Carta generale seconda d’Affrica

TITLE Carta Generale Seconda D'Affrica


CARTOGRAPHER Robert Dudley (1574-1649)


PUBLICATIONS Dell' Arcano del mare (Florence: Francesco Onofri; 1646 & 661); the map appears in the text opposite page 39 of Book II – not in the Atlas Volume.

DIMENSIONS 47.5cm x 38.0cm

TECHNOLOGY Copperplate

ENGRAVER A. F. Lucini Fece



CONDITION Surface dirt and join stain.  Plate margin closely trimmed at top right.  Impression is strong.




HISTORY & OTHER INFORMATION This is a rare sea chart of southern Africa, published in Sir Robert Dudley’s atlas, Dell’ Arcano del Mare (Secrets of the Sea), the first sea atlas compiled by an Englishman and one of the rarest and most sought after sea atlases.  Apparently it took forty years to prepare the Arcano and twelve to execute.  (Sotheby’s Catalogue, Wardington Sale, 2005).  According to Betz ‘Dudley’s Arcano del mare is one of the greatest maritime atlases of the world and one of the most complex ever produced.  Dudley’s work was the only exception to the total dominance of sea-atlas production by the Dutch for nearly a century.’  The atlas had the first charts based on on Mercator’s projections, as corrected by Edward Wright, to show prevailing winds and currents in the main harbours and anchorages, and to give magnetic declination; it was though that there was no magnetic declination at the Azores prime meridian.

The map was not known until recently; this example of the map does not have ‘XVIII’ and ‘L°2°’ at the end of the title seen in the Norwich example.  At the bottom right, there is an inset map from the Horn of Africa south to just below the island of Zanzibar and the islands of the Seychelles.

Dudley was the illegitimate son of the Earl of Leicester, a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I.  After failing to prove his legitimacy in 1605, Dudley left England for Italy.  He had friends such as Sir Francis Drake who supplied him with valuable geographical information.  He died in 1649, two years after the first edition of the Arcano was published.  The charts were all original works and not copies from existing maps, as with Seller, for example.

REFERENCES Norwich p. 281 and #246; not in Tooley.

VALUE Dudley’s maps are scarce and much sought after, and the condition of this map is very good.  Only three examples of the map have been recorded in 33 years (AMPR).