PIGAFETTA, Filippo (1553-1603). Relatione del Reame di Congo e della circonvicine contrade. Tratta dalli Scritti & ragionamente di Odoardo Lopez Portoghese per Filippos Pigafetta. Con dissegni vari de Geografia, di piante, d' habiti, d' animali, & altro... Rome: Appresso Bartolomeo Grassi, .
Small 4to., (8 !/8 x 6 1/8 inches. Dedication by Filippo Pigafetta, dated "7. Agosto 1591." (without the final blank (?) leaf, with original paper flaw with early repairs affecting the text on the contents leaf, A4, B4, and C4). Engraved title-page within an architectural border, incorporating the arms of Antonio Migliore, Bishop of San Marco, to whom the book is dedicated, decorative woodcut initials, typographic tail-piece (bound without the two large folding engraved maps of the Congo and Africa, and the eight folding engraved plates of plants, animals, and inhabitants of the country). Contemporary limp vellum (lightly stained and creased).
Provenance: contemporary ink press-marks crossed out on front endpapers; later pencil notes on front free endpaper, red pencil note on front pastedown; with the modern bookplate of African scholar John Ralph Willis on front pastedown.
First edition, and rare in any condition, of one of the earliest accounts of the Congo, central, and equatorial regions of Africa. Written by the papal chaplain Pigafetta from the verbal account of Duarte Lopez: "Portuguese trader to Congo and Angola... Lopez first left Portugal for the Congo in April 1578, sailing on his uncle's trading vessel. After a stay of several years, and having accumulated some wealth through his enterprises, he was appointed as ambassador of Alvaro II, king of the Congo, to the pope and Philip II of Spain, at that time unified with Portugal...As ambassador to Philip, Lopez was to offer specimens of local minerals and to open the region for free trade with Portugal and Spain, while also informing the pope of the need for missionaries. However, during his return to Portugal, Lopez was shipwrecked on the coast of Venezuela and forced to spend a year there. Although his submissions to the pope and Philip were largely ignored, Lopez was able to relate everything he knew about the Congo to Filippo Pigafetta, who had been charged with the task of collecting information about the region. The result was published by Pigafetta in 1591, although much of what it contained bordered on the fabulous. Lopez returned to the Congo in 1589, after which nothing more is heard of him. Pigafetta's work was translated into English by Abraham Hartwell at the request of Richard Hakluyt, into Latin by Augustin Cassiadore Reinius, and placed at the head of De Bry's Petits Voyages. It has been suggested that the narrative was used by Daniel Defoe for his Captain Singleton" (Howgego, Encyclopedia of Exploration I, L146).
In the "Relatione del reame di Congo" Pigafetta was the first to challenge the Ptolemaic conception of the source of the Nile as two large lakes side by side, placing them instead one above the other. Adams L1468 and P1176 (one map lacking). Brunet IV, col. 651 (without the plates). Cox I, pp. 354-355. Gay 3077 (without the maps). Mendelssohn (1797) III, 163. STC Italian, page 392. Streit, Bibliotheca Missionum, XV, 2085. See also: "Bibliographical Note upon the 16th-Century Editions of Pigafetta," in A Report of the Kingdom of Congo...Drawn out of the Writings and Discourses of the Portuguese, Duarte Lopez, by Filippo Pigafetta, in Rome, 1591. Newly Translated from the Italian, and Edited, with Explanatory Notes, by Margarite Hutchinson (London: 1881).