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Fine Map of Japan From Skilled French Mapmaker De Vaugondy

De Vaugondy's scarce and detailed map focuses on Japan and part of Korea. It shows the archipelago in detail, with portions of the Korean Peninsula and the mysterious Terre D’Yedso.

The map includes much of the Korean Peninsula, which is just as detailed as the archipelago of Japan to the east. Japan is divided into political units, as the title indicates. The title translates to, “The empire of Japan, divided into seven principal parts, and subdivided in sixty and six kingdoms.” The divisions include provinces and daimyō, with the principal towns in each indicated.

To the west of Japan is both the Sea of Korea (Mer de Corée) and the Sea of Japan (Mer de Japon). The name of this body of water had long been disputed and is still a matter of contention today. Vaugondy erred on the side of including both names.

Terre D’Yedso” is a reference to Jesso, a feature included on many seventeenth and eighteenth-century maps. Historically, Eso (Yeco, Jesso, Yedso, Yesso) refers to the island of Hokkaido. It varies on maps from a small island to a near-continent sized mass that stretched from Asia to Alaska.

The title is contained in an elaborate cartouche which showcases the bounty and beauty of Japan. A double scale bar is included in a simple cartouche in the lower right corner.

The map first appeared in Vaugondy’s Atlas Universal, published in 1750.

Edo Japan

The Edo period in Japan lasted from 1603 to 1868. During this time, Japan was ruled by the Tokugawa Shogunate, who was supported by 300 regional daimyō. The period was economically prosperous, politically stable, and peaceful, but this came at the expense of strict social order. It was also marked by isolation from foreigners at precisely the time Europeans were trying to access Asian markets. Also called the Tokugawa period, the Shogun was based in Edo, which today is Tokyo.

This map was drawn at a time when Japan was prosperous and strong. It was of intense interest to Europeans, even if most could only access the islands through a detailed map like this one.

Gilles Robert de Vaugondy Biography

Gilles Robert de Vaugondy (1688-1766) was the head of a leading family of geographers in eighteenth century France. Gilles got his start when he jointly inherited the shop of Pierre-Moullart Sanson, grandson of the famous geographer Nicholas Sanson. The inheritance included the business, its stock of plates, and a roller press. In 1760 Gilles became geographer to King Louis XV. His son, Didier Robert de Vaugondy (ca. 1723-1786), was also a geographer and the two worked together. They were known for their exactitude and depth of research. In 1757, they produced the Atlas Universel, considered an authority for many years.