John Thornton’s African Texts

This site is an attempt to create a paradigm for historical editing, annotating and translating written texts relating to African History.  It arose out of my observations about editing, but particularly about my own experience editing Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi’s “Missione evangelica” an important text concerning the Kingdoms of Kongo and Ndongo which he finished writing in 1668.

I believe that the web can offer substantial advantages over print for historical editing, because it allows corrections and updates  to be made in transcription of original texts, translations and editorial apparatus, something which cannot be done in print publications.  I also hope that by attaching blogs to such texts, we might be able to generate additional commentary, and in the longer and more starry-eyed future, through linking to create variable bodies of related texts that could render research much easier.

This project began with an attempt to publish Cavazzi’s manuscript on a blog, but in many respects, I have found this format less useful than I had hoped, not the least because blogs often have low web visibility and cannot easily be cited in important tools like Wikipedia.  I am hoping that by having the text itself as a permanent installation on a university supported site, I can give the ideas a better test.

This is definitely a project in development, and I am hoping that my visitors will help me out by commenting on my blog, which is linked to this site.  I will retain the original text there, since the URL of that site has already been cited in scholarly literature, but I hope that this website will replace it.  I would ask those who publish work based on this text to cite this website, rather than the blog, as their source.

My Texts:

Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi da Montecuccolo, “Missione evangelica al Regno de Congo” (MSS Araldi, Modena.  3 vols:  A, B, C)

This is one of the most important texts ever written on early Angolan history.  The Italian missionary Giovanni Cavazzi lived and worked in Angola for many years and was a close confidant of the famous Queen Njinga.  His book, Istorica Descrizione de tre regni Congo, Matamba ed Angola, first published in 1687 was the fruit of much of his labor.  But his first and most basic attempt to write this history was in the Araldi MSS, finished in 1668 and now published here in English translation.

General Introduction

Antonio Franco, Synopsis Annalium Societatis Jesu in Lusitania ab 1540 usque ad annum 1725 (Augsburg, 1726), excepts relating to Kongo and Angola.

Franco’s chronicle, though written in the eighteenth century incorporates Jesuit writing about Kongo and Angola from a chronicle or perhaps a collection of letters, probably written by the Jesuit João de Pavia, that are no longer extant and relate largely to the period between about 1622 and 1650.  It is a vital source for the history of Kongo in particular during this important period.

Franco, Synopsis

[Manuel Robrerdo/Francisco de São Salvador], Kikongo Sermon, ca. 1648

Manuel Robrerdo was a Kongolese mestiç0, who was ordained as a secular priest and subsequently joined the Capuchin order, the only Kongolese to become a member of the regular clergy.  He was instrumental in compiling a Latin-Spanish-Kikongo dictionary, and attached a sample sermon to the end papers of this very valuable dictionary.  The sermon was not translated, this text includes an introduction, the text in Kikongo and an English translation.

Robrerdo, Kikongo Sermon