Types of Litters, Kingdom of Kongo, late 17th cent.

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Image Reference

D. O. Dapper, Description de l'Afrique . . . Traduite du Flamand (Amsterdam,1686; 1st ed., 1668), p. 349 (bottom). (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University)

Shows slaves carrying wealthier Congolese in two types of litters. "When they want to take a trip they are carried in litters by their slaves. There are different kinds of litters as can be seen in the two illustrations shown here. When they went to move quickly, they take a number of slaves and some carry the litter while the others rest. Those who don't have the means to maintain so many slaves find porters to hire" (Dapper, p. 348, our translation; see also image DAP3 on this website). In an informed discussion of Dapper as an historical source, Adam Jones writes "there is virtually no evidence" that Dapper "took much interest in what sort of visual material was to accompany his text," and that it was the publisher, Van Meurs, "who probably did all the engraving himself." With respect to the plates, in particular, Jones concludes: "For those interested in seventeenth-century black Africa rather than in the history of European perceptions, few of the plates showing human beings and artefacts are of any value . . . . [and] originated solely from Van Meurs' imagination . . . .[although] they have been used as historical evidence in modern works" (Decompiling Dapper: A Preliminary Search for Evidence (History in Africa [1990], vol. 17, pp. 187-190). The litters shown here clearly ultimately derive from engavings done by the De Bry brothers, and originally published in the late 16th century (see image Africa-A on this website).