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Late 17th century views of Asia
This bird's eye view of the town of Hocsieu (modern Fuzhou) is from one of the many travel books produced by the Amsterdam printer Jacob Meurs. This volume on China was originally published by Meurs in Dutch, and then was translated into English for a London edition organized by the scholar, mapmaker and entrepreneur John Ogilby. Ogilby and Meurs collaborated on bringing Meurs's travel books to English readers, with Ogilby supplying the translation and Meurs providing the illustrations. The view is done in the style of Dutch landscape drawings, and provides not only a sense of how the town was laid out, but also of Chinese daily life. The view depicts a town with complex, sophisticated structures, an acknowledgement by the artist of the power and sophistication of Chinese society. The artwork was done in Amsterdam, based on descriptions by Dutch traders, so the view has to be considered not as an accurate depiction of a real Chinese town, but rather as a Chinese town as interpreted through the imagination of a Dutch artist.
A number of the individual Dutch maps in this exhibition were originally printed to appear in atlases such as this one, issued by Jan Jansson in 1645. All of the maps in Jansson's atlas are in the style shown here, with latitude markings, a scale of distance, an elaborate cartouche depicting inhabitants of the region, and decorative figures in the sea and other blank parts of the map. At the time the map was prepared, detailed knowledge of China was clearly limited to the southern coast. In that area the map is reasonably accurate and includes a large number of coastal towns. The interior of China and the coastal areas beyond Formosa are filled in, but with very spotty and inaccurate information. As with Jansson's India map, the number of towns and the respectful approach to portraying Chinese people convey a sense of China as a formidable society.
This hand-colored 1702 world atlas, primarily containing European maps prepared in the workshop of French royal geographer Nicolas Sanson (1600-1667), shows the spread of atlas production and publication into France. By this time, atlases had become status symbols for aristocratic and bourgeois families, and geographical knowledge was an expected part of a good European education. Although most of the maps in this atlas were done by Sanson, this map and several other Asian maps were the work of French cartographer Pierre Mortier (1661-1711), who worked in Amsterdam but who regularly supplied maps to the Parisian printer Alexis Hubert Jaillot. The subject is the kingdom of Siam, along with several key trading centers in the East Indies, together comprising parts of modern-day Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, along with Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.This highly detailed map is based on an exploratory journey to Southeast Asia by French Jesuit priests in the late seventeenth century, and was an important step forward in accurately depicting the geography of this area.
|Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections|