László Magyar’s Cartography of Angola and the Discovery of his 1858 Manuscript Map in the Cholnoky Collection in Romania
With the exception of Livingstone, a Hungarian explorer, László Magyar, was the first European to travel in large areas of the present-day Angola. He lived in Angola from 1848 to 1864 and produced relatively accurate maps during this period. His manuscript map of 1857 which shows the coastline of Angola and a large area of the interior, is stored in Budapest. The other manuscript map from 1858 depicts inner Angola, an area which was at that time almost completely unknown to Europe. This map was known only through a copy which had been published in the German periodical Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen in 1860. The manuscript version was considered lost for a long time, but was in 2007 rediscovered by the authors in the Cholnoky Map Collection in Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
In this paper the authors explain how Magyar’s two manuscript maps (both drawn in Angola) ended up in Hungary and Romania respectively. They also analyse the content and planimetric accuracy of the two maps using digital methods (GIS-techniques and statistical index numbers), and some toponymical tools. In the third instance they want to introduce the reader to the Cholnoky Map Collection.
The Cholnoky collection was established at the beginning of the twentieth century by the Hungarian geographer Jenő Cholnoky who was professor at the University of Cluj-Napoca (Kolozsvár), at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The collection disappeared in the 1950s to be rediscovered and catalogued between 2001 and 2008. The Cholnoky map collection is presently considered the second largest map collection in Romania.
This paper had its origin in two seemingly independent cartographic research projects which were later found to be closely related. The first of these was the discovery in 2007 of a hitherto forgotten map collection at the Babeş–Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Known as the Cholnoky Jenő Map Collection, this body of maps has since been catalogued and is now considered to be the second largest map collection in Romania. The other project involved an investigation into the cartographic legacy of the Hungarian explorer László Magyar. That these two projects were related, came to the authors’ attention when the newly-found Cholnoky Collection surprisingly yielded a known, but long considered lost, 1858 manuscript map by Magyar. Prior to this discovery, the only extant manuscript map by Magyar was his 1857 map which shows the coastline of Angola and a large area of the interior. This map is now kept in the Library of the Hungarian Academy, Budapest.
The rediscovery of the 1858 map is a significant cartographic event which is also of interest to ethnographers. With the exception of David Livingstone, László Magyar was the first European to travel in large areas of the present-day Angola. He lived in this part of the continent from 1848 to 1864 and produced relatively accurate maps based on his own geographical and ethnographical observations. His findings were regularly sent back to Europe where two of his maps, compiled in 1857–1858 respectively, were subsequently published – his 1857 map in Hungary in 1859 (Hunfalvy 1859), and his 1858 map in Germany in 1860 (Magyar 1860b). After its publication, the manuscript of the 1857 map was retained but, since 1888, the manuscript of the 1858 map has been considered lost. What makes Magyar’s 1858 map important to map historians, is that it is a depiction of inner Angola, an area which was in the mid-nineteenth century almost completely unknown to Europe. Another significant feature which Magyar indicated on this map, is the route Livingstone followed in 1854 when he traversed central Angola from the Zambezi to Luanda.
The authors’ main objective with this paper was to clarify how these two extant manuscript maps of 1857–1858 (both drawn in Angola) ended up in Hungary and Romania respectively. As a secondary objective, they aimed to analyse the content and planimetric accuracy of the two maps in question.
To achieve these goals, two different methodologies were adopted. As a first step, a comprehensive bibliography consisting of nearly three thousand entries related to Magyar and his contemporary South-Central African travellers, was compiled (Nemerkényi 2008). The relevant material was not only found in libraries and archives in Hungary and Portugal, but also in Germany and Austria. For the analysis of the two manuscript maps, digital methods such as GIS-techniques and statistical index numbers, as well as toponymical tools, were employed (Nemerkényi 2008).
The Cholnoky Map Collection in Cluj-Napoca, Romania
The discovery of a large number of historical maps and photographs in a store room at the Babeş–Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca in 2001 came as a surprise to everybody concerned. Viewing the collection initially, the origin of the maps and photographs was difficult to identify. Inspecting the dusty and in some places moulded papers carefully did, however, yield dividends in that it became apparent that the collection had once belonged to Jenő Cholnoky.
Jenő Cholnoky (1870–1950) was one of Hungary’s most famous geographers. He graduated at Budapest, travelled in China (1896–1898), and taught at the universities of Cluj-Napoca / Kolozsvár (1905–1919) and Budapest (1920–1940). His research interests were Physical and Regional Geography.
The photo collection which contains more than 5,000 individual photos dating from the beginning of the twentieth century, was initially catalogued by Zoltán Imecs. Most of the photographs were taken by Cholnoky in Transylvania, but hundreds of photos also derive from travels he undertook in other continents such as China and the United States (Imecs 2004). Between 2006 and 2008, the Cholnoky map collection was catalogued under the supervision of Bartos-Elekes. Of the 6,400 items, 3,050 are chorographic and thematic maps, 3,200 (mostly Austrian) topographic map sheets, and 150 atlases. The oldest maps date from the seventeenth century, but the majority of maps is from the nineteenth century. This collection of historical maps which is larger than the map collection of the Romanian National Library, is considered the second largest collection of historical maps in Romania after the collection of the Romanian Academy in Bucharest.
The cataloguing process also yielded some valuable manuscript maps, the most important map being László Magyar 1858 cartographic compilation of inner Angola (Bartos-Elekes 2008).
László Magyar, a Hungarian Explorer in Angola
Magyar’s Manuscript Map of 1857
Similar to the way in which he treated Magyar’s earlier letters and reports, Hunfalvy forwarded the German translation of Magyar’s material to August Petermann, the editor of Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen in Gotha, as well as to the officers of the Royal Geographical Society in London (Rónay 1854). Although it cannot be verified that Hunfalvy also sent Magyar’s original map of 1857 to other institutions abroad, he most probably forwarded a copy of it, together with Magyar's textual descriptions, to members of other international scientific communities in Europe.
Manuscript Map of 1858
In his biographical study of Magyar published in 1937, Gusztáv Thirring refers to “maps” (plural) that had been compiled by Magyar, but provided no any accurate indication of his sources (Thirring 1937). Using the plural form was indeed correct, since the afore-mentioned correspondence and reports obviously implied the editing of multiple maps of which Magyar sent at least two to Hungary via Portuguese mediation. In 1888 Thirring visited the editor-in-chief of Petermann's Geographische Mittheilungen at the Justus Perthes Geographical Institute in Gotha, Alexander Supan, to ask for the 1858 manuscript map of Magyar (Thirring 1888). The map was, however, no longer in the Institute at the time.
The map in question apparently reached Hunfalvy in Hungary as the appendix to Magyar’s treatise, who forwarded it to August Petermann in Gotha for publication in Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen. Knowing that the map appeared in the Mitteilungen (Magyar 1860b), it was logical that Thirring (in 1888) expected the manuscript version of the map to be still in the archives of the Justus Perthes Geographical Institute in Gotha. Today, however, it can be accepted that Supan was not mistaken when he was unable to locate the map. What probably happened was that Petermann, after editing and publishing Magyar’s text and the appended map in 1860, by 1888 had returned the manuscript map to Hunfalvy in Hungary. Instead of donating the map to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hunfalvy added the map to the collection of the Hungarian Geographical Society which he had founded himself in 1872. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the map eventually emerged from Cluj-Napoca where it probably ended up through the intervention of Cholnoky. Cholnoky served as secretary of the Hungarian Geographical Society from 1905 to 1910 and as president from 1914 to 1945. It is highly improbable that he would have transferred the map to Cluj-Napoca from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, but much more likely that he added it to the departmental map collection during his tenure as a professor of Geography at Francis Joseph University. When the Romanian authorities forced him to leave at short notice in 1919, the map remained behind. Today the map bears the seal of the Ferencz József Tudományegyetem Földrajzi Intézete (Geographical Institute of Francis Joseph University) in its the lower right corner with the catalog number C 4071 underneath. From this we can infer that Magyar’s map became part of the collection in Cluj after 1905, but before 1919.
Accuracy of the Manuscript Maps
Together Magyar’s two manuscript maps represent Central Angola. The 1857 map depicts the western part (plus the coastline), whereas the 1858 map covers the inner part, showing territories which presently belong to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The two maps overlap and the areas depicted on them reveal a part of the world which was almost totally unknown to Europe. Until that time, the only Europeans who had ever travelled here, were David Livingstone in 1853–1855, António Francisco Ferreira da Silva Porto in 1841–1854, and Alexander Alberto de la Rocha Serpa Pinto in 1846–1900.
Before subjecting Magyar’s maps to a digital analysis, a few general comments about his cartography might be appropriate. On the whole his maps reveal both a lack of precision in determining geographical position, and an overestimation of the distances covered during his travels (Hunfalvy 1859): 14,461. The first shortcoming could probably be ascribed to a lack of experience in using astronomical instruments, and the second to the practical difficulties in moving a large expedition party consisting of several hundred people. Whatever the reasons, Magyar’s maps were distorted and Petermann, keeping the actual information intact, had to shorten the distances on the maps proportionally before publishing them.
Both the 1857–1858 maps are provided with geographic coordinate systems. The grids are quadratics, which means that the maps were compiled on the Equi-rectangular Cylindrical Projection which is true to scale along the Equator. Using the dimensions of the grid, it was possible to calculate the theoretical scale of the maps. Both the 1857–1858 maps are provided with geographic coordinate systems. The grids are quadratics, which means that the maps were compiled on the Equi-rectangular Cylindrical Projection which is true to scale along the Equator. Because this projection is true to scale along the Equator, so we can calculate the scale of the maps: measuring the distance along the Equator and dividing by the real length. Using the dimensions of the grid: on the 1857 map, 1° (111 km) corresponds to 91 mm, which means that the scale is approximately 1:1,220,000; on the map of 1858, 1° (111 km) corresponds to 54 mm, defining the scale as approximately 1:2,040,000.
For the purposes of this article, Magyar’s maps were analyzed using the MapAnalyst software which was developed in Switzerland (Jenny 2007). This software calculates the accuracy of an historical map by comparing the content of the old map with the content of a new map using control points. For reasons of comparison, recent map sheets of the Soviet topographic map of Africa on a scale of 1:500,000 were used after it had been converted to an Equirectangular Cylindrical Projection (the same projection as used by Magyar) by means of GIS methods.
Eighteen control points were identified on Magyar’s map of 1857 (e.g. Cape Santa Maria; cities such as Benguela, Kuito, Luanda, Lucira, Pungo Andongo, and Quilengues; as well as the mouths of rivers and the points where rivers converge). The local scale factors of the map (compared to the content of the map and not to the grid of the map) are 1:1,050,000 horizontally and 1:1,170,000 vertically. This means that the map is horizontally 16% and vertically 43% larger than what Magyar anticipated. Expressed differently: the error in latitude is only 4%, while the error in longitude is 16%. The error in longitude is larger because for Magyar the measurement of longitude (measuring difference in time) was more complicated than the measurement of latitude (measuring the angle of the sun or a star above the horizon).
Magyar used astronomical positioning measurements for his latitudes, which allow much more accurate coordinates than the estimation of longitude with larger errors. The map compiled in 1857 is fairly accurate as he probably made use of older maps when compiling it. The map of 1858 which represents inner Angola, is by comparison more inaccurate as it covers an area that had not been mapped before.
Content of the Manuscript Maps
Both maps are provided with a geographic grid and both depict hydrographical features and settlements. The map of 1857 also depicts relief and boundaries, whereas the map of 1858 shows the route Livingstone followed from Sesheke to Luanda. Mentioning should be made of the fact that the detail on the maps do not pertain to certain areas only, but are evenly spread. The reason for this was that Magyar was integrated in the local society and that he was knowledgeable about the entire area and not only about the areas in which he himself had travelled. Livingstone’s map of 1854 of the same area covers only the narrow zone situated along the explorer’s route. From his correspondence with his Hungarian patrons, it can be inferred that Magyar knew about Livingstone’s successful journey from the Zambesi to Luanda. It is therefore not strange that Magyar wrote in one of his letters (Magyar 1856) that he intended to personally contact Livingstone. This meeting unfortunately never took place and there does not exist any documentary evidence that Livingstone knew about Magyar.
The Hungarian Academy of Sciences only learnt about Magyar’s death in 1868, 4 years after he had passed away. When receiving the news, they asked permission from the Portuguese government to transport his papers and personal belongings to Hungary (Arany 1868). Four years later, in 1872, the Portuguese authorities reported that the crate containing Magyar's papers had been destroyed by fire (Anonymus 1873). Hungarian scientific circles found this explanation difficult to accept, but the period of 9 years which had already passed since Magyar’s death was too long to allow for effective action.
We can accept with certainty that some of Magyar’s manuscripts were destroyed, but it would be premature to conclude that this was the case with all his documents. The research undertaken by the present authors does indicate that artifacts and documents belonging to Magyar which may still be found could provide valuable further insights into his discoveries. At this stage one cannot entirely exclude the possibility that Magyar’s second and third volumes, together with the relevant maps, may still be found in either Angola or the Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino in Lisbon, Portugal, or maybe elsewhere in Europe. Judging from the example of the manuscript map of 1858, the most logical archival or library collection to research is not necessarily the correct one.
In the second half of the nineteenth century Magyar’s travels received much attention in scientific circles in Europe. It was especially his ethnographical work which was deemed important and he became a celebrity in the world of ethnographical researchers and geographical explorers. Unfortunately his second and third volumes never reached Europe with the result that his later travels only became known through fragments of his diary and the letters he had forwarded to Europe. Amongst scientists this lack of accurate reporting soon led to a diminished interest in his achievements. New research was only to be instigated in the 1980s when a Hungarian cultural anthropologist, Éva Sebestyén, uncovered previously unknown documents related to Magyar’s death in Angola (Sebestyén 1998). The finding of Magyar’s 1858 manuscript map in Cluj-Napoca in 2007 by the present authors, and their subsequent biographical and cartographical analysis of his work, were further steps in unravelling the life and work of this remarkable Hungarian explorer. Last, but not least, the analysis of his 1857–1858 maps contribute to the history of the exploration of Angola in the nineteenth century.
Zsombor Nemerkényi received his M.Sc. in Cartography from the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest in 1999 and his Ph.D. in the History of Cartography in 2009 from the same university in 2009. His research interests are the European colonization of Africa in the nineteenth century and the exploring of the Arctic and Antarctic. His doctoral research was about the history of the colonization era in Southwestern Africa. He has been associate editor of the official magazine of the Hungarian Geographical Society since 2006. He also edits maps for scholarly periodicals, books and atlases.
Zsombor Bartos-Elekes followed a GIS-course at the University of Utrecht in 1998; received his M.Sc. in Cartography from the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest in 1999, and his Ph.D. in the History of Cartography and Toponymy in 2006 from the same university. The theme of his doctorate was the language of maps, especially Transylvanian place-names on maps since the nineteenth century. Since 2000 he has been teaching Cartography and Toponymy at Babeş–Bolyai University (Cluj-Napoca) as senior lecturer. His main research interests lie in Cartography (the territory of Romania on old maps, the Cholnoky Map Collection, the projections of the old maps, and ethnic maps) and Toponymy (the standardization of place names, exonyms, and the language of the maps). His edited maps and papers are published mostly by Hungarian and Romanian publishers and periodicals.
- Anonymus (1873) Magyar László iratairól irja a VKM. hogy valószinüleg elégtek. [Brief report about the perished letters of László Magyar.] Unpublished manuscript, Archive of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (38/1873)Google Scholar
- Arany J, (1868) Magyar László hagyatéka felkutatása tb. az elnökség levelezése: Arany fogal. Eötvöshöz [Correspondence about the research of László Magyar’s bequest]. Unpublished manuscript, Archive of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1400/583)Google Scholar
- Bartos-Elekes Zs (2008) A kolozsvári Cholnoky Jenő Térképtár. [The Cholnoky Map Collection of Cluj.]. Földrajzi Közlemények 4:489–494Google Scholar
- Hunfalvy J (1859) Magyar László délafrikai utazásai 1849–57 években. [The South African Travels of Magyar László in the Years 1849–1857.], 1st edn. Eggenberger, Budapest, p 204Google Scholar
- Imecs Z (2004) Cholnoky Jenő fényképi hagyatéka a kolozsvári egyetemen. [The Photos of Cholnoky Jenő at the University of Cluj.]. Földtani Kutatás 3(4):18–24Google Scholar
- Jenny B (2007) Planimetric analysis of historical maps with MapAnalyst. In: Oehrli M (ed) Paper and Poster Abstracts of the 22nd International Conference on the History of Cartography. ICHC, Bern, pp 62–63Google Scholar
- Livingstone D (1854) Manuscript map of Livingstone's route from Sesheke to Luanda by David Livingstone. Ca: 1:2,900,000. Royal Geographic Society, LondonGoogle Scholar
- Magyar L, (1856). LevÕl Magyar Imréhez (Bihé, 1856. augusztus 20). [Letter to Amerigo Magyar – Bié, August 20, 1856.] In: Thirring G (ed), Magyar László élete és tudományos működése. Kritikai adalék a magyar földrajzi kutatások történetéhez Magyar László kiadatlan írásaival [The Life and Scientific activity of Magyar: Critical Addition to the History of Hungarian Geographical Research – with Unpublished Writings of Magyar.]. Kilián, Budapest, p 133Google Scholar
- Magyar L, (1857). Dél-Afrika térképe, a 8dik és 15dik szélességi, s a 11dik és 19dik hoszasági fokok között. Készitve Magyar László által 1857 évben. [Map of South Africa, between the 8th and the 15th degrees of latitude, and the 11th and 19th degrees of longitude. Produced by Magyar László in the year of 1857.] (Manuscript map) Ca: 1:1,170,000. Budapest: Library of the Hungarian AcademyGoogle Scholar
- Magyar L (1858a) Levél Hunfalvy Jánoshoz (Lucira, 1858. november 16). [Letter to Hunfalvy – Lucira, November 16, 1858.] In: Thirring G (ed), Magyar László élete és tudományos működése. Kritikai adalék a magyar földrajzi kutatások történetéhez Magyar László kiadatlan írásaival [The Life and Scientific activity of Magyar: Critical Addition to the History of Hungarian Geographical Research – with Unpublished Writings of Magyar.]. Kilián, Budapest, pp 145–149Google Scholar
- Magyar L (1858b) Kivonat Dél-Afrika földképéből szerkesztette 1858-ban Magyar László. [Outline of the Map of South Africa, edited in 1858 by Magyar]. (Manuscript map) Ca: 1:2,020,000. Cholnoky Map Collection, Cluj-NapocaGoogle Scholar
- Magyar L (1859) Rövid tudósítás a Moluva vagy Moropuu és Lobál országokról. [Short Report on the Countries of Moluva or Moropuu and Lobal.]. Akadémiai Értesítő 11:921–941Google Scholar
- Magyar L, (1860a) Ladislaus Magyar’s Erforschung von Inner-Afrika. Nachrichten über die von ihm in den Jahren 1850, 1851 und 1855 bereisten Länder Moluwa, Morupu und Lobal. Petermann's Geographische Mittheilungen 1860:227–237Google Scholar
- Magyar L, (1860b) Originalkarte von Ladislaus Magyar’ Reisen in Central Afrika 1850, 1851 und 1855. In: Ladislaus Magyar’s Erforschung von Inner-Afrika. Nachrichten über die von ihm in den Jahren 1850, 1851 und 1855 bereisten Länder Moluwa, Morupu und Lobal. By László Magyar, Plate 10, Gotha: Petermann’s Geographische Mittheilungen, 1860Google Scholar
- Nemerkényi Zs (2008). Magyar László térképészeti munkájának összehasonlító elemzése. [Comparative Analyses of the Cartographical Work of Magyar László.] Ph.D. dissertation, Eötvös Loránd University, BudapestGoogle Scholar
- Rónay J (1854) Extracts from the letters of an Hungarian traveler in Central Africa. J R Geogr Soc 24:271–275Google Scholar
- Sebestyén AÉ (1998) Levéltári kutatástörténet: Magyar László. [History of an archive research: László Magyar.]. Africana Hungarica 2:303–327Google Scholar
- Thirring G (1888) Újabb adalékok Magyar László életrajzához. [Additional facts for biography of László Magyar.]. Földrajzi Közlemények 1:333–344Google Scholar
- Thirring G (1937) Magyar László élete és tudományos működése. Kritikai adalék a magyar földrajzi kutatások történetéhez Magyar László kiadatlan írásaival. [The Life and Scientific activity of Magyar: Critical Addition to the History of Hungarian Geographical Research – with Unpublished Writings of Magyar.]. Kilián, BudapestGoogle Scholar