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1737 Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville

Finely colored example of Jean Baptiste Bourguignon D'Anville's map of the Chinese provinces of Guandong (Canton) and Hainan, centered on the Macao and Hong Kong region - the first accurate map of the region.

The present map was issued as part of D'Anville's Nouvel Atlas De La Chine, published in The Hague in 1737. This important work comprised 42 new maps of Chinese provinces based on the groundbreaking survey of China conducted by French Jesuits from 1708 to 1716, done by the order of the Kangxi Emperor. In many cases, these maps were the first truly modern, or accurate, general maps of the provinces of China.

The present map has the distinction of being the first map to accurately depict the southern province of Guandong, which included the Island of Hainan. Importantly, the Pearl River Delta region appears in its modern form for the first time, featuring the provincial capital, 'Quang T'Cheou' (Guangzhou, or Canton), the Portuguese colony of Macau and the future site of Hong Kong. D'Anville first issued this map to accompany Pere J.B. Du Halde's highly influential Description Geographique, Historique, Chronologique, Et Physique De L'Empire De La Chine (Paris, 1735). The map is prominently adorned with an elaborate chinoiserie cartouche depicting the interaction of European and Chinese traders.

Jean Baptiste Bourguignon D'Anville (1697-1782) was the French royal cartographer who famously acquired the largest private map collection of his era, which formed the basis of the Bibliothèque nationale's cartography holdings. He employed his close collections to the Society of Jesus to gain early access to manuscript copies of the Kangxi-Jesuit surveys, which formed the basis of his maps of China.

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.