The Cosmography and Geography of Africa
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The first new translation in over 400 years of one of the great works of the Renaissance: an African diplomat's guide to Africa.
In 1518, al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan, a Moroccan diplomat, was seized by pirates while travelling in the Mediterranean. Brought before Pope Leo X, he was persuaded to convert to Christianity, in the process taking the name Johannes Leo Africanus. Acclaimed in the papal court for his learning, Leo would in time write his masterpiece, The Cosmography and the Geography of Africa.
The Cosmography was the first book about Africa, and the first book written by a modern African, to reach print. It would remain central to the European understanding of Africa for over 300 years, with its descriptions of lands, cities and peoples giving a singular vision of the vast continent: its urban bustle and rural desolation, its culture, commerce and warfare, its magical herbs and strange animals.
Yet it is not a mere catalogue of the exotic: Leo also invited his readers to acknowledge the similarity and relevance of these lands to the time and place they knew. For this reason, The Cosmography and Geography of Africa remains significant to our understanding not only of Africa, but of the world and how we perceive it.