At the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences with Karl Grandin, Current Director at the Centre for Historic Science, and And Ann Gollifer.
The Centre for Historic Science at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is the home of an enormous archive of objects, maps, drawings, and manuscripts. One of these objects is an original 19th century map of the interior of Southern Africa that has marked in place the geographical position of a massive waterfall called “ Mosi Oa Tunya”. This map was sent to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, in Stockholm from Cape Town by Charles John Andersson in 1852. The map was received by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1853 and duly locked away for safe keeping because within the 30 page letter from Andersson that came with the map was a request that the information therein remain unpublished. This was most likely because the map was one copied by Andersson from an original by Livingstone, marked with information that had yet to be verified by physical discovery. Livingstone did not set eyes upon Mosi Oa Tunya until 1855, despite the fact that he knew of its existence and location. He claimed the prize of being the first European to visit the falls and renamed them for his Queen. ‘Mosi Oa Tunya’ which in the Lozi language means ‘resounding smoke’, became the ‘Victoria Falls’. There is no record that Livingstone and Andersson ever met and to this day no one knows how Charles John Andersson came upon the original Livingstone map from which he made his copy.
Andersson never saw the falls himself, but he can be credited with being the first European explorer to send proof of their existence to Europe, two years prior to their physical substantiation by Livingstone to the Royal Geographical Society in London. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences seems not to have realised at the time the significance of the map and it was packed away and most likely, never looked at again.
That is until 2004 when Christer Blomstrand, a Swedish journalist who had been living and working in Botswana, South Africa and Namibia since the 1960s, was commissioned by the Swedish Embassy in Pretoria to search for any ‘ancient’ maps of Africa, in Swedish collections. The Speaker of Parliament in Cape Town, hoped to gather together a collection of old maps for exhibition, that would illustrate how European maps had defined the image of Africa for centuries. Christer contacted Karl Grandin, then Deputy Director at the Centre for Historic Science at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. On his arrival Karl presented Christer with an old cardboard box bound with string and together they opened it. Inside there were two old maps, each made up of many sections of cardboard, pasted onto a thin linen that could be folded neatly in upon itself without obscuring any detail in their folding. This structure was typical of early 19th century maps, made for easy carriage, annotation and editing, throughout journeys that might last months if not years. A letter of thirty pages accompanied the two maps. Charles John Andersson’s signature graced both maps and the letter,and it seemed likely that all three items had been lying inside the box since 1853, quite forgotten.
The first to be opened was a map of the South West of Africa that upon consultation with the Namibian historian, Gunther von Schumann in Windhoek, turned out to be one of the earliest maps of that area in existence. The second was Andersson’s handmade copy of Livinstone’s map bearing the position of the fabulous waterfall ‘Mosi Oa Tunya”.