1867 Matsudaira Norikata Map of Siberia and Alaska - seminal map!

峨羅斯及亞西亞ノ圖 / [Map of Russia and Asia]. - Main View

1867 Matsudaira Norikata Map of Siberia and Alaska - seminal map!


The first official Japanese regional map using western cartographic technology. A wonder of copper engraving!


峨羅斯及亞西亞ノ圖 / [Map of Russia and Asia].
  1867 (dated)     30 x 48 in (76.2 x 121.92 cm)     1 : 8000000


An extraordinary 1867 (Keio 3) map of Siberia and Alaska illustrates a moment of cultural collision and transformation. Printed in Japan using a remarkable multi-color copperplate process, the map is a conic projection covering Asia from the Caspian Sea to the Bering Strait. It extends farther east to include Alaska, and south to encompass Nepal, Korea, Tibet, most of China, and all of Japan. This is the first Japanese regional map to incorporate contemporaneous western cartographic technology for official strategic and military use.
The Translation and Migration of Cartographic Knowledge
A preface at top-left explains that this map is based on a Russian military map that was ordered to be produced in 1860 in St. Petersburg. It was made by an officer surnamed 'Etashiyoru' (perhaps Этуш) and was updated in August 1865. Charles Sulpice Jules Chanoine, a French military attaché, brought the map to Japan where it was translated. It is extremely thorough in naming geographic features and settlements; even when a settlement's name is not known, it is noted as 'village' (ムラ or 村).

Aside from translation, some changes were made between the Russian and Japanese editions. Most notably, the prime meridian, which had been St. Petersburg in the original, was shifted to Edo. Interestingly, the names for territories that already had a name in Japanese kanji (Chinese characters), including in Japan itself, were transliterated from the Russian using Japanese kana. For example, Edo is (very unconventionally) written as エド instead of 江戶. The map's title also shows that standards for naming foreign countries were still evolving, with the first character in 'Russia' being 峨 instead of the more common 俄.
Historical Perspective
The map expresses both Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu's attempt to modernize the Japanese military with French assistance and outright concern over European and American encroachment into East Asia. It makes specific reference to the American purchase of Alaska, and to Russian expansionism in Khujand (Tajikistan) on June 5, 1866, and Jizzakah on July 2nd of the same year (these territories are described as having been 'looted' 掠奪 by the Russians). It also mentions the August 6th, 1865, Russian re-organization of the Tsardom's Asian territories into three new military districts, an act perceived as preparation for war: the Central Military District, the West Siberia Military District, and the East Siberia Military District.
Japan-Russia Relations
Although the Tokugawa was nominally closed to outsiders under the sakoku policies, they gained knowledge of the outside world through various means, most notably from the Dutch and Chinese at Nagasaki, but also through interactions with Russia as its empire expanded into Siberia and beyond. Russian traders and Japanese fishermen made contact on several occasions, particularly around Kamchatka, and some of the Japanese were captured by the Russians and brought to St. Petersburg to provide information about Japan. In 1793, the Tsar sent a delegation to Edo led by Adam Laxman (Адам Лаксман) that aimed to return captured Japanese castaways, but also had the intention of gaining knowledge about Japan and securing trading rights (Laxman might have gained the right for Russians to trade at Nagasaki, though if true this right was never exercised). In the early 19th century, the first Russian-Japanese dictionary was published in Japan and interest in Russia, akin to the 'Dutch learning' (Rangaku) movement, sprang up but quickly petered out.

Aware to an extent of foreign threats, the Tokugawa made efforts as early as the late 17th century to strengthen control over frontier regions, particularly islands in the northern region known as Ezo (蝦夷) or Hokkaido. News of China's defeat in the First Opium War (1839 – 1842) and increasing Western presence in the Pacific were also ominous. Concurrently, there seems to have been an intellectual shift in Japan towards a more 'Westphalian' notion of sovereignty, including comprehensive national maps.

Still, Japan was only shocked into undertaking radical reforms by the forcible ending of the sakoku policies at the hands of Commodore Matthew Perry's 'black ships' in 1854. For its part, Russia followed these events closely and sent a diplomatic mission led by Admiral Yevfimy Putyatin (Евфи́мий Путя́тин), which led to the Treaty of Shimoda (1855), granting Russians similar trading rights as those given to the Americans. These changes would set off a period of imperial competition between Japan and Russia that lasted until the end of the Second World War, resulting in territorial disputes which still have not been entirely settled.
Russian America
Russian interest in America was largely the result of two processes - Russian expansion into Siberia and maritime exploration of the Arctic and Pacific. As in Siberia, Russia had a distinct economic interest in harvesting natural resources from the region, namely furs. In 1799, Tsar Paul I issued a decree (Ukase) that claimed lands north of the 55th parallel and gave exclusive privileges to the Russian-American Company (an outgrowth of the pre-existing United-American Company or Shelikhov-Golikov Company). Although never numbering more than 700, the Russians did establish a settlement at Novo-Arkhangelsk (now Sitka) as well as outposts on the coast of California and in Hawaii. They had a major impact on the native inhabitants of the Aleutians and mainland Alaska, with some 80 percent of the indigenous population dying from disease within two generations, not to mention those killed in violent conflict. The environmental effects were similarly severe, as the population of animals hunted for their furs (especially seals) declined dramatically, becoming a major source of tension with indigenous Alaskans. In the end, the colony was relatively costly to maintain, as well as being not especially profitable due to the distances involved and the general reduction of the furrieries. By the 1860s, the Russians expected the Americans, British, or some other power to try to grab Alaska and preferred that it not go to their great rival Britain, which they feared could use Canada as a base to encroach on Siberia. The Tsar was also desperate for money to pay for Russia's costly loss in the Crimean War. It therefore made sense to sell Russia's American colony to the United States in 1867.
Japan Opens and Modernizes
Between 1854 and 1869, Japan underwent a cultural awakening as it opened to western trade and technology, forcing a reevaluation of its place in the world. Russia was aggressively expanding eastward in pursuit of a warm water Pacific port. Meanwhile, in 1853, United States Navy Commodore Matthew Perry sailed his fleet into Edo Harbor, forcing the Tokugawa to open trade with the West after hundreds of years of state-imposed isolation. In the year this map was issued, 1867, Russia sold its claims on Alaska to the United States, bringing America even closer to Japan.
The End of the Tokugawa
Within Japan, the Emperor Kōmei died in January of 1867 (Keio 3) and the child Emperor Meiji took the throne. Nonetheless, the empire remained under the waning control of the last Shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu. Yoshinobu recognized threats from European powers in Russia and from the Americans across the Pacific, who, with the acquisition of Alaska, were one step closer to Japan.
Modernizing the Shogunate
Tokugawa Yoshinobu, in an attempt to modernize the Japanese military, appealed to Napoleon III, who sent a military advisory mission under Captain Charles Sulpice Jules Chanoine (1835 - 1915). Chanoine trained Tokugawa troops for roughly a year, introducing them to western-style combat, weaponry, and maps - commissioning western-style maps in Japanese like this, illustrating as a player on the world stage. The troops trained under Chanoine were ultimately defeated in the Boshin War (1868 - 1869), a Japanese civil war wherein the Emperor Meiji overthrew the Tokugawa Shogunate and reasserted imperial power - the Meiji Restoration. When Meiji won the Boshin War, Chanoine and his delegation were expelled from Japan.
An Outstanding Feat of Copperplate Engraving
Although at first glance this map gives the impression of chromolithography, this technology had, in fact, not yet made its way to Japan. Instead, this map was produced through a multi-layer copper engraving process requiring a least three plates printed in different colors - blue for the waters, black borders, text, and lines of latitude and longitude, and brown topography. Topography in particular is beautifully stylized using a Japanese proto-contour system to illustrate mountains, valleys, peaks, and ranges - an effective technique blending eastern and western cartographic conventions with no previous precedent. The achievement is even more remarkable when one considers that most printing in Japan up to about 1860 was woodblock. The introduction of western-style copperplate engraving followed the opening of treaty ports in 1858, but was not widely embraced and is rarely seen on a Japanese map this early - and certainly nothing else exhibiting this level of copper engraving mastery is known.
Publication History and Census
This map was published by Maeda Matashirō (前田又四郎) and was commissioned by Matsudaira Norikata (松平乗謨, referred to here by the honorific title 縫殿頭), the Governor of the Army (陸軍總裁) and head of the Rikugunsho (陸軍所), the Army Ministry of the Tokugawa Shogunate in its final years. The French military attaché chartered with modernizing the Shogun's army, Charles Sulpice Jules Chanoine, provided the source map, a Russian military map issued on the orders of General M. G. Chernyayev (Михаил Григорьевич Черняев; 1828 - 1898). The only other known example is held by the National Diet Library in Japan, while the University of Alaska Fairbanks holds a map that may be the Russian source map (OCLC 1292561037). This map is owned jointly with Vetus Carta.


Matsudaira Norikata (松平乗謨, December 18, 1839 – January 26, 1910) was a Japanese daimyo, military leader, and statesman in the late Edo and Meiji periods. Matsudaira was an early proponent of rapid military modernization and ending the Tokugawa's sakoku isolationist policies. His efforts to modernize the Shogun's armies faced resistance and were only partially successful. When a civil war began between the Tokugawa and supporters of the emperor, he retired rather than fight against imperial forces. He was therefore an ideal transitional figure between the old regime and the new government. Matsudaira (who changed his surname to Ogyu 大給, his clan's original surname before being entrusted by the Tokugawa as Mastudaira) went on to carry out a range of tasks related to military modernization and received many awards from the Meiji government, including becoming a member of the Privy Council late in life. More by this mapmaker...

Maeda Matashirō (前田又四郎; fl. c. 1866 - 1867) was a cartographer with the Rikugunsho (陸軍所), the Army Ministry of the Tokugawa Shogunate in its final years. His only known surviving work is a Japanese reproduction of a Russian map of Siberia, the Russian Far East, and Alaska. Learn More...


Very good. A few verso repairs and reinforcements.