Jerónimo Lobo, 1596?-1678

A Short Relation of the River Nile, of Its Sourse and Current; of Its Overflowing the Campagnia of Ægypt, till It Runs into the Mediterranean: and of Other Curiosities: Written by an Eye-witnesse, Who Lived Many Years in the Chief Kingdoms of the Abyssine Empire. Translated by Sir Peter Wyche. London: J. Martyn, 1669. [Robert H. Taylor Collection, Rare Books Division]

Sir Peter Wyche’s translation of Lobo’s Itinerário is one of the earliest publications of the Royal Society, founded in London in 1660 for “improving Natural Knowledge.” In this booklet, Lobo describes in detail two springs that he claims are the sources of the Nile (actually, the Blue Nile) in the highlands of Abyssinia (today’s Ethiopia), which he passed through in 1629:

In this territory of Toncua is the known head and sourse of the River Nile, by the natives called Abani (i.e.) the Father of Waters. . . . The Head rises in the most pleasant Recesse of the Territory, having two Springs, called Eyes, each about the bigness of a Coach-wheel, distant twenty paces. . . . These two springs rise in a little field covered over with green and thick wood. . . . This plain is on the top of a high mountain, overlooking many spacious Vallies and from this hight insensibly descends. . . . At little more than three dayes journey from the Head, the River is large, deep enough for vessels to sail in. . . . [pp. 8-11] [see photographs in SCATURRO]

Lobo was a Portuguese Jesuit missionary. Ordered to India in 1622, he spent about ten years (1624-1634) in Ethiopia, where the emperor had been converted to Roman Catholicism. Lobo went back to India and ultimately became provincial of the Jesuits at Goa. Later, he returned to Portugal and died in Lisbon, the city of his birth. Several of Lobo’s writings have survived, including memoirs of his Indian and African adventures. He had correspondence with Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, a connection that likely explains the genesis of this publication.