The Mapping of Japan.
Maps of Japan for sale.
We offer a fine collection of maps of Japan on our Japan web page now.
Included are maps by renowned mapmakers like; Ortelius, Blaeu,
Mercator-Hondius, Janssonius, Tirion, Coronelli, etc.
Views and botanical plates from Sieboold's Nippon, and books by
Kaempfer, Montanus, etc. from the 16th - 19th
Folding Screen Maps - Japan's Encounter
with the World
Dutch impressions of the world in
The Japanese cherish a great love for maps. Of old they adorned
all kinds of objects with cartographic images of the world, of
Japan, of their town or province. Before the Japanese came into
direct contact with Europeans, they made maps that represented the
Buddhist world. In that world there were only three great cultures,
i.e. India, China, and Japan. For their overseas trade Japanese
navigators relied upon their personal experience, traditional
knowledge and rutters (travelogues).
After the arrival of the Europeans, the Japanese realized that a
much larger world existed outside of India, China, and Japan. The
world maps created by the Flemish and Dutch cartographers like
Abraham Ortelius, Gerard Mercator, Petrus Plancius, Willem Blaeu
that the Dutch brought with them revealed what the unknown world
looked like. However, European charts and maps were rare and
expensive in Japan. Only rich merchants and officials of high rank
could afford to buy them or could even set eyes on them. So, they
ordered these modern western maps to be copied on screens. From the
results it appears that not an accurate but an aesthetic
representation of the map was most important - no exact copies, but
the most beautiful screens resulted.
The free exchange with Europeans stimulated Japanese
cartography. The printing technique improved. More accurate maps
appeared in greater numbers. However, a broader circulation of
western cartographic knowledge came about only after Japan closed
their borders to foreigners, so that only in 1645 the first
"modern" Japanese world map was printed, the Bankoku Sozu (general
map of the world). This so-called Shoho map was a Japanese copy of
a world map that an Italian missionary, Matteo Ricci, had made in
China at the end of the 16th century. It was based on various
Flemish and Dutch maps by Ortelius, Mercator, etc. Far into the
19th century it was frequently copied and reprinted so that
gradually this 16th century world picture superseded the Buddhist
An 18th century Japanese scholar even thought that in this
period the Dutch packed their world maps in wooden boxes, filled up
the seams with pitch and rope and then threw the boxes into the sea
"as a gift to the world" in order to show how the various countries
are situated on the globe. Such a map was supposed to have been
washed ashore in Japan in the mid-17th century. Nevertheless, it
wasn't until the end of the 18th century that the Japanese
abandoned the 16th century world picture of the Shoho map.
The increasing interest for Dutch studies in Japan also led to
the study of Dutch maps and atlases. In 1792, the famous
artist-scholar Shiba Kokan made an exact copy of an 18th century
world map of the Amsterdam publishing firm Covens & Mortier.
Though this map had been obsolete for decades, for the Japanese the
differences with the Shoho map bordered on the incredible. They
acquired a lot of mostly 17th century Dutch maps so that in a short
period in Japan all kinds of "modern" world maps were published,
"recently translated from Dutch sources." Realizing that these
"modern" maps were primarily 150 years old, Japanese scholars asked
the Dutch to bring the most modern recent world maps to Japan.
These were mostly maps by French and English cartographers who,
during the 18th century, had surpassed the Dutch in cartographic
knowledge. Based on these maps, the shogunate made a world map in
1810 that was completely up-to-date. In some instances the Japanese
map was more accurate than any western world map.
The Paulus Swaen company has for a long time specialized in the
Japanese / Netherlands relationship in the 17th and 18th century,
The year 2009 marked its 400th anniversary of a Trade relations, with cultural and economical exchange
between Japan and the Netherlands and has induced us to compose some
web pages and a Sale catalogue offering a number of beautiful, rare
and important items with an accent on this unique relationship
between both countries.
Please click to view the following subjects: Sale catalogue index - japan maps - japan town views -
We have made informative articles regarding the following