Map of Barbary, the Nigrita, and Guinea


As late as the Renaissance, European knowledge of Africa was largely limited to the Mediterranean and coastal areas. It was also still heavily influenced by classical sources. Between 1570 and 1670, the Dutch, who dominated European mapmaking at the time, began translating reports from Portuguese sea captains, as well as earlier North African sources, to expand their knowledge of the continent. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the French Royal Academy of Sciences gave new impetus to the mapping of Africa. This 18th-century map by Guillaume de l’Isle, one of the academy’s cartographers, is one of the most “scientific” portrayals of north and west Africa at the time. De l’Isle almost certainly drew upon the Dutch compilations of classical, Arabic, and Portuguese sources. He also tried to map information from more recent accounts by Jesuits and other missionaries onto grids measuring latitude and longitude. De l’Isle’s map thus provided a detailed rendering of both the coastal trading networks and the interior lands known as “Nigritia.” Cartography nevertheless remained a speculative enterprise, as can be seen in some of the remarks on the map, e.g., “Some believe that the Niger River is an arm of the Nile and for that reason call it the Nile of the Negroes.”

Date Created

Subject Date

Publication Information

Chez l'auteur fur le Quai de l'Horloge a l'Aigle d'Or, Paris


Title in Original Language

Carte de la Barbarie, de la Nigritie, et de la Guinée


Additional Subjects

Type of Item

Physical Description

1 hand colored engraved map, 50 x 61 centimeters


  • Scale approximately 1:9,150,000

Last updated: September 29, 2014