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”

The Stolen Champlain Map’s Return to the Boston Public Library

champlain-map

After Forbes Smiley was sentenced to 3½ years in prison for stealing nearly 100 maps from a number of different libraries, and maps were returned to the libraries he stole them from, there were still some missing pieces to the puzzle. There were maps in Smiley’s possession that had not been claimed; there were maps missing from libraries that Smiley did not admit to stealing, though he was recorded as the last person to see the map before it went missing.

Continue reading “The Stolen Champlain Map’s Return to the Boston Public Library”

Lost Cornish Map Rediscovered

A seventeenth-century map of Falmouth, Cornwall lost for more than a century has turned up in the private collection of a local historian who died last June. Created by George Withiell in 1690, the map, titled A True Map of all Sir Peter Killigrew’s Lands in the Parish of Mylor and part of Budock Lands, was last on public display in the 1880s and had gone missing since then. The historian, Alan Pearson, found it for sale in Bristol 10 years ago. The map is now on display at the Cornwall Record Office in Bristol. BBC News, West Briton. [via/via]

The Selden Map

The Selden Map
The Selden Map (Bodleian Library)

The Nation has a long article by Paula Findlen on the Selden Map, a Chinese watercolour map acquired by the 17th-century jurist and scholar John Selden and bequeathed to the Bodleian Library in 1659. Findlen recounts the origins of the map and its rediscovery in the Bodleian’s vaults in 2008, and describes it in intricate detail. [via]

The map’s rediscovery has set off a flurry of interest and publications (see book list below). Findlen also looks at the scholarly debates about the map. Brook and Batchelor have both written books about the Selden map, and each scholar takes a somewhat different approach to framing the story and to interpreting a reconstruction of the document’s origins. Yet they concur that this is a Chinese maritime map and a product of late-Ming ambitions, enterprise, and mobility,” she writes.

The Bodleian has a website dedicated to the Selden Map, which includes an online viewer (Flash required). See also Robert Batchelor’s page.

selden-books

Books About the Selden Map:

  • The Selden Map of China: A New Understanding of the Ming Dynasty by Hongping Annie Nie (Bodleian Libraries, 2014).
    Available as a PDF in English and Chinese.

Previously: More Map Books; Two More Map Books.

Civitates Orbis Terrarum

braun-hogenberg-cities

Hyperallergic has a review of Cities of the World (Taschen, November 2015), a reprint of colour plates from Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg’s Civitates Orbis Terrarum, which appeared in six volumes between 1572 and 1617. From Taschen: “Featuring plans, bird’s-eye views, and maps for all major cities in Europe, plus important urban centers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, this masterwork in urban mapping gives us a comprehensive view of city life at the turn of the 17th century.” Maps from the Civitates Orbis Terrarum can also be viewed online here and here. [via] Buy at Amazon (Canada, U.K.)