The Origins of the Selden Map

The Selden Map is a map of Chinese origin bequeathed by John Selden to the Bodleian Library in 1659. The precise origins of the map have hitherto been unknown, but scientists at Nottingham Trent University are trying to do something about that. Using a series of non-invasive techniques to examine the map’s material composition, they conclude that the map was created in stages, and probably comes from Aceh, Sumatra. Their findings were published last year in Heritage Science. [Caitlin Dempsey/WMS]

Previously: The Selden Map.

New Biography of 17th-Century Cartographer John Ogilby

John Ogilby, The Road From London to the Lands End,, 1675.
John Ogilby, The Road From London to the Lands End, 1675.

nine-lives-ogilbyJohn Ogilby, the Scottish cartographer who in 1675 published the Britannia atlas—essentially the first road atlas of Great Britain—is the subject of a new biography by Alan Ereira. The Nine Lives of John Ogilby: Britain’s Master Mapmaker and His Secrets came out last month from Duckworth Overlook. (Direct Amazon UK link, though it’s available from third-party sellers on other stores.) From the description I gather it will follow the argument made in the 2008 BBC series Terry Jones’ Great Map Mystery, which Ereira wrote and directed: that the Britannia was an invasion map designed to facilitate a Catholic takeover. (My understanding of this is third-hand: I haven’t seen the book or the series.) [WMS]

The Chimney Map

The big news in the map world this week is a 17th-century map that was found in Aberdeen, Scotland, stuffed up a chimney to stop drafts. Discovered during renovations, the map was handed over to the National Library of Scotland, which found it to be in very bad shape: the 2.2×1.6-metre map, identified as work by the Dutch engraver Gerald Valck, was disintegrating, with pieces falling off every time it was moved. The Library’s restoration process is featured in an article in the winter 2016 issue of their magazine, Discover (direct PDF link), and in two videos about the map: one I’ve posted above, plus another, shorter video. You should take a look at them all: they present a fascinating look inside the conservation process. More coverage at Atlas ObscuraBBC News and Smithsonian.com.

Ricci Map Derivative Found in a Garage Sells for $24,000

Two dark, torn illustrations found in the garage of a Palm Springs home and listed for sale as “two 19th century hand colored prints of the world” turned out to be something quite possibly a bit more significant. First identified as two panels (of six) from a 1708 Korean map, Kim Jin-yeo’s Gonyeomangukjeondo (곤여만국전도), which is a derivative of Matteo Ricci’s famous Kunyu Wanguo Quantu (aka the “Impossible Black Tulip”), the panels ended up selling earlier this month for $24,000; the buyer, map dealer Barry Ruderman, is restoring the map for sale and suspects that it may in fact be a 17th-century Chinese copy rather than a Korean map. Daily MailFine Books Magazine. [WMS]

Previously: China at the Center.

New Map Books for October 2016

October is a busy month: I’m aware of six new map books coming out. Two deal with the mapping of war, three with the rich cartographical history of Great Britain, while the sixth is a colouring book.

maps-of-warMaps of War: Mapping Conflict Through the Centuries by Jeremy Black (Conway, 11 October). “There is little documented mapping of conflict prior to the Renaissance period, but, from the 17th century onward, military commanders and strategists began to document the wars in which they were involved and, later, to use mapping to actually plan the progress of a conflict. Using contemporary maps, this sumptuous new volume covers the history of the mapping of land wars, and shows the way in which maps provide a guide to the history of war.”

war-map-bookWar Map: Pictorial Conflict Maps, 1900-1950 by Philip Curtis and Jakob Sondergard Pedersen (The Map House, 6 October). This is a companion book to the Map House’s exhibition of pictorial conflict maps, which I told you about last week.

Scotland: Mapping the Islandsscotland-mapping-islands by Christopher Fleet, Charles W.J. Withers and Margaret Wilkes (Birlinn, 20 October). A follow-up to Scotland: Mapping the Nation (Birlinn, 2012), this book explores the Scottish islands through maps from the National Library of Scotland’s collection.

art-optics-hereford

Art and Optics in the Hereford Map: An English Mappa Mundi, c. 1300 by Marcia Kupfer (Yale University Press, 25 October). Reinterpretation of the Hereford Mappa Mundi from an art history perspective. “Features of the colored and gilded map that baffle modern expectations are typically dismissed as the product of careless execution. Kupfer argues that they should rightly be seen as part of the map’s encoded commentary on the nature of vision itself.”

great-british-colouring-mapI told you about the Ordnance Survey’s Great British Colouring Map (Laurence King, 10 October) last July; it’s available this week. “Based on the accurate maps of Ordnance Survey, the colouring pages explore the coasts, towns, forests and countryside of England, Scotland and Wales. Includes detailed maps of cities and other places of interest such as Britain’s most recognizable tourist and historical locations, plus a stunning gatefold of London.”

britains-tudor-mapsBritain’s Tudor Maps: County by County (Batsford, 13 October) reproduces  the maps from John Speed’s 1611 Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine. These apparently include the first individual county maps of Great Britain, so this is a work of some historical significance.

Has the Ricci Map Been Altered?

china-center

This Taipei Times article suggests that some copies of the Ricci map—Matteo Ricci’s 1602 map of the world produced for the Chinese emperor—have been altered, possibly to support (or at least not contradict) the present-day Chinese territorial claim to the Spratly Islands (and the nine-dash line). In particular, the article claims, the James Ford Bell Trust’s copy of the map has been altered:

Part of the legend reading “between the 15th and 42nd parallels” had been erased, with ocean patterns painted over the erasure. […] Whether this is a recent defacement done to obliterate evidence that China’s historical primacy in the South China Sea is a modern fiction, or an ancient one done to eliminate an error, is a subject for further research. […] Nonetheless, several other 16th century copies of the Ricci-Li map exist in Europe, South Korea and Japan, and all display the legend intact.

To be honest, the article isn’t so much making a case as it is casting some aspersions. It has an agenda: to shoot down the argument that China’s claims to the Spratly Islands are supported by the historical record. The Ricci map—like so many other maps caught up in territorial disputes and conspiracy theories—is simply a means to an end. [WMS/Leventhal Map Center]

Albion’s Glorious Ile: A 400-Year-Old Map Colouring Book

albions-glorious-ileWhat’s old is new again. Maps created by engraver William Hole to illustrate Michael Drayton’s 17th-century, 15,000-line poem Poly-Olbion are being reprinted—as an adult colouring book called Albion’s Glorious Ile, coming out next month from Unicorn Press (pre-order at Amazon).

As the Guardian article about the book points out, hand-colouring maps and illustrations was a common activity before full-colour printing was a thing, so the current mania for adult colouring books—Gretchen Peterson’s City Maps: A Coloring Book for Adults is The Map Room’s best-selling book this year by a large, large margin—can in some ways be seen as a reversion rather than a new thing.

The Guardian has a gallery of Hole’s maps (taken from the colouring book). The Poly-Olbion Project also has a page about Hole’s maps. [WMS]

Previously: City Maps: An Adult Colouring Book.

Preserving Blaeu’s ‘Archipelagus Orientalis’

archipelagus-orientalis
Joan Blaeu, Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus, 1663. Map, 118.5 cm × 152 cm. National Library of Australia.

The National Library of Australia’s copy of Joan Blaeu’s Archipelagus Orientalis, sive Asiaticus, a 1663 map that has one of the earliest depictions of New Holland and Tasmania, is in “an exceedingly fragile state”—and it’s only one of four copies left. After a successful appeal two years ago to raise funds for conservation work, the map is now heading to the University of Melbourne, where conservation experts will determine the best way to preserve it. [History of Cartography Project]

Chidō Museum Exhibit Features Huge Map of Northeastern Japan

An exhibition at the Chidō Museum in Tsuruoka, Yamagata Prefecture features a huge (11 m × 5 m) mid-17th-century map of northeastern Japan, the Asahi Shimbun reports: “It is a copy of the Dewa Ikkoku no Ezu picture map, which was jointly compiled by feudal domains controlling the region stretching from today’s Yamagata Prefecture to neighboring Akita Prefecture.” [WMS]

The WSJ Reviews China at the Center

verbiest
Ferdinand Verbiest, A Complete Map of the World, 1674. Ink on paper, eight scrolls, 217 × 54 cm. Library of Congress.

Here’s a review in the Wall Street Journal of the Asian Art Museum’s exhibition, China at the Center, which I’ve told you about before.

The show includes portraits of both as well as a half-dozen books to evoke the libraries each brought and the impact they had. Most helpful, however, are two large touchscreens, one for each map, that allow us to access translations and summaries of many of the texts. This quickly becomes addictive, because the journey is full of surprises. Here, we read about scientific theories or descriptions based on travelers’ accounts. There, we learn how best to capture a unicorn.

[WMS]

Previously: China at the CenterUpcoming Symposium: Reimagining the Globe and Cultural Exchange.

De Wit’s Planisphærium Cœleste

Frederick de Wit, Planisphærium cœleste, 1670.
Frederick de Wit, Planisphærium cœleste, 1670.

As part of its regular “Map Monday” feature, Atlas Obscura looks closely at Frederick de Wit’s Planisphærium cœleste (1670), above. Like other celestial maps of the period, it’s as though the monsters on sea charts have been placed in the skies—especially true for constellations like Cetus, as the article shows.

This reminds me that there’s quite a lot about antique celestial maps in The Map Room’s archives: The Face of the Moon; Star Atlases; Historical Celestial Atlases on the Web; The U.S. Naval Observatory’s Celestial AtlasesDivine Sky: The Artistry of Astronomical MapsAnother Look at the Linda Hall Library’s Celestial AtlasesChristian Constellations.

kanaspb2ndedb.inddA book about celestial maps, Nick Kanas’s Star Maps: History, Artistry and Cartography, is now in its second edition (Springer, 2012). I own a copy of the first edition.

Previously about Frederick de Wit: A New Book About Frederick de Wit.

China at the Center

Two important seventeenth-century world maps are the focus of a new exhibition opening this Friday at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. China at the Center: Rare Ricci and Verbiest World Maps, which runs from 4 March to 8 May 2016, features Matteo Ricci’s 1602 map and Ferdinand Verbiest’s 1674 map.

Ricci (1552–1610) and Verbiest (1623–1688) were both Jesuit priests, in China to spread Christianity; their maps, produced in collaboration with Chinese calligraphers, artists and printers, produced a fundamental rethinking of China’s place in the world. Not that China wasn’t at the centre of these maps, as the essays in the accompanying catalogue point out, but these maps filled out the rest of the world, which was previously a marginal afterthought in Chinese cartography.

Continue reading “China at the Center”