SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY CENTRAL AFRICA

Istorica descrizione de’ tre’ regni Congo, Matamba, et Angola situati nell’ Etiopia inferiore occidentale e delle missioni apostoliche esercitatevi da religiosi Capuccini ... il quale vi fu’ prefetto e nel presente stile ridotta dal P. Fortunato Alamandini ...

Bologna, Giacomo Monti, 1687.

Folio, pp. [14], 933, [1], without final blank; 10 engraved plates (1 folding), 1 folding engraved map, 40 engraved illustrations within the text (plants, animals, scenes), woodcut initials, head- and tail-pieces; some light damp staining throughout, small worm track to blank inner margins pp. 21-34, a very few small stains; a very good copy in 19th-century quarter calf over marbled boards, gilt lettering-piece to spine, sprinkled edges; neat repairs at head and foot of spine, extremities slightly rubbed; traces of ink ownership stamp to title, ticket of C.E. Rappaport (Rome) to front pastedown.

£5750

Approximately:
US $7238€6419

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Istorica descrizione de’ tre’ regni Congo, Matamba, et Angola situati nell’ Etiopia inferiore occidentale e delle missioni apostoliche esercitatevi da religiosi Capuccini ... il quale vi fu’ prefetto e nel presente stile ridotta dal P. Fortunato Alamandini ...

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First edition, handsomely illustrated, of Cavazzi’s hugely important description of Congo, Matamba and Angola, a work which ‘has long been one of the most important sources for the reconstruction of the social, political, economic, and religious history of these three Central African states in the seventeenth century’ (John K. Thornton). An Italian Capuchin missionary, Cavazzi (1621-1678) first arrived at Luanda in Angola in 1654. Over the next 13 years he travelled widely, serving as chaplain to the Portuguese, and visiting Queen Nzinga of Matamba (he officiated at her funeral in 1663). Upon his return to Italy in 1667 he compiled an account of his sojourn for the Congregatio de Propaganda Fide but it remained unpublished and Cavazzi returned to Angola in 1673 as prefect (surviving a shipwreck), staying for a further four years. His writings were eventually edited for publication, as the Istorica descrizione, by his fellow Capuchin, Fortunato Alamandini.

Following a geographical description of the region, and discussion of its agriculture, flora and fauna, Cavazzi turns to the native peoples and their customs, discussing, inter alia, idolatry, oaths, superstitions, funeral rites, habitations, marriage, health, transport, military matters, law, slaves, music and dance, industry, dress, government, ceremonial, and the Jagas (invading bands). He then gives a thorough history of successive Capuchin missions to the region, which includes engravings of Queen Nzinga sitting on a servant’s back before the Portuguese governor of Luanda, and of her baptism. Cavazzi’s work went through several Italian editions, and was translated into German, French and Portuguese.

Brunet I, 1699; Gay 3070; Sabin 11592.