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California as an Island, in the 19th century.

Fascinating hand-colored woodblock world map, reflecting the antiquated state of geographic knowledge in Edo period Japan. The map, which was printed around 1800, maintains a number of cartographic inaccuracies that had long before passed from European maps. Most notably this is one of the maps that continued the California as an island myth well passed its debunking by Eusebio Kino at the beginning of the 18th century. Australia lacks an eastern and southern coast and is shown joined to the great southern continent.

This is a close copy of a map published in 1796, of the same title.

Geography in the Closed Country

Knowledge of the outside world had entered Japan sporadically through trade at Dejima (mainly with the Dutch), from missionaries, and from China. Following the Closed Country Edict of 1635, Japanese interaction with the outside world dropped to practically nothing and new geographic information rarely made its way to publication. The title of this map makes it clear that the geographic knowledge was derived from Dutch sources.

This intellectual blockade meant that Japanese maps carried the California as an Island misconception well into the 19th century. After the arrival of Commodore Perry in 1850, and the Meiji restoration, Japanese cartography accelerated quickly and by the 1870s world maps produced there were of comparable quality to those published in Great Britain or the United States.

Condition Description
Folding Map in original covers. Old color. On two unjoined sheets, plus explanatory text leaf. Some usual worming.
Boxer, J. Compagnie, no. 15; Cf. Beans, Japanese maps, p. 29, 1796.1