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‘From the Best Authorities’: The Mountains of Kong in the Cartography of West Africa*

  • Thomas J. Bassett (a1) and Philip W. Porter (a2)


This study goes beyond the ‘first and last appearance’ approach of cartographic historians to examine the social contexts in which the Kong Mountains were first depicted in and then eliminated from nineteenth-century maps of Africa. This history shows that the conventional periodization of the history of cartography into ‘decorative’ and ‘scientific’ phases is greatly exaggerated. We trace the mountains' origins to the geographer James Rennell and show how their purported existence served to support his arguments on the course of the Niger River at the turn of the nineteenth century. The enduring depiction of the Kong Mountains throughout the century illustrates the authoritative power of maps. This authority is based on the public's belief that cartographers are guided by an ethic of accuracy and are applying scientific procedures in mapmaking. Despite doubts about the existence of this mountain chain, the ‘extraordinary authority’ of maps helped to perpetuate an erroneous spatial image of West Africa until Binger's famous expedition in the late 1880s. With the publication of his travels and maps, Binger became the new authority on West African geography. His work altered the subsequent cartography of the region and substantially contributed to French empire-building.



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1 Park, M., Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa: Performed under the Direction and Patronage of the African Association in the Years 1795, 1796 and 1797. With an appendix containing geographical illustrations of Africa by Major Rennell (London, 1799).

2 Arrowsmith, A., ‘Africa’ (London, 1802).

3 Tramplers, R., Mittelschulatlas (Wien, 1905).

4 Harley, J. B., ‘The map and the development of the history of cartography’, in Harley, J. B. and Woodward, D. (eds.), The History of Cartography. Vol. 1: Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean (Chicago, 1987), 142; Harley, J. B., ‘Deconstructing the map’, Cartographica, XXVI (1989), 120; Stone, J., Imperialism, colonialism and cartography’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, XIII (1988), 5764.

5 Tooley, R. V., Maps and Mapmakers (New York, 1987), 42.

6 Harley, , ‘Deconstructing’, 25, 11.

7 Boulding, K., The Image (Ann Arbor, 1969), 67; Harley, , ‘Map’, 23.

8 Robinson, A., ‘The uniqueness of the map’, The American Cartographer, V (1978), 57.

9 Harley, , ‘Deconstructing’, 45.

10 African Association, Proceedings of the Association for Promoting the Discovery of the Interior Parts of Africa (London, 1967; Facsimile Reprint of 1810 edition), 1, 524–45.

11 We inspected several repositories of maps in creating Figure 3. This includes maps of Africa at the University of Minnesota in the James Ford Bell Library and the John R. Borchert Map Library (including the rare maps and rare atlases collections), maps in the Rare Book and Special Collections Library at the University of Illinois, Urbana—Champaign, maps shown in Tooley, R. V., Collectors' Guide to Maps of the African Continent and Southern Africa (London, 1969), and Norwich, O., Maps of Africa (Johannesburg, 1983), and maps in our personal collections.

12 Capt. Burton, R. F., ‘The Kong mountains’, Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society and Monthly Geographical Record, New Series, 4 (1882), 484–6; Curtin, P. C., Africa Remembered (Madison, 1967), 187; Dupuis, J., Journal of a Residence in Ashantee (London, 1824; reprint 1966), XVIII; cf. MacQueen, J., Geographical and Commercial View of Northern Central Africa, Containing a Particular Account of the Course and Termination of the Great River Niger in the Atlantic Ocean (Edinburgh, 1821), 148; MacQueen, J., A Geographical Survey of Africa (London, 1840; reprint 1969), 9.

13 Tooley, , Collectors, 68.

14 De l'Isle, ‘L'Afrique’.

15 d'Anville, J. B., ‘Afrique publiée sous les auspices de Monseigneur le Duc d'Orléans premier prince du sang par le Sr. d'Anville’ (Paris, 1749) in Norwich, , Maps, 148–9. Also see d'Anville's ‘Carte particulière de la partie principale de la Guinée située entre Issini et Adra’ (Paris, 1729), in which he notes to the north of the ‘Royaume d'Asianté’ that ‘We have no knowledge whatsoever of what is beyond these lands’ in Labat, J. B., Voyage de Chevalier des Marchais en Guinée, 2 (Paris, 1730), frontispiece map.

16 Raisz, E., General Cartography (New York, 1948), 32ff.; Walckenaer, C.-A., Recherches géographiques sur l'intérieur de l'Afrique septentrionale (Paris, 1821), 220–9.

17 Much of this section is drawn from Hallett's discussion of the African Association's formation and activities. See Hallett, R., The Penetration of Africa (London, 1965), 1, 231–49.

18 D'Anville, ‘Afrique’.

19 Wallis, H. and Middleton, D., ‘The mapping and exploration of Africa and Joseph Banks’, in Larby, P. (ed.), Maps and Mapping of Africa (London, 1987), 4754.

20 Hallett, , Penetration, 197.

21 Ibid. 212–14. A similar organization was established in France at the turn of the century and was known as the ‘Société de l'Afrique intérieure’. Little is known of its members and achievements. It appears to have been modelled after its British counterpart; it was founded in Paris and later moved to Marseille. See Fierro, A., La Société de Géographie, 1821–1946 (Paris, 1983), 56, and Walckenaer, , Recherches, 65–6.

22 Hallett, , Penetration, 231.

23 Park, Travels.

24 Ibid. 240. Park may have seen 200+ m. inselbergs at about 12° 10′ N and 7° 30′W. Delafosse credits Mungo Park with the orthography Kong. The actual pronunciation is ‘Kpon’ or ‘Gbon’. Green argues that the etymologies of these African words are uncertain. See Delafosse, M., ‘Le peuple siéna ou sénoufo’, Revue des études ethnographiques et sociologiques, 1 (1908), 19n; Green, K., ‘The foundation of Kong; a study of Dyula and Sonongui ethnic identity’ (Ph.D. thesis, Indiana University, 1984), 137–8.

25 Rennell, J., ‘The route of Mr. Mungo Park, from Pisania on the river Gambia, to Silla on the river Joliba or Niger; with his return by the southern route to Pisania. Compiled from Mr. Park's observations, notes, & sketches, by J. Rennell’ (London, 1798) in Park, Travels.

26 Rennell, J., ‘A map shewing the progress of discovery & improvement in the geography of North Africa: compiled by J. Rennell’ (London, 1798) in Park, Travels.

27 Green, , ‘Foundation’, 330–59, 398406; Person, Y., ‘The Atlantic coast and the southern savannahs, 1800–1880’, in Ajayi, J. and Crowder, M. (eds.), History of West Africa (2 vols., New York, 1974), 11, 262307.

28 Person, , ‘Atlantic’, 276–81; Bernus, E., ‘Kong et sa région’, Études Éburnéennes, VIII (1960), 267–70. There is much confusion about whether the Kingdom of Kong was known to European mapmakers before Park's voyage. Rennell claimed that the place name of ‘Gonge’ in de l'Isle (1722), and ‘Conche’ in d'Anville (1727; 1749) were simply variants of Kong. However, it is likely that Gonge referred to the Kwa-speaking Gonja people of present-day northern Ghana who had organized an important trading state in the seventeenth century. In d'Anville's map, the ‘State of Conche’ is annotated to be the ‘Kingdom of the Sousou’. See African Association, Proceedings, 1, 221–2, 476; Green, , ‘Foundation’, 407–8; Oliver, R. and Crowder, M. (eds.), The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Africa (Cambridge, 1981), 81, 132; Fage, J. D., An Atlas of African History (London, 1966), 19; Wilks, I., Levtzion, N., and Haight, B., Chronicles from Gonja (Cambridge, 1986), 1.

29 James Rennell (1742–1830) entered the British navy at the age of 14 where he learned the techniques of marine surveying. He left the navy to join the East India Company, for which he became the surveyor-general for Bengal by the early age of 21. During his survey of Bengal in 1776, Rennell was wounded by Sanashi fakirs. He retired the following year. Rennell's most important works include his Bengal Atlas (1799) and the first ‘approximately correct’ map of India. As the geographical consultant to the African Association he compiled a new map of North Africa (1790) and constructed two maps to illustrate Mungo Park's account of his travels in West Africa. Rennell was widely viewed as the dean of British geographers after the death of Joseph Banks in 1820. He was involved in the creation of the Royal Geographical Society which was founded in 1830, the year of Rennell's death. See Markham, C. R., Major James Rennell and the Rise of Modern English Geography (New York, 1895), 196–7.

30 African Association, Proceedings, 1, 524–45.

31 Markham, , Rennell, 74.

32 Pinkerton, J., Modern Geography (London, 1802, third ed. 1811); Walckenaer, , Recherches, 239.

33 ‘Wangara’ was the name given to the gold-producing areas of West Africa by the twelfth-century Arab geographer al-Idrisi. Leo Africanus also gave the name of ‘Wangara’ to the gold-rich area in the Zamfara River valley of Hausaland.

34 African Association, Proceedings, 1, 421–2.

35 Abu'1-Fida Ismail ibn Ali (1273–1331), a Syrian prince, wrote a geography of the world which contained ‘extremely vague’ notions of African geography. According to Hallett, , ‘one can only conclude that Rennell's anxiety to bolster up his own theory about the great chain of the Mountains of Kong led him to lay so much stress on this [work]’. Hallett, R. (ed.), Records of the African Association, 1788–1831 (London, 1967), 251.

36 African Association, Proceedings, 1, 174.

37 One authority that Rennell does not cite but whose work was very influential in his day was Philippe Buache, France's foremost geographer between the reigns of de l'Isle and d'Anville. In addition to holding the position of First Geographer to the King, Buache was the first geographer to become a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences. He was best noted for his theoretical work in physical geography which regularly appeared in the publications of the Academy. His most influential paper was an essay on physical geography published in 1752 in which he presented his theory that the earth was buttressed by mountain chains that girdled the globe on the surface and below the seas. His system of mountain chains was defined by the basins of the world's great rivers. In one of the maps illustrating his theory, he shows a mountain chain linking the ‘Plateau of South America’ to the ‘African Plateau’. This chain extends across all of West Africa in which the Senegal and Niger headwaters are shown to rise. This mountain chain is a plausible prototype of Rennell's Mountains of Buache, Kong. P., ‘Essai de géographie physique…’, Mémoires de l'Académie Royale des Sciences (1752), 399416; also, see Drayperon, L., ‘Les deux Buache ou l'origine de l'enseignement géographique par versants et par bassins’, Revue de Géographie, XXI (1887), 616 and Kish, G., ‘Early thematic mapping: the work of Philippe Buache’, Imago Mundi, XXVIII (1976), 129–36.

38 A. Arrowsmith, ‘Africa’; Wallis and Middleton, Mapping; Tooley, , Collectors, 9.

39 Cary, J., ‘A new map of Africa, from the latest authorities, by John Cary, engraver, 1811’ (London, 1811); Tooley, , Collectors, 35.

40 Rennell's map differed from earlier maps in a number of other respects as well. For example, Timbuctu was situated at a different latitude than in d'Anville's 1749 map, the course of the Niger was less curvilinear than d'Anville's depiction, and Wangara was presented as an enormous inland swamp. Rennell also replaced d'Anville's Kingdoms of Timbuctu and Cachenah with those of Bambara and Haussa.

41 Walckenaer, , Recherches, 239.

42 Hallett, , Records, 252.

43 G. de l'Isle, ‘Carte d'Afrique dressée pour l'usage du Roy par Guillaume de l'Isle premier géographe…A Paris Chez l'Auteur sur le Quay de l'Horloge du Palais…1722’ in Tooley, , Collectors', plate 52.

44 d'Anville, J. B., ‘Mémoire concernant les rivières de l'interieur de l'Afrique, sur les notions tirées des Anciens & des Modernes’, Mémoires de Littérattire de l'Académie Royale des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, XXVI (1759), 6481. For references to this work in Rennell, see Proceedings, 1, 406, 458, 539, 545. The fact that d'Anville was mistaken about the Niger's course shows that there were important exceptions to his method of illustrating only those areas that were known to Europeans. Walckenaer suggests that the debates on the courses of the Niger and Nile were too important for someone of d'Anville's stature to omit these rivers from his maps. See Walckenaer, , Recherches, 221–2.

45 MacQueen, J., ‘Geography of Africa—quarterly review’, Blackwood's Magazine, XXXI (1832), 190, 203.

46 For an elaboration of this thesis, see Appendix No. 4 in Park, M., The Journal of a Mission to the Interior of Africa in the Year 1805 (Philadelphia, 1815), 108–19.

47 Curtin, P., The Image of Africa; British Ideas and Action, 1780–1850 (Madison, 1964), 203.

48 Reichard, C., ‘Ueber den angekündigten, num bald erfcheinenden, Atlas des ganzen Erdkreises’, Allgemeine Geographische Ephemeriden, XII (1803), 157–67.

49 For example, see MacQueen, , Northern Central Africa. MacQueen also publicised his view in Blackwood's Magazine in 1826 (xix: 113, 687709), 1831 (XXX: 182, 130–6) and 1832 (XXXI: 190, 201–16).

50 Hallett, , Records, 255.

51 Thomson, J., Mungo Park and the Niger (London, 1890), 255.

52 Grove, A. T., Africa South of the Sahara (Oxford, 1970), 20.

53 Hallett, , Penetration, 288. Clements Markham defends Rennell from his critics, some of whom called him ‘the man with one idea’, by arguing that ‘Major Rennell adopted this view (of the Niger's course) provisionally, but without any strong bias, as is clearly proved by his private correspondence on the subject’. See Markham, , Major, 142.

54 By ‘rhetorical’, we follow the Oxford English Dictionary's definition to mean ‘expressed in terms calculated to persuade’. The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford, 1971), 11, 627.

55 Harley, , ‘Deconstructing’, 3.

56 Ibid. 11; Anon, ., ‘The journal of a mission to the interior of Africa in the year 1805. By Mungo Park’, The Quarterly Review, XIII, 24 (1815), 146.

57 Rand-McNally & Co., ‘Africa-Northern’, Goode's World Atlas (Chicago, 1990), 204.

58 Clapperton, H., Journal of a Second Expedition into the Interior of Africa from the Bight of Benin to Soccatoo (London, 1829).

59 Murray, J., ‘A chart of the route of the late Capt. Clapperton, from Badagry to Soccatoo, and by his servant Richard Lander, from Kano to the Niger in a different and more easterly direction’ (London, 1828) in Clapperton, Journal.

60 Best, A. and Blij, H. de, African Survey (New York, 1977), 146.

61 Caillié, R., Journal d'un voyage à Temboctou et à Jenné dans l'Afrique centrale (Paris, 1830), 11, 62.

62 In Park's published vocabulary, the word ‘konko’ meant hill. See Lupton, K., Mungo Park the African Traveler (Oxford, 1979), 84. In his Bambara dictionary, Père Charles Bailleul uses the words kulu or kuluba for mountain. Bailleul, C., Petit dictionnaire Bambara—Français, Français—Bambara (England, 1981), 283.

63 Murray, J., ‘The course of the Quorra, the Joliba or Niger of Park from the journals of Richard and John Lander with their route from Badagry to the northward in 1830’ (London, 1831) in R., and Lander, J., Journal of an Expedition to Explore the Course and Termination of the Niger (London, 1832).

64 Today, a hill is generally considered to be less than 305 meters (1000 ft). A mountain is higher and usually steeper than a hill. Press, F. and Siever, R., Earth (San Francisco, 1974), 912–14.

65 Harley, , ‘Deconstructing’, 1.

66 Harley, , ‘Silences and secrecy: the hidden agenda of cartography in early modern Europe’, Imago Mundi, XL (1988), 5773. The blank spaces south of the mountain chain also accentuate its height and thus enhance the image of the mountains as a barrier to European penetration of the interior.

67 There was also a competitive edge to such declarations as cartographers sought to establish the excellence of their maps over others. The competition began long ago. In 1670 J. van Meurs published a map titled ‘Africae Accurata Tabula’. The next year, F. de Wit did him one better with a map entitled ‘Totius Africae Acuratissima Tabula’.

68 MacQueen, , Survey, 23.

69 Murray, H., The Encyclopedia of Geography (Philadelphia, 1841), III, 46–7.

70 Green, , ‘Foundation’, 412–14; Terray, E., ‘Grandeur et décadence des montagnes de Kong’, Cahiers d'Études Africaines, ci—cii (1986), 241–9.

71 Burton, , ‘Kong’, 484. Some prospecting took place 250 kilometers inland from Assimie in 1882, but the results were disappointing.

72 Dupuis, Journal, XCII.

74 Terray, , ‘Grandeur’, 246.

75 Burton, , ‘Kong’, 484; Duveyrier, H., ‘La question des sources de Dhioli-Ba (Niger)’, Bulletin de la Société de Géographie, XX (1880), 530–2; MacQueen, , Geographical Survey, 72; Malte-Brun, , Universal Geography (London, 1823), IV, 5; Murray, , Encyclopedia, 23: Walckenaer, , Recherches, 409–10; Eyriès, J. B., Voyages pittoresques en Asie et en Afrique (Paris, 1841), II, 99.

76 The term ‘insuperable barrier’ is found in MacQueen, J., ‘Geography of Africa—quarterly review’, Blackwood's Magazine, XXXI (1832), 190, 212; and Thomson, , Mungo Park, 235. References to ‘lofty’ mountains are found in Colton, G. W., Colton's Atlas of the World Illustrating Physical and Political Geography, 11, Plate 35, North Western sheet (New York, 1856); Chisholm, G. G., Longmans' Gazetteer of the World (New York, 1895), 830; and MacQueen, , Geographical Survey, 72.

77 MacQueen, , Northern Central Africa, 148; Walckenaer, , Recherches, 342.

78 Beecham, J., Ashantee and the Gold Coast (London, 1831), 23.

79 Malte-Brun, , Universal, IV, 4; Rankin, F. H., The White Man's Grave: A Visit to Sierra Leone, in 1834 (London, 1836), 145; Duncan, J., Travels in Western Africa in 1845 … 1846 (London, 1847), 310; Burton, , ‘Kong’, 484–6.

80 Chardin, J. Teilhard de, La Guinée Supérieure et ses missions (Keer-Lez-Maastricht, Holland, 1888), 61.

81 African Association, Proceedings, 1, 476. Emphasis in original.

82 Skertchly, J. A., Dahomey as it is: Being a Narrative of Eight Months' Residence in that Country (London, 1874), 317; ‘Extrait d'un rapport de Besson, M., enseigne de vaisseau, commandant le comptoir’, 1 mars 1844, in Annales Maritimes—Revue Coloniale, IV (1844), 21–3.

83 Reichard, C. G., Atlas des ganzen Erdkreises in der central Projection (Weimar, 1803).

84 Pinkerton, J., ‘Africa’, in A Modern Atlas (Philadelphia, 1815, 1818).

85 G. Cram & Co., Cram's Unrivaled Atlas of the World (Chicago, 1891), 498.

86 Magnus, C., Magnus's Commercial Atlas of the World (New York, 1856), 41. Before the advent of precise surveying, the heights of mountains were often exaggerated. In the seventeenth century some writers thought that the Italian Alps rose to over 22,000 meters (nearly 73,000 ft), but by the beginning of the nineteenth century the heights of known mountains were generally within a hundred meters of the correct figure. Unknown mountains could, of course, be a different story. See Ricciolio, I. B. Ferrariensi, Societatis Iesu, Geographiae et hydrographiae reformatae libri duodecim (Bonoiae, 1661); Wright, J. K., ‘The heights of mountains: an historical notice’, in Wright, J. K., Human Nature in Geography (Cambridge, MA, 1966), 140–53; Wolter, J., ‘The heights of mountains and the lengths of rivers’, Surveying and Mapping, XXXII (1972), 312–29.

87 Given the variety of ways mountains are illustrated on the maps we inspected (pictorial, oval lines, hachures, etc.), it is a subjective matter to decide how much area is covered by mountains on the maps included in Fig. 6. A further element of subjectivity lies in deciding how much of a long mountain chain to include when only part of it is labeled Kong Mountains, or when it changes name along its length. The east-west extent of the Kong Mountains varies greatly from map to map. The range in length is from 525 km (325 miles) on the 1850 Meyer map to 3,950 km (2,455 miles) on the Mitchell map of 1848. The average length overall is 1,874 km (about 1,165 miles). The mountains, on average, are longer before 1850 than they are after 1850 (2,141 km vs. 1,677 km). The modal length is 1,950 km and the median length is 1,800 km.

The mean latitudinal position of the Kong Mountains was 10° 1′ N in the period 1798 to 1850. The mean latitudinal position was 8° 58′ N in the period 1850 to 1892. There was a perceptible southward shift in the position of the Kong Mountains as the nineteenth century progressed.

The modal position of the western end of the Kong Mountains was about 10° West longitude, which places it in the Guinea Highlands, southeast of Futa Jallon and northwest of Mt Nimba. The usual position of the eastern end of the Kong Mountains, particularly after 1850, is about 6° E longitude, which places it in the Oyo Yoruba Uplands, east of Ilesha.

A composite of forty maps which show the Kong Mountains (and name them so) in the period 1798 to 1892 is shown as the last item in Fig. 6. The Kong Mountains, at one time or another, have been attributed to the area shown in the shade pattern.

88 Arrowsmith, A., ‘Africa’; A., and Arrowsmith, S., ‘Africa’, in Outlines of the World (London, 1825); Arrowsmith, A., Orbis Terrarum Veteribus Noti Descriptio. A Comparative Atlas of Ancient and Modern Geography from Original Authorities, and Upon a New Plan, for the Use of Eton School (London, 1828); Aspin, J., Africa Drawn from the best Authorities, for the Illustration of Lavoisne's Genealogical, Historical, Chronological, & Geographical Atlas (London, 1813).

89 Tanner, H. S., ‘Africa’, in Tanner's Universal Atlas (Philadelphia, 1834); Mitchell, S. A., ‘Map of Africa showing its most recent discoveries’, in A New Universal Atlas Containing Maps of the Various Empires, Kingdoms, States and Republics of the World (Philadelphia, 1848).

90 For a discussion of the stability and resistance of images, see Boulding, , Image, 718.

91 Anon, ., ‘The journal of a mission to the interior of Africa, in the year 1805, by Mungo Park’, Quarterly Review, XIII (04 & 07 1815), 120–50.

92 Ibid. 146. Emphasis in original. The anonymous reviewer was responding to statements made by the editors of Park's, MungoThe Journal of a Mission to the Interior of Africa in the year 1805 (Philadelphia, 1815), in which numerous objections were raised about Maxwell's hypothesis, including the existence of the Kong Mountains, ‘of which there appears to be no doubt’. Park, Journal, 115.

93 MacQueen, , Northern Central Africa, 149; MacQueen's map in this text shows such a gap in what is otherwise an extraordinarily mountainous West Africa. See ‘A Map of Africa North of the parallel of 7° South Latitude; Showing the course & direction of the principal Rivers & Mountains particularly of the Niger & of the Gir With Their Tributary Streams, from the best Authorities. Drawn by James MacQueen, Glasgow 6th June 1820’.

94 Malte-Brun, , Universal, IV, 56.

95 Ibid. 5.

96 Duveyrier, , ‘Question’, 530–2.

97 Maunoir, C., ‘Rapport sur les travaux de la société et sur les progrès des sciences géographiques’, Bulletin de la Société de Géographie, IX (1888), 41.

98 Meyer, J., Neuester Zeitungs Atlas für alte & neue Erdkunde (Hildburghausen, 1859).

99 Johnston), (A. K. ‘Stanford's library map of Africa’, Stanford's Library Atlas of the World (Glasgow, 1866, with additions to 1877).

100 Johnson, A. J., Johnson's New Illustrated Family Atlas of the World (New York, 1866), 97.

101 Burton, , ‘Kong mountains’, 484–6. Also in Burton, R. F. and Cameron, V. L., To the Gold Coast for Gold: A Personal Narrative (London, 1883), 2, 354–8.

102 Ibid. 484.

103 Ibid. 485–6.

104 Ibid. 486.

105 Bartholomew, J., The Popular Hand Atlas of the World (New York, 1886), 38. At about this time the controversial town of Musardu began to appear in the Guinea highlands on maps of West Africa. This town, like the Kong Mountains, appeared and then disappeared, and its very existence is disputed. Benjamin K. Anderson, a Liberian explorer, published an account of his travels made in 1868–9. He undertook a second journey to Musardu in 1874. His travels predate both the French pursuit and capture of Samori and his army in 1899 and the adjudication of the Franco—Liberian boundary. Anderson's travels, if authenticated, would have given Liberia a claim to territories in the interior. It was thus in the interest of the French to discredit Anderson's published reports. One member of the Mission Hostains—d'Ollone (1898–1900), Charles d'Ollone, called Anderson's account an outright fabrication, claiming that he wrote his account with the aid of facts furnished by captives from the interior. As evidence, he cited the example of two towns (Nzolou and Nsapa) that Anderson placed more than sixty kilometers apart, which according to local inhabitants were in fact within shouting distance. He found many errors when comparing the maps for their own expedition with that prepared by Anderson. See Bartholomew, Popular; Johnston, A. K.Stanford's library map of Africa constructed by A. Keith Johnston’ (Edinburgh, 1866; reprinted with additions, 1877); and G. Cram & Co., Unrivaled, 196–7; Anderson, B. K., Narrative of a Journey to Musardu (New York, 1870); Starr, F., Narrative of the Expedition Despatched to Musahdu by the Liberian Government under Benjamin J. K. Anderson, Senior, Esquire in 1874 (Monrovia, 1912); Martonne, E. de, ‘La frontière libérienne’, Bulletin de l'Afrique Française, Renseignements Coloniaux, V (1928), 2293–314; and d'Ollone, C., De la Côte d'Ivoire au Soudan et à la Guinée (Paris, 1901), 281.

106 Atger, P., La France en Côte d'Ivoire de 1843–1893 (Dakar, 1962), 116.

107 Baker, J., A History of Geographical Discovery and Exploration (London, 1937), 319, 355; Hargreaves, , West Africa Partitioned. Vol. 1: The Loaded Pause, 1885–89 (London, 1974), 90–1.

108 Binger, Le capitaine L.-G., ‘Du Niger au Golfe de Guinée par Kong’, Bulletin de la Société de Géographie (Paris) (1889), 338–9; also quoted in le capitaine Binger, , ‘La ville de Kong et la prétendue chaîne de montagnes de Kong’, Revue de Géographie, XXVI (1890), 62. A similar statement is found in Binger, , Du Niger au Golfe du Guinée (Paris, 1892), 1, 285, but interestingly the reference to maps is omitted. It appears that Binger no longer perceived a need to confront the authority of maps showing the Kong Mountain chain by the time his book was published (1892). His position on the fictitious mountain range had been known to the public for at least three years prior to its publication. In addition to his presentation before the Paris Geographical Society on 3 December 1889, summaries of Binger's observations based on his letters from the field were published by the Revue Française de l'Etranger et des Colonies et Exploration on 1 February 1889. In a footnote to one such report, the editors note: ‘…one must not look for the origin of the name of the city (Kong) in the nature of the countryside in which it is located. Binger, M. only saw mountainous areas to the N-N-W.’ Anon., ‘Exploration du capitaine Binger: pays de Kong’, Revue Française de l'Etranger et des Colonies et Exploration, Gazette Geographique, IX (1889), 148.

109 Note the references to maps in the quotes from Duveyrier, ‘Question’, and Maunoir, , ‘Rapport’, 41, in the previous section.

110 Duveyrier, H. et al. , ‘Rapport sur le concours au prix annuel fait à la Société de Géographie’, Bulletin de la Société de Géographie, XI (1890), 150; Binger, , ‘Niger’, 369.

111 We are aware of at least five different maps produced by Binger to illustrate his journey. The first is a four-sheet map (1: 1,000,000) which we have not seen but is cited in Demanche, G., ‘Les traités Binger au Soudan Française’, Revue Française de l'Etranger et des Colonies et Exploration, Gazette Géographique, XII, 100 (1890), 220. A second map illustrated his presentation before the Paris Geographical Society and was published in Binger, ‘Niger’. This map (1:2,500,000) is titled ‘Itinéraire de Bamako au Golfe de Guinée à travers les Pays de Kong et du Mossi, levé et dressé par le Capitaine L. G. Binger, 1887–1889’. It is this version that contains the inset map (1: 8,750,000) titled ‘Esquisse orographique de la région explorée’ shown in Fig. 7. The third and fourth maps are found in Le tour du monde to illustrate Binger's lengthy account of his expedition. One is titled ‘Itinéraire général de Dakar au Golfe de Guinée (1887–89)’ (1: 14,000,000), the other is ‘Itinéraire du voyage du Capitaine Binger de Bénokhobougou à Kong et à Bobo Dioulasou’ (1: 2,000,000). See Binger, , ‘Du Niger au Golfe de Guinée’, Le tour de monde, lxi (1891), 23, 70. A fifth map is found in Binger's book and is titled ‘Carte du Haut-Niger au golfe de Guinée par le pays de Kong et le Mossi, levée et dressée de 1887 à 1889 par le G. Binger, Capne d'Inferle de Marine par ordre de M. Etienne, Sous-Secrétaire d'Etat des Colonies, Hachette et Cie. (1:1,900,000)’.

112 Binger, L.-G., Du Niger au Golfe du Guinée (Paris, 1892).

113 Schirmer, H., ‘La géographie de l'Afrique en 1800 et 1890’, Annales de Géographie, 1 (1892), 187.

114 Fierro, , Société, 222–33.

115 Anon., ‘Séance extraordinaire du 3 décembre 1889 tenue dans le grand amphithéâtre de la Sorbonne pour la réception de M. L.-G. Binger’. Compte Rendu des Séances de la Société de Géographie et de la Commission Centrale, XV–XVII (1889), 380–2.

116 Ibid.

117 Duveyrier, , ‘Rapport’, 149.

118 Demanche, G., ‘Traités’, 219–21; Duveyrier, et al. , ‘Concours’, 151; Anon., ‘Pays de Kong: exploration Binger’, Revue Française de l'Etranger et des Colonies, XI, 85 (1890), 3945.

119 Hargreaves, J., West Africa Partitioned. Vol. 2: The Elephants in the Grass (London, 1985), 55.

120 Quoted in Hargreaves, , Loaded Pause, 91. Curtin discusses how the West African interior was portrayed in the early nineteenth century in mythic terms as more healthy, wealthy and civilized in comparison to coastal areas. See Curtin, , Image, 86–7, 226, 353.

121 Rand McNally & Co., ‘Africa’, in Atlas of the World (Chicago, 1890), 225; Rand McNally & Co., ‘Afrika’, Neuer familien Atlas der Welt (Chicago, 1891), 239.

122 Bartholomew, J., The Oxford Advanced Atlas (London, 1928), 70–1.

123 Tooley, R. V., ‘The great lakes of Africa’, The Map Collector, VII (1979), 1316; Karpinski, L., ‘Early Michigan maps: three outstanding peculiarities’, Michigan History Magazine, XXIX, 4 (1945), 506–11; Knes, M., ‘Michigan's mythical mountains’, Michigan Natural Resources (09.—10. 1983), 26–9.

124 Harley, , ‘Deconstructing’, 11.

125 Binger went on to become the first colonial Governor of Ivory Coast in 1893.

* We thank George Dimock, Mahir Saul, and Carol Spindel for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper. We are also appreciative for the substantive editorial guidance of David Robinson and helpful critical comments of three anonymous reviewers. Thanks also to Greg Chu, Tanya Meyer, Phil Schwartzberg (Cartographic Laboratory, University of Minnesota) and Jane Domier (Cartographic Laboratory, University of Illinois) for drawing several of the maps, and to John P. Beyers (University of Minnesota) and James Akerman (Newberry Library) for help in determining the scale of maps consulted in this study.

‘From the Best Authorities’: The Mountains of Kong in the Cartography of West Africa*

  • Thomas J. Bassett (a1) and Philip W. Porter (a2)


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