard, 9th. Earl of Carlisle.

Stock Code: 230979

close zoom-in zoom-out close zoom