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Map Abyssinia, or the Empire of Prester John. Abissinorum sive Pretiosi Ioannis Imperiu

About this Item


  • Abyssinia, or the Empire of Prester John.

Other Title

  • Abissinorum sive Pretiosi Ioannis Imperiu


  • Jodocus Hondius (1563-1612) was a Flemish cartographer and publisher of maps and a central figure in the golden age of Dutch cartography. He was responsible for publishing the maps of Gerhard Mercator (1512-94), the single most important cartographer of the age of discovery, after he bought the plates to Mercator's atlas from his grandsons. Hondius then worked with his brother-in-law, the engraver Pieter van der Keere, to add about 40 new maps to Mercator's atlas to create what became known as the Mercator-Hondius Atlas, published in Amsterdam in 1606. The Hondius publishing house remained one of the most important businesses active in the European map trade until the early 1630s. This map depicts the realm of the legendary Christian emperor Prester John in Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia). The legend emerged during the 12th century-Prester John may have been a real person, a "Presbyter John" during the Crusades-and concerned parts of the world that seemed exotic and were not well known or understood at the time. The story was an object of much speculation from the Middle Ages up to the early modern period. The map abounds in the fantasies of the time about the interior of Africa. In addition to the empire of Prester John, the map shows the lands of the Amazons throughout the southern regions and a nearby lake named Zaire inhabited by Tritons and Sirens. Cannibals threaten the then recently Christianized kingdom of the Congo on the Atlantic coast of Africa. The Atlantic is here called the Oceanus Aethiopicus (Ethiopian Ocean), and the coast is shown in more detail in the inset map-possibly derived from a 1591 map of the Congo by Filippo Pigafetta (1533-1604), itself derived from the reports of the Portuguese explorer Duarte Lopez, who reached the Congo in 1578 and stayed for some years. The inset bears a title cartouche that reads "Congi Regni in Africa Christiani Nova description" (Christian Kingdom of the Congo, new description). The map also depicts part of Arabia, up to Gidda (Jeddah) on the Red Sea, including Mecha (Mecca) somewhat north of its true position, the area of the Straits of Bab el-Mandeb and along the coast of Yemen and east to the area of Zufar in present-day Oman. The Gulf of Aden is here named the Sinus Arabicus (Arabian Gulf). Many details are speculative, with an exaggerated number of rivers and Lakes Tanganyika and Victoria much smaller than they should be. The map has scales in German miles and Spanish leagues. Relief is shown pictorially.


  • Hondius, Jodocus, 1563-1612 Contributor.
  • Mercator, Gerhard, 1512-1594 Attributed Name.

Created / Published

  • Amsterdam : J. Hondius, 1619.


  • -  1619
  • -  Maps
  • -  Prester John (Legendary character)


  • -  Title devised, in English, by Library staff.
  • -  Original resource extent: 1 map : color ; 34 x 49 centimeters.
  • -  Reference extracted from World Digital Library: Glenn Van den Bosch, "Maps on the Legend of Prester John," Brussels International Map Collectors' Circle (BIMCC) Newsletter, number 29, September 2007. External
  • -  Original resource at: Qatar National Library.
  • -  Content in Latin.
  • -  Description based on data extracted from World Digital Library, which may be extracted from partner institutions.


  • 1 online resource.

Digital Id

Library of Congress Control Number

  • 2021668727

Online Format

  • compressed data
  • image

Additional Metadata Formats

IIIF Presentation Manifest

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Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Hondius, Jodocus, Contributor, and Gerhard Mercator. Abyssinia, or the Empire of Prester John. Amsterdam: J. Hondius, 1619. Map.

APA citation style:

Hondius, J. & Mercator, G. (1619) Abyssinia, or the Empire of Prester John. Amsterdam: J. Hondius. [Map] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Hondius, Jodocus, Contributor, and Gerhard Mercator. Abyssinia, or the Empire of Prester John. Amsterdam: J. Hondius, 1619. Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.