The Children’s Map of Africa
Large Pictorial Map by Margaret Whiting Spilhaus

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Africa Pictorial Map
Flags at top of map
Map detail Map detail
Africa Pictorial Map
Margaret Whiting Spilhaus (b. 1889) (after)
The Children’s Map of Africa
The Cape Times, Ltd.: South Africa: 2nd Quarter 20th C.
Color-printed lithograph
30.25 x 21.75 inches, overall
Sold, please inquire as to the availability of similar items.

Large historical pictorial wall map of Africa designed to engage and educate South African schoolchildren of European descent, one of which is pictured in the lower right corner with a gazelle and the motto “Behold This Your Heritage.” The map shows boundaries between countries and major bodies of water, variously decorated with pictorial illustrations of animals, tribal peoples, trees and a few buildings. The continent is surrounded by ocean in which marine life swims and ships sail. A few mermaids decorate the edges. The map portion is set within a truncated circle, around which are 18 small vignettes from African history, mostly tracking the history of European trade and exploration from 1455 on. This perspective on African history is clearly conveyed at the top of the map, where the flags of major European colonizing nations and the U.S. form a design with an open book, accompanied by an illustration of an explorer in a pith helmet meeting a group of African villagers. The map is titled “Africa” in the lower right corner and a key to the symbols for natural resources is included on the map.

In a separate printed text, mounted verso, Spilhaus explains how in creating this map, she sought to make the study of geography come alive for children:

…Climate is a dull fact until we understand its influence upon the lives of men; upon their industry; upon vegetation, which is their food and their environment. It is also a psychological truth that whenever we sound the human note we arouse the interest of the child, and interest means the retention of the lesson in memory, and therefore work of real educative value.

This new map is designed to complement the ordinary class map. It is not intended to replace the geographer’s work. An attempt to combine in so small a compass a mass of geographical detail with the details of human interest would result in confusion. The attempt is to give the child an insight of the life of the country, and to inspire him with its possibilities of development and adventure.

Our children in Africa have a special heritage, and a special responsibility. Africa is a mine of treasure. The romance of its magnificent possibilities from north to south progressively unfolds to the student, and he discovers with ever-increasing passion that the Golden Age is not yet passed. There comes a day when he will stand before a new revelation, “Silent, upon a peak in Darien.”

Margaret Whiting Spilhaus was a South African author of several historical books concerned with the Age of Exploration and colonial history and produced a series of pictorial maps of continents. Apparently she began her literary career writing and illustrating books for young children such as South African Nursery Rhymes (1924) and The Limber Elf (1926). She also published a craft book with designs for a cardboard dollhouse and furniture. Later titles include The Background of Geography (1935), First South Africans and the Laws Which Governed Them (1949), South Africa in the Making: 1652-1806 (1966), Pacific adventure: The story of the pilot Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, and the natural history book Indigenous Trees of the Cape Peninsula (1950) containing photographs by Dennis Wright of her collection of specimens. Her pictorial maps include Australia (c. 1927), Africa, North America (c. 1930), South America (c. 1933) and Pan Africa (c. 1943). Spilhaus’s papers are in the Manuscripts and Archives of the University of Cape Town Libraries.


"Author names starting with Sp." New General Catalog of Old Books and Authors. January 2010. (28 January 2010).

"Spilhaus Family Papers." Manuscripts & Archives, University of Cape Town Libraries. (28 January 2010).