The Maps of Nicolas Sanson, 1600-1667
Richard Betz, in his book “The Mapping of Africa: A Cartobibliography of Printed Maps of the African Continent to 1700,” identifies six major models of antiquarian maps of Africa. Each model speaks to maps produced during certain periods with maps produced in each period having significant attributes. These constructs often begin with a map that defines a model and that is followed by several others that share attributes from that map, or are derived from that defining map. For example, Giacomo Gastaldi produced in 1564 an eight sheet map that had many imitators. According to Betz, Abraham Ortelius used this map for his map of Africa in 1570. These maps and several others follow the “Gastaldi-Ortelius archetype.” Other models explained by Betz include the Mercator Model, the Blaeu Model, Sanson 1650 Model, Jaillot - Duval Model and the Delisle Model of 1700. Major attributes of this model include more detailed place names in part of Africa that were under French influence, more precision around the location of the Volta River and the absence of conjectural placenames.
While Stanford’s Maps of Africa Collection has examples that belong to many of these models, this digital exhibition showcases four maps from the Sanson 1650 model period to highlight some of the major elements of this model and of Sanson’s work. Our scanned collection has a total of seven maps belong to this model. All of the maps depicted below are authored by Nicolas Sanson and are part of the Maps of Africa collection.
“Africa Vetus…cum privlegio.” This ca. 1650 map bears close resemblance to color version showcased at the top of this page. This was also engraved by Abraham Peyrounin. The cartouches from both the maps are enlarged for comparison above.
“Basses Aethiopie qui Comprend les Ryaume de Congo, Coste, et Pays des Cafres, Empires du Monomotapa, et Monoemugi.” This 1655 map is engraved by Jean Somer Pruthenus.
This is one of two Sanson maps in Stanford’s collection that show southern Africa in some detail and comes from the Norwich Collection. According to Oscar Norwich’s cartobibliography, this map is based on sparse information and sparked subsequent exploration in seach of cities noted on this map. Norwich speculates that this map was taken from a previous work by Nicolas Sanson called “Cartes Generales de Toutes les Parties du Monde published in 1632.”
“A Mapp of the Higher and Lower Aethiopia. Comprehending Ye Several Kingdomes &c. in Each, to Witt, in the Empire of the Abissines, the Coast of Zanguebar, Abex, and Aian, with the Kingdomes of Nubia, and Biafra &c. In the Lower Aethiopia the Kingdome of Congo, Ye Empire of Monomotapa and Monoemugy, Ye Coast and Lands of Cafres and of this Side Cape Negres with the Isles of Madagascar &c.”
Typical of maps in this period, this map has depictions of ships, whales and sea monsters.