In some early examples, the River Nile is in the wrong place and many mountains, lakes and sources of precious minerals were based on hearsay."You can see overtime how the shape of Lake Victoria [in East Africa] changes from a sock-like elongated profile to a more rounder shape," he says.Until now, researchers believed that homo sapiens, the direct descendants of modern man, evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago and gradually migrated north, through the Middle East, to Europe and Asia."The earliest maps show just how unreal the knowledge of Africa was in Europe at that time," Mr Easterbrook says.The cartographers were often working from multiple and often varying accounts.A map of West Africa from 1747 refers to the region as "Negroland".
'Fascinating' Mr Easterbrook also argues that the maps, many of which are highly decorated with artistic flourishes as well as topographical features, should also be savoured for their aesthetics. Old African kingdoms are also mapped, like Abyssinia in the oldest map of the collection.
The map of Dahomey in West Africa is illustrated with depictions of the slave trade, and another shows the southern empire of Monomotapa.