We examined the development of the occipital lobe in fetal monkeys between embryonic day 37 (E37) and E108 in Nissl-stained and acetylcholine esterase (AChE)-reacted sections. We paid particular attention to features that distinguish the development of presumptive area 17. At E46 the neuroepithelium consists of a ventricular zone and a monolayer cortical plate sandwiched between a thin marginal zone and a minimal presubplate. Between E55 and E65 an augmented subplate emerges and continues to expand up to E94 to become a major compartment of the developing cortex. A mitotic subventricular zone is established by E55. Peaking in depth at E72, it constitutes the principal germinal zone. By E78 an invading fibre tract divides it into an outer radially organized zone and a more conventional inner zone. AChE staining reveals the future area 17/18 border from E86 onwards. Proceeding from presumptive area 17 to area 18 there is a progressive thinning of the radially structured subventricular zone. Comparison of these results with corticogenesis in rodents suggests a number of potentially unique primate features: (i) a minimal preplate stage; (ii) a radially augmented germinal zone not previously described in non-primates; (iii) a fibre tract dividing the subventricular zone into two laminae; (iv) late generation and expansion of the subplate.