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Fine example of the first edition of D'Anville's map of China, the finest printed map of the Middle Kingdom published in Europe during the 18th Century.

Fine old color example of J.B.B. d'Anville's groundbreaking map of the Middle Kingdom, an important and geographically progressive depiction of China and Korea . While the map extends from the Caspian Sea to Sakhalin on the Pacific, it is focused on the Chinese Empire which, colored in Pink, is exceedingly well defined, and shows that during the time China extended only as far north as the Great Wall and as far east as Szechuan. Innumerable towns are noted and provincial boundaries and river systems are delineated. The regions further to the west, Tibet and Kashgar, are depicted but were not yet a part of China. The areas to the north of China include Mongolia with the Great Gobi Desert and Manchuria (the ancestral home of China's ruling Qing Dynasty).

The Qing Emperor Kangxi commissioned a ground of Jesuit surveyors to chart his kingdom from 1708 to 1716. The resulting maps were published as the Kangxi Atlas (1718-19), and the information contained on its woodcut maps would not be superseded for well over a century.

The leading French cartographer Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon D'Anville (1697-1782), acquired copies of the Kangxi maps and devised his own interpretations, first printed in Jean-Baptiste Du Halde's Description Geographique … de la Chine (Paris, 1735).

Importantly, this map features the first broadly accurate depiction of Korea on a Western map. As Westerners had long been forbidden to visit Korea, the peninsula remained an enigma to Europeans. Around the time that the Kangxi surveys were being undertaken, Chinese agents travelled to Seoul and returned with detailed maps and geographical descriptions of Korea. This intelligence was given to the Jesuit Jean-Baptiste de Regis who fashioned the information into a geodetic framework that accorded with Kangxi maps of China.

The fine allegorical cartouche in the lower left shows Emperor Kangxi presiding over the surveying parties, while two Jesuit priests, with an armed mounted escort, are investigating an agrarian settlement, with its lodgings and cattle. The scale cartouche, in the lower right, is bordered by a pair of wolf hunters.

The present map is an essential piece for any collection of the cartography of China and Korea.

Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville Biography

Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville (1697-1782) was one of the foremost French geographers of the eighteenth century. He carried out rigorous research in order to create his maps, which greatly developed the technical proficiency of mapmaking during his lifetime. His style was also simpler and less ornate than that of many of his predecessors. It was widely adopted by his contemporaries and successors.

The son of a tailor, d’Anville showed cartographic prowess from a young age; his first map, of Ancient Greece, was published when he was only fifteen years old. By twenty-two, he was appointed as one of the King’s géographes ordinaire de roi. He tutored the young Louis XV while in the service to the Crown. However, royal appointment did not pay all the bills, so d’Anville also did some work for the Portuguese Crown from 1724. For example, he helped to fill out Dom João V’s library with geographical works and made maps showing Portugal’s African colonies.  

D’Anville disapproved of merely copying features from other maps, preferring instead to return to the texts upon which those maps were based to make his own depictions. This led him to embrace blank spaces for unknown areas and to reject names which were not supported by other sources. He also amassed a large personal map library and created a network of sources that included Jesuits in China and savants in Brazil. D’Anville’s historical approach to cartography resulted in magnificently detailed, yet modern and academic, maps. For example, his 1743 map of Italy improved upon all previous maps and included a memoir laying out his research and innovations. The geographer also specialized in ancient historical geography.

In 1773, d’Anville was named premier géographe de roi. In 1780, he ceded his considerable library to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be used for as a reference library for diplomats. D’Anville is best known for several maps, including his map of China, first published in 1735, and then included with Du Halde’s history of that country (the Hague, 1737). His map of Africa (1749) was used well into the nineteenth century.