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16th-Early 20th Century Maps of Africa

16th-Early 20th Century Maps of Africa

Features digital copies of 113 antique maps of Africa and accompanying text dating from the mid 16th Century to the early 20th Century. All scanned maps are authentic and originally collected by the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University.

Information from the previous website for these maps:

About the 16th-19th Century Maps of Africa site

The Site and Project

Melville J. Herskovits established Northwestern University 's Program of African Studies in 1948 (the first of its kind at a major research university in the United States). The Herskovits Library, formally created as a separate library in 1954, has since its inception collected maps that describe Africa from their earliest appearance to the most current.

Map area coverage includes the continent, regions (particularly North Africa and Algeria ), islands (particularly Madagascar ), and a few city plans. All of these maps are loose items, though many have been excised from published atlases. Some of the highlights of the digital collection are:

  • a series of Ptolemic maps of North Africa by Ruscelli, ca. 1565;
  • Forlani: Africa , 1562;
  • Mercator: Africa, 1595;
  • Blaeu: Æthiopia ca. 1650 (a Prester John map);
  • Carey: Africa, 1795 (first map of Africa published in the United States);
  • Arrowsmith: Africa, 1802 (notable for its large dimensions, 124 x 145 cm.);
  • a series of Algerian maps published by the French government in the mid-1800's; 
  • and maps by other notable cartographers, such as Hondius, Jansson, de Jode, de L'Isle, Ortelius, Sanson, and de Wit.

The maps are initially organized in Library of Congress call number order (except for two sets which are kept together), and are searchable by region, cartographer and date. Search results include each map's catalog record .

The original maps are kept and maintained in the map collection in the Government and Geographic Information and Data Services Department. We welcome questions, comments and suggestions [email address] concerning any aspect of this digital collection, particularly with regards to provenance. Other antique maps from the Africana Library which were not included in this digital collection are either duplicate copies or other editions, such as French government sets covering Algeria .

Technical Information

The maps and text have been digitized at 600dpi using a process of tiling and stitching, and are delivered in JPEG2000 via an Aware Image Server. MARC records for the maps have been transformed into MODS, bundled with PREMIS preservation metadata and MIX technical image metadata, wrapped in METS and ingested into Northwestern's Fedora repository. A collection search based on Lucene provides a custom gateway to this important collection.


University Library 
Stu Baker, Digital Library Systems Development 
Beth Clausen, Government and Geographic Information and Data Services 
Steve DiDomenico, Digital Library Systems Development 
David Easterbrook, Africana 
Volodymyr Karpenko, Digital Library Systems Development 
Virginia Kerr, Preservation 
Karen Miller, Catalog Department 
Mike Smith, Government and Geographic Information and Data Services 
Andrea Stamm, Catalog Department 
Claire Stewart, Digital Media Services 
Gary Strawn, Catalog Department & Digital Library Systems Development

Academic Technologies 
Harlan Wallach, NUAMPS 
Stef Foster, NUAMPS

Other Online Sources for Africana Maps