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1883 German-Japanese-English Map of Chosŏn Korea

Korea oder Tscho-sen der Japaner / [Korea, or Japanese Chōsen]. - Main View

1883 German-Japanese-English Map of Chosŏn Korea


Map of Korea and blueprint for foreign control.


Korea oder Tscho-sen der Japaner / [Korea, or Japanese Chōsen].
  1883 (dated)     22 x 12.5 in (55.88 x 31.75 cm)     1 : 1700000


This is an 1883 map of the eight provinces of Chosŏn Korea, partially translated into German from an English-language map, which in turn was based on a map made by the Japanese military in 1875. The convoluted history of this map shows both the curiosity about the 'hermit kingdom' and the competing imperial interests that would be at play once Korea was forcibly opened to greater foreign influence.
Japan an Korea
The most noticeable feature of this map is its title and its use of 'Japanese Tscho-sen' (emulating the Japanese pronunciation, 'Chōsen') as Korea would not become a colony of Japan for another 27 years (informally several years earlier). It is possible that this was the result of a misunderstanding, though that is unlikely give that the German Empire established diplomatic relations with Chosŏn Korea in the same year this map was made. It seems more likely that this designation was the result of Japan's increasing influence in Korea. This rising influence followed the signing of a treaty between Japan and Korea in 1876 on terms favorable to Japan (often called the Treaty of Ganghwa or Treaty of Ganghwa Island).
A Closer Look
The map includes the traditional eight provinces (八道) of Chosŏn, along with prefectural capitals, with a flag representing whether or not there was a garrison stationed there. Three scales are shown, in kilometers, Japanese ri, and English miles, and an inset towards bottom-left shows Jeju (Che-ju) Island. A note at top left explains the transliteration of placenames into German, which relied heavily on the translation into English done by Satow and his colleagues (see 'Publication History and Census' below). A list of terms below the legend shows the German equivalent for Korean terms often used in placenames. A subtitle indicates that the coastlines have also been updated, but it is unclear if that was between the Japanese and English edition of the map, or between the English and German edition.
Chosŏn – The 'Hermit Kingdom'
Around the time of this map's production, Chosŏn Korea was thrown into a nearly impossible predicament as it tried to balance multiple competing foreign interests while protecting its own sovereignty and traditional relationship with China. The Chosŏn Dynasty had ruled Korea since 1392, with only brief interruptions due to factional disputes, rebellions, and two invasions by the Manchus in the 17th century. Aside from very close relations with China, Chosŏn generally adopted an isolationist policy, which earned it the nickname 'Hermit Kingdom' in Western-language discourse. Historians have recently challenged this perception, but it is certainly true that Chosŏn sought to strictly control influences and travelers from abroad, and was particularly strict about limiting the influence of missionaries and Christianity.
The Political Situation in Korea
In 1864, King Gojong (1851 - 1919) ascended the throne but was still an adolescent, leaving his father, the Heungseon Daewongun (흥선대원군, 興宣大院君; 1820 - 1898), to make final decisions on critical issues. The Heungseon Daewongun was a strong proponent of isolationism and internal reform (focusing on ethics in government and resolving factional disputes) in the face of increasingly strident foreign incursions. Several years later, Gojong married Myeongseong (Queen Min; 1851 - 1895), who proved to be a strong-willed and ambitious Queen with views that diverged sharply from her father-in-law. The struggle between these two wings of the Korean Court, and a later struggle between a pro-Japanese faction and Myeongseong's anti-Japanese faction, would define Korea's geopolitics until it fell under dominant Japanese influence at the end of the 19th century, in part due to Myeongseong's assassination at the hands of Japanese agents and pro-Japanese figures in the Court.

In the meantime, as this was the height of the era of gunboat diplomacy, first France (1866), then the United States (1866 and 1871), and finally Japan (1875) launched military expeditions to Korea to try to force an 'unequal treaty' on Chosŏn, while other nations contemplated similar expeditions (no doubt the original Japanese Army edition of this map was made in the context of the 1875 expedition). Where France and the U.S. failed, Japan succeeded in 1876, signing a treaty that opened the door for Japanese economic and political influence to mushroom in Korea, and weakened Korea's status as a protectorate of Qing China. This was a remarkable turnaround as Japan itself had been forced to sign similar treaties with foreign powers in preceding years, beginning with the Convention of Kanagawa with the U.S. in 1854, and would continue to do so even after 1876.
Publication History and Census
This map was published in 1883 by the journal Petermann's Geographische Mitteilungen. It was based on an 1875 map produced by the Japanese military (likely Chōsen zenzu 朝鮮全圖, made by the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office, 陸軍參謀局) that was translated by Ernest Satow, a British diplomat in Tokyo, along with two colleagues (Astor and Chamberlain) into English, and then translated by Petermann's Geographische Mitteilungen into German. This map is held by a small handful of institutions in Europe and North America, including the Library of Congress, but is scarce to the market.


Sir Ernest Mason Satow (June 30, 1843 – August 29, 1929) was a British scholar, diplomat, translator, and expert on Japan. He was one of the first British diplomats in Japan and developed a reputation for his excellent linguistic skills, allowing him to become a rising star in the British consular service. He spent most of his career in Asia and played an important role in negotiating the Boxer Protocol following the Boxer Uprising. He wrote and translated many works, including A Guide to Diplomatic Practice, which has been republished regularly and is still used in the training of diplomats. More by this mapmaker...

August Heinrich Petermann (1822 - 1878) was a German cartographer. Petermann attended the 'Geographische Kuntschule' (Geographica School of Art), which was started by Heinrich Berghaus with the support of Alexander von Humboldt, in Potsdam beginning in 1839. Students at the school were obliged to work on many of the school's contracts, including maps for several different atlases. Following his time in Potsdam, Petermann relocated to Edinburgh and London from 1845 to 1854, where he gained insight into the commercial aspects of the cartography business. In 1854, Petermann returned to Gotha, Germany and began working with the Perthes brothers publishers. While working with the Perthes brothers, Petermann founded the journal Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen, published from 1855 until 2014, long one of the most prominent German-language geography journals. Learn More...

Johan Georg Justus Perthes (September 11, 1749 - May 2, 1816) was one of the most important German cartographic engravers of the 19th century. He was born in the Thuringian town of Rudolstadt, the son of a court physician. In 1778, he began working as a bookseller in Gotha. Perthes began his publishing empire shortly thereafter with the 1784 issue of the famed survey of European nobility known as the Almanac de Gotha. In the next year, 1785, he founded the cartographic firm of Justus Perthes Geographische Anstalt Gotha. His son Wilhelm Perthes (1793 - 1853) joined the firm in 1814. Wilhelm had prior publishing experience at the firm of Justus Perthes' nephew, Friedrich Christoph Perthes, who ran a publishing house in Hamburg. After Justus Perthes died in 1816, Wilhelm took charge and laid the groundwork for the firm to become a cartographic publishing titan. From 1817 to 1890. the Perthes firm issued thousands of maps and more than 20 different atlases. Along with the visionary editors Hermann Berghaus (1797 - 1884), Adolph Stieler (1775 - 1836), and Karl Spruner (1803 - 1892), the Perthes firm pioneered the Hand Atlas. When Wilhelm retired, management of the firm passed to his son, Bernhardt Wilhelm Perthes (1821 – 1857). Bernhardt brought on the cartographic geniuses August Heinrich Peterman (1822 - 1878) and Bruno Hassenstein (1839 - 1902). The firm was subsequently passed to a fourth generation in the form of Berhanrd Perthes (1858 – 1919), Bernhard Wilhelm's son. The firm continued in the family until 1953 when, being in East Germany, it was nationalized and run as a state-owned enterprise as VEB Hermann Haack Geographisch-Kartographische Anstalt Gotha. The Justus family, led by Joachim Justus Perthes and his son Wolf-Jürgen Perthes, relocated to Darmstadt where they founded the Justus Perthes Geographische Verlagsanstalt Darmstadt. Learn More...

Bruno Hassenstein (November 23, 1839 - August 27, 1902) was a German cartographer and was born in Ruhla, Thuringia. In 1854, Hassenstein began studying cartography and working under August Petermann in Gotha, founder of Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen. Over the ensuing years, Hassenstein drew numerous maps for Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen before relocating to Berlin in 1866 to work for another cartographer, including Karl Klaus von der Decken. He returned to Gotha two years later and works on maps for Henrich Theodor Menke's edition of Spurner's atlas of medieval history. He became editor of the cartography section of the Mittellungen in 1878 and worked on the Atlas von Japan, which was published in 1885. The University of Göttingen awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1878. Learn More...

Carl Schmidt (fl. c. 1875 – 1929) was a German cartographer, geographer, and geologist who often collaborated with the cartographer Bruno Hassenstein. Learn More...


Petermann, A., Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen, (Gotha: Justus Perthes), 1883.    


Very good. Very slight staining along fold lines in right and left margins.


OCLC 441759737.