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Number: 3627
Continent: Africa
Region: East
Place Names: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Yemen,
Year of Origin: 1876
Title: Carta speciale delle regioni Galla e Somali tra lo Scioa e il Golfo d'Aden coll'Abissinia O. e il distretto di Berbera per servire di base alla spedizione italiana nell'Africa Equatoriale costrutta e designata seconde la stato delle attuali cognizioni geografiche da Guido Cora.
Language: Italian
Publish Origin: Turin
Height: 38.5
Width: 66.6
Units: centimeters
Size Class.: Large
Scale: 1 : 200,000
Color Type: Outline Color
Click for high-resolution zoomable image
Cartographer: Guido Cora
Engraver: Giordana e Salussolia
Publisher: Instituto Geografico Guido Cora
Other Contributors: Societa Geografica Italiana (SGI)
Cristoforo Negri
Orazio Antinori
Northernmost Latitude: 13.1
Southernmost Latitude: 9.0
Westernmost Longitude: 38.9
Easternmost Longitude: 46.1
Measurement Notes: on map
Notes: [PAHOR SOURCE] Colour lithograph, bearing Cora's contemporary manuscript dedication to Professor Cristoforo Negri in upper right blank margin (Good, some wear and minor loss along old folds with some old sympathetic paper repairs from the verso, wide blank margins, with left and right margins a little frayed), sheet: 52 x 79.5 cm (28.5 x 31.5 inches); map area: 40 x 68 cm (15.5 x 27 inches). Of the upmost rarity; a special map of key areas of Abyssinia, Eritrea and Somaliland, prepared by Guido Cora, the founder of modern Italian geography, predicated upon the manuscript he made to guide the members of the 'grande spedizione' of 1876-9, the first official Italian expedition to what is today Ethiopia; a ground-breaking work carefully synergizing the very best sources; published in only a handful of examples for private circulation, the present example featuring Cora's manuscript dedication to Cristoforo Negri, the founding president of the Italian Geographical Society. This exceedingly rare and fascinating map was made by Guido Cora, the father of modern Italian geography, and is predicated upon the manuscript he made at the beginning of 1876 expressly to guide the 'grande spedizione', the first official Italian expedition to the heart of Abyssinia, from 1876 to 1879. The expedition had an enduring importance, as it was one of key factors that motivated Italy to go 'all in'during the 'Scramble for Africa'. The map is the first broadly accurate map of this strategically key region of the Horn of Africa, extending from the coats of the Gulf of Aden, from Assab (Eritrea), in the north, down past Djibouti and Berbera (Somalia), in the southwest, and then far inland into the Ethiopian Highlands to depict Shewa, the heart of Abyssinia. Cora painstakingly compiled the manuscript from dozens of itinerary surveys undertaken by explorers and military officers from 1839 to 1876, skilfully identifying the best and most accurate information predicated upon sound reconnaissance, while rejecting conjecture or haphazard sketching. It is one of the great masterpieces of the frontier cartography of Africa. The present first and only printed version of map was lithographed at the end of June 1876, three months after the 'grande spedizione' left Italy for Africa. It is faithful to the original manuscript Cora gave to the mission's leaders; he merely added a few details based upon the new intelligence that had arrived in Turin during the previous weeks. The map was issued in only a handful of examples exclusively for private circulation to senior politicians, academics and financial sponsors of Italy's colonial schemes; examples were never issued for sale and were not made available to libraries. Given that the map could serve a blueprint for anyone wishing to travel from the coast into the heart of Ethiopia, the map was strategically sensitive and could only be trusted to the eyes of leading Italian patriots. Notably, the present example features a manuscript dedication (in the upper right blank margin), dated November 2, 1876, from Cora to Professor Cristoforo Negri (1809-96), an esteemed geographer, economist, diplomat and senator, who served as the founding president of the Italian Geographical Society, and was one of the key sponsors of the 'grande spedizione'. The large format, separately issued map takes in a vast section of the Horn of Africa, from just over 9 to 13 degrees North, and 39 to 46 degrees East, encompassing what is today central and eastern Ethiopia, Djibouti, southernmost Eritrea and western Somalia, as well as the Bab-el-Mandeb and the southern part of Yemen. True to Cora's empiricist form, the map only shows areas and features that could be reliably depicted based on scientific reconnaissance; such that while many areas of the coast and some areas of the Ethiopian Highlands are showcased in great detail, with numerous towns, villages and forts depicted; areas of elevation expressed by shading with spot heights; and with roads and trails delineated; other areas of the interior are left almost completely blank. The map traces the routes of dozens of named and dated expeditions from 1839 up to the contemporary time, with the details labelled in the legend below the title. This superb map proved to be vitally useful in guiding the 'grande spedizione' from the coasts up the court of King Menelik II in Shewa; it would not be rivalled in its accuracy and detail for many years. A Note on Rarity As the present fragile, separately issued map was produced in only a very small print run for private circulation to senior Italian stakeholders and was never sold or distributed to libraries. It is today exceedingly rare; we can trace only a single other example, held by the Bibliotheque national de France (French agents were then quite accomplished at acquiring the 'secret?'maps of foreign rivals!). Moreover, we have not been able to trace any sales records for any other examples of the map. The Story Behind the Creation of Cora's Mapand the 'grande spedizione' to Abyssinia In the mid-1860s, as the Risorgimento movement was ensuring that Italy was on its way to becoming a unified state (an achievement realized in 1871), many of the country's leading politicians, businessmen and intellectuals were already casting their ambitions abroad. Many believed that Italy would never be a truly great nation until it possessed its own overseas empire, in the manner of Britain and France, etc. Italian imperialists first focussed upon Eritrea, a land bordering the coasts of the Red Sea near the Horn of Africa, that had at various times been dominated by the Ottomans, Egyptians and the Abyssinians. The imminent opening of the Suez Canal (which would occur in 1869) promised that the Red Sea would become one of the world?s greatest transportation corridors, and Italy saw an opportunity to build a great trading hub along this artery. Additionally, Abyssinia, the grand empire that occupied the mountainous highlands to the interior of Eritrea, had long held a special fascination, as it was both home to one of the world's oldest Christian civilizations, as well as a land thought to have tremendous agrarian potential. Giuseppe Sapeto, a missionary who had previously worked in the region, became the foremost evangelist of Italian imperialism and promoted a vision that Eritrea could become Italy's coastal commercial hub, while Abyssinia could form the backbone of a venerable Italian African Empire. In 1866, the small outpost at Sciotel, Eritrea became Italy's first foothold in Africa. From there events moved quickly. In 1867, the Societie Geografica Italiana (SGI) was founded in Florence, as a both a forum to advance Italy's political-imperial aims and as an academic institution committed to the study of geography, ethnography and the natural history of key overseas lands. In this sense, its mandate was similar to that of the Royal Geographical Society in London. The SGI quickly became the driving force behind Italy's exploration and colonialization endeavours in Africa. In 1869, Sapeto, escorted by a naval fleet commanded by Admiral Acton, landed at Assab, a port in southern Eritrea, whereupon he negotiated with the local Danakil chiefs for the harbour to be purchased as a trading base, under the auspices of the Rubattino Shipping Company (although it would be over a decade before the Italians settled there). In 1870, the SGI sponsored its first expedition to Eritrea, led by Orazio Antinori; however, this venture was poorly organized and failed to discover much of anything. In 1872, King Menelik II, the ruler of Shewa (Italian: Scio?, an autonomous part of Abyssinia, located deep in the heart of the Ethiopian Highlands, reached out to Italy, sending an embassy to Vittore Emanuele in Rome (Menelik II was then only a regional leader; he would not become the Emperor of Abyssinia until 1889). Menelik II was considered to be the Horn of Africa's most ambitious and charismatic player, and shortly after the Shewan Embassy left Rome, the SGI began planning a much more ambitious enterprise, technically known as the 'missione africana' but popularly billed as the 'grande spedizione', a grand voyage to Abyssinia to shore up an alliance with Menelik II before going on to explore the Great Lakes in the interior of Africa. It was hoped that the Shewan alliance would eventually give Italy suzerainty ? if not sovereignty - over Abyssinia and Eritrea, as well as opening a key trading route into heart of Africa. The mounting of the expedition represented Italy?s entrance into the 'Scramble for Africa' in earnest. In preparing the mission, the SGI left nothing to chance, raising the enormous sum of 200,000 Lira, to recruit the best personnel and acquire the finest equipment and intelligence. While Orazio Antinori was to technically command the expedition, the mission was for all practical purposes spearheaded by the esteemed geographer Giovanni Chiarini (1849-1879), and the master mariner and explorer Antonio Cecchi (1849-1896). However, in 1875, it dawned upon everyone involved that the would-be expedition faced one severe, potentially fatal, obstacle. Beyond the coasts of Eritrea and Somaliland, there were no accurate general maps of the interior leading towards Shewa. While many explorers had visited Abyssinia (Britain had invaded the country in 1868, before pulling out), resulting in numerous itinerary maps, with some being of very high quality, these source all depicted different areas and routes. Nobody had endeavoured to synthesize and edit these diverse maps, sorting the wheat for the chaff. As the route from the coast to Shewa had to skirt areas of severe typography and harsh climatic conditions, not to mentions districts riven by civil unrest and banditry, the 'grande spedizione' would require an accurate general map that could give Antinori and his men a view of a number of alternate routes. Enter Guido Cora (1851 - 1917), who while only in his early 20s was already well on his way towards becoming the father of modern scientific geography in Italy. Importantly, he had been trained and mentored in Germany by the world's leading scientific cartographer, August Petermann, whereupon he mastered the most advanced German techniques of map compilation and editing; thematic presentation; as well as printing techniques, giving him specialized knowledge that far exceeded that of anyone in Italy. Upon his return home, his skills were hugely appreciated by the SGI and the House of Savoy, the Italian royal family. In 1873, Cora founded the geographical magazine Cosmos, modelled upon the world's finest such journal, Petermann?s Geographischer Mitteilungen. Cora received numerous lucrative and prestigious commissions from across Italy and was considered the 'gold standard' cartographer for anyone who desired customized maps for their exploring expeditions and commercial enterprises. Cora threw himself into the task of creating an accurate general map specifically for the use of the 'grande spedzione'. As evident on the present work, he analysed and compared the works of dozens of explorers and military officers who had traversed the lands between the coasts of Somaliland and Eritrea and Shewa over the last forty years. Cora was able to discern what were the accurate topographical depictions, based upon careful reconnaissance, versus mapping done on the fly or built upon conjecture. By the beginning of 1876, he was able to complete a manuscript that he presented to Antinori, Chiarini and Checchi, and which could serve to reliably guide them from the coast into the heart of Abyssinia, to the court of Menelik II. Cora described the manuscript in the January 1877 edition of Cosmos, noting that for the 'grande spedizione', he made a map of the central and central eastern part of the Scioa at the vast scale of1: 1.200.000, according to the surveys and reports of all the travelers that had visited so far that realm, especially of Rochet d'H?icourt, Krapf, Beke, Harris, Lefebvre, with the indication of the probable itinerary of Antinori and Chiarini??. The 'spedizione grande' left Italy for Africa in March 1876, carrying Cora's manuscript map. Over the next few months, Cora refined a copy of this groundbreaking work, adding some details from intelligence that had just arrived in Turin. At the end of June, he published the present Carta speciale in what was a very small print run, with the examples reserved for private circulation to a small number of senior government officials, academics and SGI board members and sponsors. The map was never placed on the market and given that it contained strategically sensitive information that could conceivably be used be used by Italy?s political and commercial rivals, it was to be seen only by trusted Italian establishment figures (such as Professor Cristoforo Negri). Indeed, it does not seem that examples of the map were made available to government archives or libraries, ensuring its great rarity today. In the aforementioned edition of Cosmos, Cora went on to describe the printed map: ?The great special map of Galla and Somalia between the Shewa and the Gulf of Aden, which I built and designed to serve as basis for the Italian expedition to equatorial Africa and which brings together all studies, surveys, the routes provided by a long line of travelers of our century who explored a remarkable part of Shewa and west Abyssinia between the 9th and 13th 10' degrees of latitude north, while also showing in some parts the stretch that runs to the east of them up to the Gulf of Aden and the southern mouths of the Red Sea?[This map] represents the state of our geographical knowledge of those regions until the end of June 1876. As it turned out, once the 'grande spedizione' arrived in Eritrea, they found Cora?s map to be exceedingly helpful and easy to use; they had surprisingly little trouble making the trip from the coast up into the highlands to Menelik II's court. The Italians were greeted warmly by the king, and Antinori set up a scientific observatory at Let Marefia. The expedition gained vital intelligence on the political and military workings of the Abyssinians, as well as collecting many precious natural specimens for academic study. In 1878, Chiarini and Checchi continued onwards to the southwest, heading towards the Great Lakes of Africa. However, they were captured by the forces of the Queen of Geeraa, who resented all foreign encroachment into her territory. While Chiarini died in captivity under mysterious circumstances, the intervention of Abyssinian Emperor Yohannes IV and the Italian explorer Gutavo Bianchi secured Checchi's release in 1880. While the 'grande spedizione' may have ended in a tragic manner, it was nevertheless hailed as a great political and scientific success, as the intelligence gained on Abyssinia and its leaders, and the scientific and geographic knowledge collected, far transcended anything that had been known before. The expedition emboldened Italy to scramble even faster for its share of Africa. In 1882, the Italians finally built a port at Assab, and in 1885 took control of the main Eritrean coastal town of Massawa. At the Berlin Conference (1885), whereupon the European powers carved up Africa amongst themselves, Eritrea was awarded to Italy, made while Abyssinia became a sphere of Italian influence. Italy moved with alacrity to shore up its claim to the region and attempted to expand its sovereignty inland from the Eritrean coast. These moves alarmed Emperor Yohannes IV, resulting in the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1887-9. While this conflict ended in a draw, it proved that the Italians were ardently committed to their African project, while the Abyssinians were driven warriors, who could compensate for their technical shortcomings with strategic intelligence. Menelik II, who became the Emperor of Abyssinia upon the end of the war, agreed to allow Italy to takeover parts of the interior of Eritrea, in return for Rome's technical support and its acknowledgement of his sovereign rule over Abyssinia proper. Eritrea officially became an Italian colony in 1890 and remained so until World War II. The Italians desire to takeover Abyssinia persisted, resulting in the First Italo-Ethiopian War (1895-6), during which their forces were crushed by Menelik II's armies. It would not be until the Second Italo-Ethiopian War (1935-6) that Italy would conquer and briefly rule Ethiopia. References: Bibliotheque nationale de France, d'artement Cartes et plans, GE C-3052 / OCLC: 495091559; Giuseppe FUMAGALLI (ed.), Bibliografia Etiopica: catalogo descrittivo e ragionato degli scritti pubblicati dalla invenzione della stampa fino a tutto il 1891 intorno alla Etiopia e regioni limitrofe (Milan: Ulrico Hoepli, 1895), no. 1101 (p. 111); INSTITUTO GEOGRAFICO GUIDO CORA, Cosmos; communicazioni sui progressi pi?recenti e notevoli della geografia e delle scienze affini di Guido Cora (January 24, 1877), p. 29; Philipp Viktor PAULITSCHKE, Die geographische Erforschung der Ad?-L?der und Har??s in Ost-Afrika: mit R?ksicht auf die Expedition des Dr. Med. Dominik Kammel, Edlen von Hardegger (E. Baldamus, 1888), p. 108. Cf. [Background:] Claudio CERRETI and Sebastiana DE PROPRIS, In Cerca dell'innocenza. Giovanni Chiarini e la dpedizione allo Scioa?, Rivista trimestrale di studi e documentazione dell'Istituto italiano perl'Africa e l'Oriente, Anno 57, No. 4 (Dicembre 2002), pp. 570-601; Matteo SALVADORE, 'At the Borders of 'Dark Africa': Italian Expeditions to Ethiopia and the Bollettino della Societa Geografica Italiana, 1867-1887, in A. Caesar, G. Romani, and J. Burns (eds.), The Print Media in Fin-de-si?le Italy: Publishers, Writers, and Readers (London: Legenda,2011), 107?119.
Last updated: Jul 28, 2020