1597 Pigafetta Lopez Kingdom Of Congo Africa 1st English Ed. Woodcuts Portuguese

1597 Pigafetta Lopez Kingdom Of Congo Africa 1st English Ed. Woodcuts Portuguese

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1597 Pigafetta Lopez Kingdom Of Congo Africa 1st English Ed. Woodcuts Portuguese:

[Early Printing - English] [Travel and Exploration - Africa]

Printed in London, John Wolfe, 1597. First Edition in English.

ILLUSTRATED WITH TEN FULL-PAGE WOODCUTS, but lacking the two very rare maps ("The number of copies which contain the maps is extremely limited."- Quaritch)

Dedicated to John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury.

RARE FIRST ENGLISH EDITION of one of the earliest accounts of the central and equatorial regions of Africa. Hartwell made this English translation at the encouragement of Richard Hakluyt from the original Italian text of Relatione del reame di Congo (1591), which was written by Filippo Pigafetta (1533-1604), an influential Italian diplomat, courtier and a military engineer (Hartwell in his Preface calls him "a very good mathematician") from the verbal account of the Portuguese merchant and traveller Duarte Lopez who spent nine years in the kingdom of Congo.

Pigafetta's Congo was included by De Bry as The first volume of his Small Voyages in German (1597) and Latin (1598).

The curious full-page woodcuts in this 1597 English edition were copied from the illustrations in the 1591 Italian edition.

Bernard Quaritch, who listed a copy of this edition (also without the maps!) in his 1886 catalogue (at the hefty price of £5), writes about the book: "It is surprising to notice how much [Pigafetta's report] is in agreement with the supposed new discoveries of the latest investigators. The secrets of the Nile, the Congo, and the inland lakes were revealed to Pigafetta by Lopez neary three hundred years ago; and we should therefore look to Speke, Livingstone, Cameron, and Stanley, not for news concerning totally unexplored and unknown regions, but for confirmation and correction of already existing knowledge. Lopez started from the mouth of the Tagus in 1578, and, after some years spent in Africa, returned to Europe charged with a mission from the King of Congo to the Spanish monarch. Philip was then engaged in fitting out the Armada, and Lopez finding himself disappointed went to Rome and was received by the Pope. He dictated his narrative to Pigafetta. who wrote it in Italian and printed it at Rome in 1591." (B. Quaritch, Catalogue of the Books on the History, Geography, etc., London, 1886, no.28803)

Pigafetta's influential work was the first to challenge the Ptolemaic conception of the source of the Nile as two large lakes side by side, placing them instead one above the other.

The work deals, among other things, with geography and natural history of central Africa and contains some detailed and fascinating information on African plants and animals, including substantial accounts of the elephants, whales, zebras (illustrated by a woodcut), snakes, parrots and other birds, etc.. There is also a lot of interesting material on the customs and manners, beliefs, society, warfare, dress, etc. of the inhabitants of Congo and several other regions of Africa, including the famous account of cannibalism among the Anziques (notably the central reference in H. P. Lovecraft story The Picture in the House). In Chapter 5 Pigafetta writes: "They keepe a shambles of mans flesh as they do in these countryes for beefe and othe victuailes. For their enemies whom they take in the warres, they eate, and also their slaves if they can have a good market for them, they sell, or if they cannot, then they deliver them to the butchers to be cut in peeces, and so solde, to be roasted or boyled [...]." (p.36 of our 1597 edition)

Of considerable interest is also one of the earliest printed observations of physical and behavioral similarities between apes and humans. In Chapter 9 of the book Pigafetta writes about the apes and monkeys, that "although they be unreasonable Creatures, yet will they notably counterfait the countenances, the fashions, & the actions of men."

"Portuguese trader to Congo and Angola, Lopez first left Portugal for the Congo in April 1578, sailing on his uncle's trading vessel. After a stay of several years, and having accumulated some wealth through his enterprises, he was appointed as ambassador of Alvaro II, king of the Congo, to the pope and [king] Philip II of Spain, at that time unified with Portugal. As ambassador to Philip, Lopez was to offer specimens of local minerals and to open the region for free trade with Portugal and Spain, while also informing the pope of the need for missionaries. However, during his return to Portugal, Lopez was shipwrecked on the coast of Venezuela and forced to spend a year there. Although his submissions to the pope and Philip were largely ignored, Lopez was able to relate everything he knew about the Congo to Filippo Pigafetta, who had been charged with the task of collecting information about the region. The result was published by Pigafetta in 1591, although much of what it contained bordered on the fabulous. Lopez returned to the Congo in 1589, after which nothing more is heard of him. Pigafetta's work was translated into English by Abraham Hartwell at the request of Richard Hakluyt, into Latin by Augustin Cassiadore Reinius, and placed at the head of De Bry's Petits Voyages. It has been suggested that the narrative was used by Daniel Defoe for his Captain Singleton" (Howgego, Encyclopedia of Exploration I, L146).

Abraham Hartwell (1554-1606) was an English translator and antiquary. A student of Trinity College, Cambridge, he graduated B.A. in 1571 and M.A. in 1575, and was incorporated M.A. at Oxford in 1588. At Trinity College, Hartwell apparently attracted the notice of John Whitgift, who made him his secretary. A notary public, he was MP for East Looe in 1586 and Hindon in 1593. Hartwell is recorded in 1587 as one of the proctors of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Court of Audience.

In 1590s Hartwell met Richard Hakluyt, who urged him successfully to translate Odoardo Lopez's account of Africa. Hartwell later wrote that he did so "...to help our English Nation, that they might knowe and understand many things, which are common in other languages, but utterly concealed from this poore Island".

Bibliographic references:

STC 16805; Lowndes p.1864; Mendelssohn (1979) III, 163; Streit, Bibliotheca Missionum, XVI, 2153; Henze III, 281 ff.

Physical description:

Quarto (textblock measures 19 cm x 14½ cm). Full late 17th-century calf, boards with gilt-rolled border and gilt turn-ins. Flat spine, rebacked retaining large portion of original backstrip with gilt lettering.

Pagination: [18], 217, [3] pp. Signature collation: ❦4 *4 **2 (-**2 cancellandum?) A-Z Aa-Ee4 (-A1,2).

Without the two very rare folding maps, blank A1 and the additional letterpress title A2, otherwise complete, with all text and illustrations present.

In fact, our example agrees precisely with the collation given by Lowndes, and by M. Hutchinson in his Bibliographical Note (in A report of the Kingdom of Congo, L, 1881, p.146), both calling for 9 preliminary leaves! This collation with nine leaves of preliminaries is encountered in many copies, and may, perhaps, constitute an issue (some copies have 13 preliminary leaves).

Preliminaries include title-page ❦1r with verso blank except fr woodcut coat of arms, Hartwell's Dedication to John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury on ❦2r-❦4r, his Preface "The Translator to the Reader" on ❦4v-**1v, followed by Errata at bottom of **1v.
At the end "A Table of the Chapters" (leaves Ee3v-Ee4v).

Woodcut printer's mark on title-page, woodcut coat of arms of the dedicatee (John Whitgift) on verso of title, and ten full-page woodcut illustrations: 8 blocks with two repetitions printed as plates with opposite side blank (though sometimes with page number, signature and running title), first eight illustration are numbered from 1 to 8, then a repetition of plate 1 and plate 7.

Numerous decorative woodcut initials and elaborate woodcut head- and tail-pieces.


Large armorial bookplate of Bridgewater Library to front pastedown.
The Bridgewater Library the oldest large family collection in England to survive intact into modern times. The library was begun by Thomas Egerton, 1st Viscount Brackley (1540-1617), an English Nobleman, Judge and Statesman who served as Lord Keeper and Lord Chancellor for twenty-one years. The collection was added to by his son John Egerton, 1st Earl of Bridgewater. John Egerton, 2nd Earl of Bridgewater also added to the library, and is said to have compiled a manuscript catalogue to it. The library now forms the core of the Elizabethan and early Stuart collection at the Huntington Library.


Very Good antiquarian condition. Binding slightly rubbed with some wear to edges, rebacked (a bit clumsily) retaining a large portion of the original backstrip with gilt lettering. Leaf A4 with a repair to bottom margin, affecting only the catchword on recto, but without loss of text. Plate 8 (leaf M1) with a discrete old repair (on blank verso) to a closed tear, without loss. Occasional very light soiling, a few leaves with some early underlining, a small manuscript note in early hand to top margin of E4v. In all, a very clean, solid and generally quite pleasant example of this rare work.

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1597 Pigafetta Lopez Kingdom Of Congo Africa 1st English Ed. Woodcuts Portuguese:

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