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Lot number: 38853
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Publisher: VERBIEST, F. (after)
Title: Kun-yü ch’üan-t’u.
Published: Beijing, 1674, but reprinted Korea, Seoul, 1933

Size: 59.1 x 118.1 inches.
150.0 x 300.0 cm.
Colouring: Coloured.
Condition:  Twelve-sheet map, with vertical sections joined to form two larger sheets.
 Condition Rating

Fine wood-engraved twelve-sheet Sino-centric world map, the southern polar landmass embellished with animals, including a unicorn, a lion, a rhinoceros, a crocodile, a giraffe, a beaver and a turkey, the spandrels with eight large lozenges with text descriptions.
Originally prepared by the Flemish scientist Ferdinand Verbiest who joined the Jesuit order in 1641.
This reprint published in Seoul is easily distinguished from the 1674 by the addition of a new imprint in Chinese, and by the fact that the text in the spandrels of the original is within differently-shaped frames.
All versions are extremely rare.
Ferdinand Verbiest traveled to Macao in 1659, where he studied Chinese and Confucian classics and took his final religious vows. He was a polymath best known for this Chinese world map, a revised Chinese calendar, and astronomical works in Chinese and Latin.
Notwithstanding his status as a foreigner he developed an unusually close relationship with the Kangxi emperor, who conferred mandarin rank on Verbiest and granted him an official funeral. For the emperor, cartography was a significant expression of his control over the regions under imperial domain. Verbiest's world map drew from contemporary Dutch maps and Chinese sources, but it presented the world in a format appropriate to a Chinese audience.
Counter to Western mapmaking traditions that focused on Europe, the Kunyu quantu deferred to local conventions by placing China at the symbolic center, surrounded by countries that could be construed as tributary states" (Getty Museum online).

In 1647 Ferdinand Verbiest produced one of the largest double hemisphere maps of the world to date.
Descriptive cartouches explain geographic details and peculiarities of countries and oceans, as well as describing natural phenomena such as eclipses and earthquakes. Columbus' discovery of America is also discussed. The likely source for Verbiest's map was Joan Blaeu's monumental world map of 1648, Nova totius terrarum orbis tabula. Although the delineation of China differs, the maps are similar in size and a comparison and a concordance of geographical names shows clearly the relationship between the two maps. In total twenty-three different animals, believed to be unknown or little-known in China, decorate the margins.

The illustrations were derived from Konrad Gessner's Historia animalium (1551) and this part of the map became most influential - the illustrations and their descriptions were copied into the imperial encyclopedia T'u-shu chi-ch'eng of 1723 and the transliterated names included in Chinese and Manchu dictionaries.

Literature: Exhib. Cat. Chinese and Japanese Maps (British Library, 1974) C11; Hartmut Walravens, “Father Verbiest’s Chinese World Map (1674),” Imago Mundi 43: 31-47.

Only available in Korea.




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Item category: World Maps

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