1646 Merian Map of China, Korea, and Japan

China Veteribus Sinarum Regio nunc Incolis Tame dicta. - Main View

1646 Merian Map of China, Korea, and Japan


A bold example of a scarce map of China, Japan and Korea.


China Veteribus Sinarum Regio nunc Incolis Tame dicta.
  1646 (undated)     10.5 x 13.5 in (26.67 x 34.29 cm)     1 : 19000000


This is a scarce 1638 Matthais Merian map of China and Japan with an insular Korea. The map is beautifully engraved, decorated with a Chinese junk, a Dutch sailing ship, and a sea monster; the elegant cartouche is flanked by a man and woman in (presumably) Chinese robes. The Great Wall features prominently. The Philippine island of Luzon is shown, as is Formosa (Taiwan.)
Tracing the Sources
This map is a scrupulously precise reduced version of the 1634 Blaeu map of the same title. There are only a few small omissions, and even the cartouche art is reproduced. Jansson also produced a nearly identical version of the Blaeu in 1636. The differences between them are largely cosmetic - the Jansson lacks longitude lines, and the Blaeu has an elaborate dedicatory cartouche. The only difference in geographical content between the two is the transposition of the island place names of 'Fochquxima' and 'Meacexuma' off the southeast coast of Japan. Merian's placement of these names corresponds to Blaeu's; this, and some of the decorative engraving suggests that Merian drew on the Blaeu as his source, and not the intermediate Jansson map.
What were Blaeu's sources for this map?
The bulk of the information pertaining to China appears to correspond with Luis Jorge de Barbuda's data found on Ortelius' 1584 map, including the descriptive text pertaining to the Great Wall. That map, however, lacked any indication of Korea (insular or peninsular), and Japan was presented very differently. The shape of Japan conforms loosely to that on Ortelius' 1595 map of Japan and Korea based on Luis Texeira's information, and the insular depiction of Korea agrees with that source. However, the Ortelius/Texeira model has Korea tapering to a 'Punta dos Ladrones' in the south, while the Blaeu (and consequently the Merian) shows a squarish southern Korean coast broken into an archipelago, more resembling what is actually there and suggesting a better-informed source than Ortelius.' In fact, the southern Korean coast and the whole southern coast of Japan appears to have been drawn from a 1621 manuscript chart produced by Hessel Gerritz while he was the first exclusive cartographer of the Dutch East India Company. The Blaeu family's long connection with this accomplished chart maker bore fruit for many years. Interestingly, Gerritz's chart makes no reference to the insularity of Korea - so Blaeu attempts to blend his state-of-the-art charting of the south with Ortelius's once-authoritative model.
A Proliferation of 'Thieves'
Several locations on the map bear variations on the place name 'Ladrones.' In the southeast corner of the map are the Insulae Ladrones, which are now understood as the Mariana Islands; a further I. de Ladrones appears on the southern coast of Korea, corresponding roughly with Jeju Island. In both cases, the name is derived from the Spanish and Portuguese word for 'Thieves.' The appellation of 'Ladrones' in the Marianas dates back to report of Magellan's reception in Guam by the Chamorros, who boarded the ship and stole whatever could be taken. As for Korea, the archipelago inclusive of Jeju and Tsushima gained a reputation for piracy - at the least, the passive piracy of stripping wrecks. The name appears on maps of Korea going back to the 1595 Ortelius and the 1596 Linschoten, so it is unsurprising to see it surviving here.
Apocryphal Lake Chiamay
The mythical Lake of Chiamay appears near the western extreme of the map, roughly in what is today Assam, India. Early cartographers postulated that such a lake must exist to source the four important Southeast Asian river systems: the Irrawaddy, the Dharla, the Chao Phraya, and the Brahmaputra. This lake began to appear in maps of Asia as early as the 16th century and persisted well into the mid-18th century. Its origins are unknown but may originate in a lost 16th-century geography prepared by the Portuguese scholar Jao de Barros. It was also heavily discussed in the journals of Sven Hedin, who believed it to be associated with Indian legend that a sacred lake, Mansarovar, linked several of the holy subcontinent river systems. There are even records that the King of Siam led an invasion force to take control of the lake in the 16th century. Nonetheless, the theory of Lake Chiamay was ultimately disproved, and it disappeared from maps entirely by the 1760s.
Publication History and Census
This map was executed in 1638 for inclusion in Matthias Merian's Neuwe Archontologia cosmica, a German translation of Pierre d'Avity's 1616 Les Estats, empires, et principautez du monde. We identify about ten examples of later editions of Merian's Neuwe Archontologia cosmica in institutional collections, and ten examples of this separate map are so catalogued, in various editions.


Matthäus Merian (September 22, 1593 - June 19, 1650) was a important Swiss engraver and cartographer active in the early to mid 17th century. Merian was born in Basel and studied engraving in the centers of Zurich, Strasbourg, Nancy and Paris. In time Merian was drawn to the publishing mecca of Frankfurt, where he met Johann Theodor de Bry, son of the famed publisher Theodor de Bry. Merian and De Bry produced a number of important joint works and, in 1617, Merian married De Bry's daughter Maria Magdalena. In 1623 De Bry died and Merian inherited the family firm. Merian continued to publish under the De Bry's name until 1626. Around this time, Merian became a citizen of Frankfurt as such could legally work as an independent publisher. The De Bry name is therefore dropped from all of Merian's subsequent work. Of this corpus, which is substantial, Merian is best known for his finely engraved and highly detailed town plans and city views. Merian is considered one of the grand masters of the city view and a pioneer of the axonometric projection. Merian died in 1650 following several years of illness. He was succeeded in the publishing business by his two sons, Matthaus and Caspar, who published his great works, the Topographia Germaniae and Theatrum Eruopeaum, under the designation Merian Erben (Merian Heirs). Merian daughter, Anna Maria Sibylla Merian, became an important naturalist and illustrator. Today the German Travel Magazine Merian is named after the famous engraver.

Hessel Gerritsz (1581 – September 4, 1632) was a Dutch engraver, cartographer, and publisher active in Amsterdam during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Gerritsz is considered to be the preeminent Dutch geographer of the 17th century. He was born in Assum, a town in northern Holland in 1581. As a young man he relocated to Alkmaar to accept an apprenticeship with Willem Jansz Blaeu (1571-1638). He followed Blaeu to Amsterdam shortly afterwards. By 1610 he has his own press, but remained close to Blaeu, who published many of his maps. In October of 1617 he was appointed the first official cartographer of the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (Dutch East Indian Company) or VOC. A strategic position that offered him unprecedented access to the most advanced and far reaching cartographic data of the Dutch Golden Age. Unlike many cartographers of his period Gerritsz was more than a simple scholar and showed a true fascination with the world and eagerness to learn more of the world he was mapping in a practical manner. In 1628 he joined a voyage to the New World which resulted in several seminal maps published by Joannes de Laet. Among his more prominent works are a world map of 1612, a 1613 map of Russia by the brilliant Russian prince Fyodor II Borisovich Godunov (1589 – 1605), a 1618 map of the pacific that includes the first mapping of Australia, and an influential 1630 map of Florida. Gerritsz died in 1632. His position with the VOC, as well as many of his printing plates, were taken over by Willem Janszoon Blaeu.

Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571 - October 18, 1638), also known as Guillaume Blaeu, was a Dutch cartographer, globemaker, and astronomer active in Amsterdam during the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Blaeu was born in Alkmaar, North Holland to a prosperous herring packing and trading family of Dutch Reformist faith. As a young man, he was sent to Amsterdam to apprentice in the family business, but he found the herring trade dull and instead worked for his cousin 'Hooft' as a carpenter and clerk. In 1595, he traveled to the small Swedish island of Hven to study astronomy under the Danish Enlightenment polymath Tycho Brahe. For six months he studied astronomy, cartography, instrument making, globe making, and geodesy. He returned to Alkmaar in 1596 to marry and for the birth of his first son, Johannes (Joan) Blaeu (1596 – 1673). Shortly thereafter, in 1598 or 1599, he relocated his family to Amsterdam where he founded the Blaeu firm as globe and instrument makers. Around this time, he also began issuing separate issue nautical charts and wall maps – which as we see from Vermeer's paintings were popular with Dutch merchants as decorative items – and invented the Dutch Printing Press. As a non-Calvinist Blaeu was a persona non grata to the ruling elite and so he partnered with Hessel Gerritsz to develop his business. In 1619, Blaeu arranged for Gerritsz to be appointed official cartographer to the VOC, an extremely lucrative position that that, in the slightly more liberal environment of the 1630s, he managed to see passed to his eldest son, Johannes. In 1633, he was also appointed official cartographer of the Dutch Republic. Blaeu's most significant work is his 1635 publication of the Theatrum orbis terrarum, sive, Atlas Novus, one of the greatest atlases of all time. He died three years later, in 1638, passing the Blaeu firm on to his two sons, Cornelius (1616 - 1648) and Johannes Blaeu (September 23, 1596 - December 21, 1673). Under his sons, the firm continued to prosper until the 1672 Great Fire of Amsterdam destroyed their offices and most of their printing plates. Willem's most enduring legacy was most likely the VOC contract, which ultimately passed to Johannes' son, Johannes II, who held the position until 1617. As a hobbyist astronomer, Blaeu discovered the star now known as P. Cygni.


Merian, M. Neuwe Archontologia cosmica (Franckfurt am Mayn), 1646.    


Very good condition. Marginal mend at bottom near centerfold just touching border, some areas of faint soiling, else excellent with a bold, sharp strike.


OCLC 163863538. Keuning, Johannes. 'Hessel Gerritsz.' Imago Mundi, vol. 6, 1949, pp. 49–66.