Rare First Edition of One of the Earliest Sources on the Congo and Central Africa

    Filippo Pigafetta, after Duarte Lopez. Relatione del Reame di Congo e della circonvicine contrade. Tratta dalli Scritti & ragionamente di Odoardo Lopez Portoghese per Filippos Pigafetta. Con dissegni vari de Geografia, di piante, d' habiti, d' animali, & altro...Rome: Appresso Bartolomeo Grassi, [n.d., 1591].

    Rare first edition of one of the earliest sources on the Congo and Central Africa. Small quarto (8.125 x 6.125 inches; 207 x 156 mm.). [8], 82 pages. Collation: [pi]4 A-I4 K6 (-K6). Without the final (blank?) leaf. Dedication by Filippo Pigafetta, dated "7. Agosto 1591." Engraved title within an architectural border, incorporating the arms of Antonio Migliore, Bishop of San Marco, to whom the book is dedicated. Lacking the two large folding engraved maps of the Congo and Africa (which are often lacking), and the eight folding engraved plates of plants, animals, and inhabitants of the country. Decorative woodcut initials, typographic tail-piece.

    Contemporary limp vellum. Vellum slightly darkened and stained, with two horizontal marks across the front cover and a few splits on the rear cover. Two small holes in the rear pastedown. The text is loose in the binding. Paper slightly browned, with some yellowing, heaviest on gatherings C-E (pages 17-40); some occasional mostly marginal foxing. Outer margin of engraved title closely cropped. Three-inch tear (paper flaw?) into the text on the contents leaf and on leaves A4 (pages 7/8), B4 (pages 15/16), and C4 (pages 23/24), with early repairs, affecting a few letters on both recto and verso; additional half-inch tear to the lower blank margin of the contents leaf and to leaf B4; a few additional minor marginal tears. Tiny worm track in the outer blank margin of leaves G2-K5 (pages 51-82). Small ink stain to preliminary pages [5/6], affecting two letters; small stain in the outer blank margin of K1-K5 (pages 73-82). Bookplate of John Ralph Willis on front pastedown. Early ink (shelf) marks crossed out on front endpapers, pencil notes on front free endpaper, red pencil note on front pastedown. A good copy.

    Duarte Lopez was a "Portuguese trader to Congo and Angola who wrote one of the earliest descriptions of Central Africa. 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 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).

    Adams L1468 and P1176 (one map lacking). Brunet IV, col. 651 (without the plates). Cox I, pp. 354-355. Gay 3077 (without the maps). Mendelssohn (1797) III, 163. STC Italian, page 392. Streit, Bibliotheca Missionum, XV, 2085. See also: "Bibliographical Note upon the 16th-Century Editions of Pigafetta," in A Report of the Kingdom of Congo...Drawn out of the Writings and Discourses of the Portuguese, Duarte Lopez, by Filippo Pigafetta, in Rome, 1591. Newly Translated from the Italian, and Edited, with Explanatory Notes, by Margarite Hutchinson (London: 1881). From the Professor John Ralph Willis Collection of Rare Africana.

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