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Almada, André Alvares d', fl. 1594, et al. / Brief treatise on the rivers of Guinea
Part I (1984)

Introduction [with maps],   pp. 1-12 ff.


Page 2



Teixeira da Mota on Alvares de Almada


"Little is known about the life of Andre Alvares de Almada.   His
father, Cipriano Alvares de Almada, was an energetic commander (capitao)
on Santiago Island. Andre was born there, and in 1599 was awarded the
Habit of the Order of Christ for valiant services in the defence of the
island against the assault of foreign enemy. At an earlier date, in 1581,
he had travelled to Portugal and Spain on behalf of the island's inhabitants,
in order to seek permission for them to settle in Sierra Leone, a
permission which was refused because of the fear that the island would
thereafter be totally abandoned. He made a number of voyages to the
mainland of Guinea, especially in the 1570s, and he was still alive in
1603. He was twice married, and his descendants married into the leading
families of the island. At least one son was well acquainted with the
coast and waterways of Guinea, and is on record as claiming to hold the
office of Captain of Cacheu." ('Dois escritores quinhentistas de Cabo
Verde', pp.18-19).
"Donelha was in Guinea in roughly the same period as was Andre
Alvares de Almada. Almada began his voyages to Guinea a little earlier,
and he wrote one recension of his Tratado a little later, in 1594. He
must have been oorn, however, some years before Donelha. Since they both
lived on the Cape Verde Islands between the 1560s and the 1590s they
almost certainly knew each other. It is possible that Donelha saw one
of Almada's manuscripts, but we have not noted in Donelha's account
any indication of borrowing. Since their acquaintance with Guinea covered
the same period, it is not surprising that their writings contain a
certain amount of common information. For instance, out of 99 toponyms
in Donelha's account, 55 are also found in Almada's text (which contains
a total of 148 toponyms). The more important natural features of the
coast (e.g. Cape Verde, Serra Leoa) tend to be represented by toponyms
common to both works. But for certain areas of the coast, there are
differences in the toponyms which indicate that Donelha did not make
use of Almada's writings. Thus, out of 34 toponyms which Donelha records
for the Gambia district, only 6 are given by Almada (who records 17
altogether). The score of the two writers for the Beafada district is
14 to 6, and for Sierra Leone 16 to 10 ...
If we compare ethnonyms, Donelha records 40, Almada 37, and 23 are
recorded by both ... Turning to African personal names, Donelha again
does better than Almada, with 28 against 22, and only 10 in common.
But if we count terms for titles of chiefs or social groups, Almada
records 22, Donelha only 15, with 7 in common; and if we compare
vernacular terms for physical objects, Almada records 25, Donelha only
10, with 5 in common. Almada is undoubtedly the richer source in
references to commerce, particularly in the enumeration of products and
trade-goods. Almada is also fuller with regard to ethnographic information,
which he supplies in more detail and in relation to a wider area ...
However, when it comes to the fauna, Donelha is the fuller source,
since he specifies 39 items (giving vernacular names for 7), while
Almada only mentions 11 (giving vernacular names for 5), of which 7 are
in common. To a lesser extent, Donelha has the advantage with regard
to the flora, giving the names of 35 items (including 25 vernacular
terms), as compared with Almada's 29 (19 vernacular terms), of which 16
are in common." (Donelha, Descricao, pp.35, 49-50).
5;-


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