Sawyer Library Director Robert Dugan, College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ken Greenberg and Dr. Gerald Rizzo with map donated by Afriterra Foundation. (Photo by Tom Gearty)


A strikingly illustrated 17th century map of Africa, depicting trade centers, contemporary costume, and both real and imagined wildlife, has been donated to Suffolk University by Gerald Rizzo, M.D., executive director of the Afriterra Foundation.

Digitized maps online
Suffolk University and its Mildred Sawyer Library have supported the Afriterra Foundation in its effort to digitize its collection of rare maps of Africa. The maps are viewable online, and 1,000 of them will have been digitized by the end of 2007.

The original maps eventually will be housed at the Sawyer Library, which will make them available to scholars and display them in changing exhibits.

On display in Sawyer Library
In the meantime, the 66-by-44-inch map donated by Rizzo will be prominently displayed on the third floor of the Sawyer Library, placed so that observers can get right up to the glass and examine the details of the map.

Learning opportunities
"We want to stimulate open and creative interpretation"of the maps, said Rizzo. "The History of Africa has been written by only a few people, and the entire American population has learned this history in a limited and narrow sense."

He also emphasized that the maps offer opportunities for visual learning. "It gives life to a foreign-sounding place name."

“It’s really very generous of Dr. Rizzo to donate this map,” said Robert Dugan, director of the Sawyer Library. "The map display illustrates not only the relationship between Suffolk University and the Afriterra Foundation, but also how higher education works to teach students. There is enough information on this map to keep our students busy for ten years. Here is another format that is just as rich as books or the Web. For the first time, I truly believe a picture is worth a thousand words.”

The map is the work of Willem Janszoon Blaeu, Sr., Alexis Hubert Jaillot and Nicolas Berey and is titled “Nova Africae Geographica Et Hydrographica Descriptio.” In addition to geographical information, the illustrations show the mathematical basis of the map, ships battling and mythical figures. Informational text panels surrounding the map are in French and Latin.