Author: Africani, Ioannis Leonis [al-hasan ibn Muhammad al-wazzan al-fasi] (c1494-1554?)
Africae. Descripto IX. lib. absoluta
Publisher: Elzevir [Elsevier,]
Place: Lugd. Batav [Leiden]
2 volumes in one paginated consecutively. 800+[16 index] pages. Small duodecimo (4 1/2 x 2 1/2") bound in full leather with raised spine bands and gilt lettering to spine, heal and for edge pages marbled. Originally published in 1550. In the seventeenth century, at the zenith of Dutch mercantilism, Leiden was an international university center, and the pocket editions produced by the Dutch firm of Elzevir, at a standard price of one guilder for 500 small duodecimo pages, became known throughout Europe.
Joannes Leo Africanus was a Moorish diplomat and author who is best know for his book Descrittione dell'Africa describing the geography of North Africa. Most of what is known about his life is gathered from autobiographical notes in his own work. He was born in Granada around 1494 but his family moved to Fez soon after his birth. As a young man he accompanied an uncle on a diplomatic mission to the Maghreb, reaching as far as the city of Timbuktu, then part of the Songhai Empire. In 1517 when returning from a diplomatic mission to Constantinople on behalf of the Sultan of Fez Muhammad II he found himself in Rosetta during the Ottoman conquest of Egypt. He continued his journey through Cairo and Aswan and across the Red Sea to Arabia. On his way back to Tunis in 1518 he was captured by Spanish corsairs. He was taken to Rome and initially imprisoned in the Castel Sant' Angelo but when his captors realized his importance he was freed and presented to Pope Leo X. Leo Africanus left Rome and spent the next three or four years traveling in Italy. While staying in Bologna he wrote an Arabic-Hebrew-Latin medical vocabulary, of which only the Arabic part has survived, and a grammar of Arabic of which only an eight-page fragment has survived. He returned to Rome in 1526 under the protection of Pope Clement VII. According to Leo, he completed his manuscript on African geography in the same year. The work was published in Italian with the title Della descrittione dell�Africa et delle cose notabili che iui sono, per Giovan Lioni Africano in 1550 by the Venetian publisher Giovanni Battista Ramusio. The book proved to be extremely popular and was reprinted five times. It was also translated into other languages. French and Latin editions were published in 1556 while an English version was published in 1600 with the title A Geographical Historie of Africa. The Latin edition, which contained many errors and mistranslations, was used as the source for the English translation.
Leather chipped away at front heal hinge heavily rubbed with cracked hinges, some worming affecting the back leather, corners bumped and rubbed through else a good copy.