Litter Travel, Kingdom of Kongo, late 16th cent.

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This record was last updated on 19 Feb 2016

Image Reference

Pieter van der Aa, La Galerie Agréable du Monde (Leide, 1729).

Caption translated, "how inhabitants of the Congo travel overland." This depiction of three different types of litters shows how nobility traveled in the Congo during the late 16th century, and is based on the account of Duarte Lopes/Lopez who visited the area in 1578. The image shown here is actually a composite of 3 separate images that appeared in the first German translation of Lopes' account (Regnum Congo hoc est: warhaffte und eigentliche beschreibung dess Konigreichs Congo in Africa . . . [Franckfort am Mayn, 1609], nos. 6, 7, 8 [ Library Company of Philadelphia]). The images in the German edition, in turn, are based on, but are not identical to, images (also nos. 6,7,8) found in the first publication of Lopes' account, published in Rome in 1591 (Relatione del reame di Congo [New York Public Library]). All three of these images were originally executed by the Flemish engravers, the brothers Johan Theodore and Johan Israel De Bry, and were published as separate plates in the late 16th century (Orientalische Indien [Frankfort, 1597; German edition]; India Orientalis [Frankfort, 1598; Latin edition] vol. 1, plate 2); the litter shown on the left is a reversal of the original engraving. The De Brys had never visited Africa and constructed their illustrations of Africans from the late 16th century eye-witness accounts by the Dutchman Pieter de Marees of the Gold Coast, and by the Portuguese Duarte Lopez of the kingdom of Kongo. For an extended discussion of the De Brys' illustrations of Africa and their sources, see Ernst van den Boogaart, De Brys' Africa, in Susanna Burghartz, ed., Inszenierte Welten: Die west-und ostindischen reisen der verleger de Bry, 1590-1630 [Staging New Worlds: De Brys' Illustrated Travel Reports, 1590-1630] (Basel, 2004), pp. 95-149.