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1885 Japanese Map of Lake Biwa, Omi Prefecture, Japan

Ōmi Province [Lake Biwa]

1885 Japanese Map of Lake Biwa, Omi Prefecture, Japan


Map of Japan's largest freshwater lake exhibiting both traditional and modern cartographic conventions.



Ōmi Province [Lake Biwa]
  1885 (dated)    36.5 x 47 in (92.71 x 119.38 cm)


This is a scarce Meiji 18 or 1885 Japanese map of Like Biwa (琵琶湖), Ōmi Province (近江国 ), Shiga Prefecture, Japan. The map was issued by Yamaguchi Toshihide. Oriented to the east and centered on Lake Biwa, the map covers all of the traditional Ōmi Province. Like many Meiji Era work, this map is an amalgam of traditional Japanese cartographic conventions inherited from the Edo Period and western cartographic styles. For example, roads and waypoints are illustrated following a traditional cartouche model, but topography, such as mountains and swamps, are rendered using European shading techniques. Similarly, color scheme and overall layout is distinctly Meiji, while the printing method, lithography, is European.

Lake Biwa is the largest freshwater lake in Japan, located in Shiga Prefecture (west-central Honshu), northeast of the former capital city of Kyoto. Because of its proximity to the ancient capital, references to Lake Biwa appear frequently in Japanese literature, particularly in poetry and in historical accounts of battles.


Japanese cartography appears as early as the 1600s. Japanese maps are known for their exceptional beauty and high quality of workmanship. Early Japanese cartography has its own very distinctive projection and layout system. Japanese maps made prior to the appearance of Commodore Perry and the opening of Japan in the mid to late 1850s often have no firm directional orientation, incorporate views into the map proper, and tend to be hand colored woodblock prints. This era, from the 1600s to the c. 1855, which roughly coincides with the Tokugawa or Edo Period (1603-1886), some consider the Golden Age of Japanese Cartography. Most maps from this period, which followed isolationist ideology, predictably focus on Japan. The greatest cartographer of the period, whose work redefined all subsequent cartography, was Ino Tadataka (1745 -1818). Ino's maps of Japan were so detailed that, when the European cartographers arrived they had no need, even with their far more sophisticated survey equipment, to remap the region. Later Japanese maps, produced in the late Edo and throughout the Meiji period, draw heavily upon western maps as models in both their content and overall cartographic style. While many of these later maps maintain elements of traditional Japanese cartography such as the use of rice paper, woodblock printing, and delicate hand color, they also incorporate western directional orientation, projection systems, and structural norms. Even so, Japan's isolationist policy kept most western maps from reaching Japan so even 19th century maps appear extremely out of date. The early Japanese maps copy the great 1602 Chinese world map of the friar Matto Ricci. After Shiba Kokan's 1792 map, most Japanese cartographers used Covens and Mortier's 1730 copy of Jaillot's 1689 double hemisphere work as their base world-view. In 1862 Seiyo Sato based a new world map on Dutch sources dating to 1857, thus introducing the Mercator projection to Japan. By the late Meiji Era, western maps became far more common in Asia and Japanese maps began to follow modern conventions.


Good. Some verso repairs and reinforcement. Wear on original fold lines, especially at fold intersections. Some worm holing. Lower right corner replaced in facsimile.
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