Early 16th century description of Islamic Africa and Arabia: with hand-coloured maps and illustrations

Leo Africanus, Johannes (al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan al-Fasi). Historiale description de l'Afrique, tierce partie du monde.

Lyon, Jean Temporal, 1556.

Folio (305 x 200 mm). Vol. 1 (of 2) only. (40), 495, (23) pp. Wood-engraved title border, double-page woodcut map of Africa, including Arabia, and 26 illustrations, all but one coloured by a contemporary hand. 18th c. mottled calf with giltstamped red label to fully gilt spine. Marbled endpapers.


Scarce first French edition of the famous description of Islamic Africa and Arabia, with the illustrations coloured by a contemporary hand; the first collection of voyages printed in France. The book was originally written in Arabic around 1526 by the Berber Andalusi geographer and traveller al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan al-Fasi (ca. 1494-ca. 1554), known in the West as Johannes Leo Africanus, translated into Italian by the author and first published in Venice in 1550. The Arabian Peninsula is depicted nearly complete on the double-page woodcut map and is treated extensively in the first chapter, which contains information on its people, cities, geography, religion, customs, costumes, etc. Illustrations include Arabian camels and veiled women.

Johannes Leo took his Christian name from his sponsor Pope Leo X when he converted to Christianity after his capture in 1520. While still very young he began to travel widely in the Barbary States; in 1513 he appears to have started on his famous Sudan and Sahara journeys (1513-15). In 1516-17 he travelled to Constantinople, probably visiting Egypt on the way; it is more uncertain when he visited Arabias, Armenia and Tartary. His three Egyptian journeys, immediately after the Turkish conquest, all probably fell between 1517 and 1520; on one of these he ascended the Nile from Cairo to Aswan.

Binding somewhat rubbed; spine head and hinges professionally repaired. Repairs to lower margin of first two leaves (very slight loss of title border), some toning and soiling, water- and inkstains. Very occasional marginal tears or worming. Early marginalia and ink ownerships on title page ("Pacauld" and "Ex Bibliotheca Joh. Huyseri", i. e. Johann Huyser). No other auction record of a coloured copy in RBH or ABPC.


Adams L 482. Howgego A17. Gay 258. USTC 1136. Sabin 40044.

Art.-Nr.: BN#48442 Schlagwort: