Rare and important map of Taiwan and the adjacent coasts of Mainalnd China, from Phillip Franz von Siebold's epic study of Japan, Korea, and surrounding territories, Nippon. Archiv zur Beschreibung von Japan und dessen Neben- und Schutzländern: jezo mit den südlichen Kurilen, Krafto, Koorai und den Liukiu-Inseln.
Silebold's Kaart van de Chineesche Kust en van Formosa is one of his most rare and interesting maps. As stated in its long title, Siebold largely drew his sources from seventeenth-century Dutch archives. Indeed, Western knowledge of Taiwan had remained frozen in something of a time warp for the last two centuries, and the historical context is most fascinating. The Portuguese, who first sighted Taiwan in 1544, named it 'Ilha Formosa' (beautiful island). Taiwan was then inhabited by a variety of aboriginal peoples who enjoyed little interference from outsiders. That all changed when in 1624 the VOC founded Fort Zeelandia on the southwestern coast of the island. The outpost became a critical entrepot in the key Dutch trade route that ran from Batavia to Nagasaki, Japan. During this period, the VOC had the opportunity to chart the coasts of Taiwan, and although they made some maps publicly available, they kept the most accurate surveys secreted away in their archives.
In 1662, the military adventurer and pirate Koxinga seized Fort Zeelandia and brought Taiwan under Chinese rule. From that point onwards, all foreign contact with the island was strictly forbidden, thus preventing any new Western mapping expeditions to the island.
With respect to the present map, the delineation of the coastlines is highly impressive, while the interior generally remains an enigma. Especially with respect to the sheltered west coast, the main inlets and anchorages are depicted along with hydrographic soundings. The site of the Fort Zeelandia is labeled in the southwest, while the brief Spanish presence on the island's northern tip (which lasted from 1626 to 1642), is commemorated by the notation of the outpost of 'St. Jago'. A navigational view of the island taken from the perspective of Fort Zeelandia is depicted just inland of the former outpost, while further into the interior appears 'De Tafelberg', referring to Yu Shan (Jade Mountain), the highest peak of Taiwan at 12,996 feet. The islands in the straits to the west are labeled 'De Visschers Eislanden' (the Pescadores). Further afield, and across the Straits of Taiwan, extends the crescent of the coastline of Mainland China, shown as running from the eastern reaches of Guandong, and to include the entire length of the littoral of Fujian province (the northern areas of which are contained in the inset to the upper-left). The title and large inscriptions, in the Dutch language, are printed in a striking gothic font, rounding out the appeal of this virtuous composition.
While Siebold evidently drafted the final manuscript used to publish the present map in 1849, it in not known as to precisely when he started to compile his map of Taiwan and the adjacent coasts of Mainland China. Siebold had access to the private VOC archives in both Batavia and Amsterdam, and he certainly made full use of these resources. While his basic sources were mid-17th-century Dutch sea charts, this intelligence may have been supplemented by his encounters with the Chinese traders he met in Japan. Siebold's most important source was the anonymous VOC manuscript chart, Kaart van een deel van de Chinese Zee en kust en Formosa ( circa 1650), which is now in the collections of the National Archives of the Netherlands (The Hague). Much of the cartographic information on the present map seems by be taken directly from this chart. However, he was influenced by Johannes van Keulen II's Pas-Kaart van Chineesch Kust…alsook Formosa (1753), which was part of the "Secret Atlas" of the VOC, printed only for the eyes of the Company's senior officials and agents. Siebold employs the precisely the same overall perspective (showing Taiwan with the same stretch of the Chinese Mainland coastline, including the inset), although many of the geographic and hydrographic details he includes differ somewhat. Siebold drew heavily from the written descriptions of Taiwan contained in Hendrik Hamel's Journael, Van de ongeluckige Reyse 't Jacht de Sperwer, Varende van Batavia na Tyowan en Fermosa in 't Jaer 1653 (Amsterdam, 1668).
Published in 1852, Siebold's Kaart van de Chineesche Kust en van Formosa appeared at a critical time in the history of East Asia. The map carefully delineates the coastline of Fujian and eastern Guandong provinces on Mainland China in the tense years between the First Opium War (1839-42) and the Second Opium War (1856-60). This very stretch of coastline was one of the focal points of Sino-British contention, as it was home to two of the 'Five Ports' that had been opened up to British trade following the Treaty of Nanking (1842). Specifically, the port of Xiamen appears on the maps with its archaic name as 'Aymui', while the port of Fuzhou appears in the inset as 'Riv van Fukoe'.
Siebold's delineation of Taiwan would also have been of great interest to British and American mariners who were visiting the region with increasing frequency. The map paved the way for subsequent mapping endeavors such as American Commodore Matthew Parry's Island of Formosa (1856), as well as the surveys conducted by various cartographers working for Britain's Royal Navy.
Phillip Franz von Siebold (1796-1866) was a German physician, who joined the service of the Dutch East India Company (the VOC). In 1822-3, he travelled to Batavia (modern Jakarta), the capital of the Dutch East Indies. Residing in Japan from 1823, he quickly made contact with the country's leading scholars, as well as many senior political officials, and steadily acquired an unprecedented collection of botanical and ethnographic specimens. Sielbold's intense intellectual curiosity also led him to search for the most advanced cartography of East Asia.
Curiously, it was Siebold's interest in cartography that led to the so-called "Siebold Incident", which resulted in his expulsion from Japan. While the Japanese authorities seemed tolerant, if not a little bemused, by Siebold's endeavors to collect natural specimens, this indulgence had its limitations. In 1829, when officials accidentally discovered Siebold's map collection, they were aghast that a foreigner possessed sources that contained such accurate and detailed geographical intelligence and military information. Accusing him of being a Russian spy, they placed him under house arrest, before expelling him from the country. Surprisingly, the Japanese authorities did not confiscate all of Siebold's maps. Indeed, manuscript copies of maps of Taiwan and the coasts of the Chinese Mainland may very well have been part of this politically charged collection.
Upon Siebold's return to Europe in 1830, he settled in the Dutch university town of Leiden. He soon opened a magnificent museum for his specimen collection, and set to work on his monumental publication of Nippon, a project that would last 20 years. During this period he carefully prepared finished manuscript maps, in preparation for them to be lithographed.
Siebold's Kaart van de Chineesche Kust en van Formosa is extremely rare; we are not aware of an example appearing as separate map on the market during the last 30 years. Moreover, the Nippon. Archiv zur Beschreibung in any form is very rare and valuable. For example, in 2013, Donald Heald, was offering an incomplete set of the books for $100,000 which was lacking more than 500 pages of text and over 30 plates.
Adding to the map's scarcity, it would appear that it was present only in the last issue of the work, in which the text and plates were bound separately into respective volumes, published in Leiden, Netherlands in 1852. The Nippon. Archiv zur Beschreibung was highly detailed and profusely illustrated, and was by far the finest and most important European study of the history, ethnography, geography and flora and fauna of Japan and Korea and bordering regions to date. An edition of the map was also included in Siebold's exceedingly rare Atlas von land- und seekarten vom Japanischen rieche…und der insel Formosa, published in Berlin in 1851.