The very full description of west central Africa given in Giovanni Antonio Cavazzi da Montecuccolo's book, Istorica Descrizione de’ tre regni Congo, Matamba ed Angola, first published in 1687, has long been one of the most important sources for the reconstruction of the social, political, economic, and religious history of these three Central African states in the seventeenth century. This is true even though it has long been known that Cavazzi was not an eyewitness to all that he described, especially in the kingdom of Kongo, which he visited only briefly after finishing the draft of the book. Therefore, the recent discovery of a new, unknown manuscript version of Cavazzi's work among the family papers of Dr. Carlo Araldi of Modena is very useful, for it helps us to understand the sources that Cavazzi used to write the portions of his work on Kongo, the one area of west central Africa of which he had no first hand knowledge.
Since the Istorica Descrizione was published several years after Cavazzi's death by another Capuchin, Fr. Fortunato Alamandini, who noted in his own introduction that he had edited the final version from a confused mass of documents and notes, the new manuscript initially raised the hope that fuller versions of Cavazzi's original source material might be contained in it. I therefore examined the portions of the manuscript pertaining to Kongo with high hopes that the document would contain masses of fresh eye-witness source materials that Fr. Alamandidi had weeded out to make Istorica Descriizione a publishable work.
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