Southern Africa – Tabula Nova Partis Africae

by Lorenz Fries (after Martin Waldseemüller)

Discover the age of discoveries


Date of first edition: 1522

Date of this map: 1522-1541

Dimensions (not including margins): 31 x 43 cm

Condition: excellent. Sharp wood engraving printed on strong paper.  Wide margins.

Condition rating: A+

Verso: no text

From: Geographia of Claudius Ptolemy, first published in Strasbourg by Johannes Gruninger in 1522. This publication was made in Vienne.


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Cope of Good Hope, Mountains of the Moon and Prester John: discover the Age of Discoveries

This map, based on the first map of Southern Africa by Martin Waldseemüller of 1513. Lorenz Fries published this version adding vignettes in the interior, including a dragon, serpents, an elephant and enthroned kings. Acknowledging the role played by the Portuguese  in making this area known, the engraver has included a portrait of King Emmanuel riding a sea creature in the Indian Ocean.

Mountains of the Moon

The present map contains several elements that would appear odd to the modern eye. The Mountains of the Moon (Mone Lune), depicted at center below the Equator, were believed for centuries to be the source of the Nile River. Ptolemy’s Geographia tells the story Diogenes, a Greek trader and merchant traveling in East Africa around 110 AD. Diogenes supposedly discovered the Mountains of the Moon, whose snowmelt fed two great lakes, which in turn fed the Nile. While this map shows a second-century legend, the story was still a viable geographic theory in the sixteenth century. The Mountains of the Moon remained on maps long into the eighteenth century and beyond.


The present map shows four different rulers. Near the Equator to the east, a crowned, bearded ruler is labled Quiola Regnum, likely referring to the area of Quiloa, now known as Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania. Kilwa Kisiwani was a major Swahili trading city that controlled Indian Ocean trade with Arabia, India, and China, especially between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, when Kilwa Kisiwani merchants traded gold and ivory for silver, perfumes, and Chinese porcelain. The city even minted its own currency between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries. After the Portuguese established a fort on Kilwa Kisiwani in the sixteenth century, the city began to decline.

Farther south near Mozambique (Moncabiqui), a crowned, bare-chested ruler is labeled Charagassa. Above the Tropic of Capricorn sits a third king, with robe and scepter, Hengi Zedaici.

Off the southeast coast, Emmanual, the most Christian King of Portugal (Manual I the Great and Fortunate, r. 1495-1521) sits astride a sea monster. This last scene is taken directly from Waldseemüller’s Carta Marina (1516).

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