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New Medieval Books: The Cosmography and Geography of Africa

#New Medieval Books: The Cosmography and Geography of Africa

The Cosmography and Geography of Africa

By Johannes Leo Africanus (al-Hasan ibn Muhammad al-Wazzan)

Translated by Anthony Ossa-Richardson and Richard J Oosterhoff

Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-0-241-54393-1

This new addition to Penguin Classics is a translation of an early 16th-century account of Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa. It is the most important text we have about the continent to cover its medieval history.


The word ‘unique’ is overused. But the work you are holding, a geographical and historical guide to Africa from the Italian Renaissance, really is unique. It was the first full-length book about its subject, and the first book by a modern African, to reach print. It was also the starting point in Europe for knowledge about much of Africa until the nineteenth century. Due to the singularity of its author’s life and the circumstances of its composition, the book crossed boundaries in an extraordinary fashion: not only from Africa to Europe, but from Islam to Christianity, and from Arabic and Berber to Italian and Latin – and beyond. It conjures urban bustle and rural desolation, culture and commerce, labour, slavery and war, magical herbs and strange animals, personal experience and the shocks of history.

Who is this book for?

Being the first English translation of the text done in over 400 years, this book is a must-have for anyone studying medieval Africa. Even those who study the Middle Ages in general will want to have a copy as it is a key source.

The editors:

Antony Ossa-Richardson is a Lecturer in Early Modern Literature at University College London. Richard J Oosterhoff is a Senior Lecturer of Early Modern Europe at the University of Edinburgh.

You can learn more about this book from the publisher’s website

You can also buy this book on | |

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