Author Donates 17th-Century Map of Africa to McDermott Library
July 21, 2014
Click to enlarge. Author Frank T. Kryza donated this hand-colored, engraved map created by Dutch cartographer Johannes Blaeu in the 1630s. It resides in the administration conference room of the Eugene McDermott Library.
The Eugene McDermott Library is now home to a rare piece of history.
Thanks to the generosity of author and donor Frank T. Kryza, an antique map of Africa hangs in the library administration conference room. A special unveiling ceremony was held in the library to celebrate the newest addition.
The hand-colored, engraved map was created by Dutch cartographer Johannes Blaeu in the 1630s. Kryza found it on a trip to New York 25 years ago. On the map, the continent of Africa is surrounded by galleons, sea monsters and flying fish. The borders contain nine oval vignettes of African cities and 10 vignettes of costumed figures. The Center for Art Conservation worked on the map to prepare it for framing.
“I have about 100 maps of Africa and this is in the top 10. I wanted a place where it would be taken care of. The University is the perfect place for that,” Kryza said.
“The library is thrilled to accept Kryza’s rare Blaeu map,” said Dr. Ellen Safley, dean of libraries. “While McDermott Library continues to collect recent resources such as electronic journal articles and digital books, we are equally impressed by the quality of the 17th-century cartography and the hand painting of the map. As with our other rare materials, it is a piece we will cherish.”
From left: Kryza talks with Linda Snow, head of reference services and liaison to the School of Arts and Humanities; Dr. Thomas Allen, curator in special collections and archives; and Paul Oelkrug, coordinator for special collections and archives, during a reception.
Kryza first became acquainted with McDermott Library more than two decades ago. While working at ARCO International, he was doing political research and needed a rare book on the oil and gas industry in Ecuador. He was surprised to find it at McDermott.
“I couldn’t believe there was a copy of that book within site of the building in which I worked. I thought I’d have to go try to find one in Washington, D.C., New York or Chicago or Los Angeles. I was amazed.”
Years later, a chance encounter with the former dean of libraries, Dr. Larry Sall, would cement a relationship with the library that has lasted for years.
“I’m a Yale graduate, but I feel a closer connection to UTD because I’ve had a 20-year relationship with the school. McDermott Library meets my needs.”
Much like the African maps Kryza collects, his history is just as extensive. His love for Africa began when he was 13 years old. His family moved there when his father became the American consul to Nairobi, Kenya. Those four years fostered a deep respect for the continent.
Once Kryza began working at ARCO International, he lobbied to be sent back to Africa. The company agreed and Kryza spent four more years working there. Since then, he has been working on projects in Africa and is also the honorary consul to Tunisia. Books that he has written include “The Power of Light: The Epic Story of Man’s Quest to Harness the Sun” and “The Race for Timbuktu: In Search of Africa’s City of Gold.”
Kryza said he hopes to tell the story of Africa through his maps. The Blaeu map is just the beginning. He’s already picked out other maps he plans to donate to the library.
“I consider McDermott Library to be a cathedral of books. It’s like a church. This is a place that’s sacred because it contains the history of the human race,” Kryza said. “We have a responsibility to make sure that this University becomes as well-endowed with treasures as the universities on the East Coast. That’s why I wanted to give this map to UTD.”