1850 Nagakubo Map of the World, updated from 1785

地球萬國山海輿地全圖說 / [Complete Geographic Map and Description of the World]. - Main View

1850 Nagakubo Map of the World, updated from 1785


Japanese World Map on the Eve of Perry's 'Black Ships'.


地球萬國山海輿地全圖說 / [Complete Geographic Map and Description of the World].
  1850 (dated)     18.5 x 17.75 in (46.99 x 45.085 cm)


A scarce c. 1850 Japanese map of the world, based on a 1785 original by Nagakubo Sekisui with updates added by Yamazaki Yoshinari. Published on the eve of Japan's forcible opening at the hands of Commodore Matthew Perry, this map represents a bridge between early modern Japanese cartography and the cartographic revolution which followed Japan's opening in the 1850s.
A Closer Look
Coverage includes Eurasia, Africa, the Americas, a very large southern continent, and scattered islands, which are color shaded for distinction (explained in the legend at bottom-left). Text at top and bottom explains the coloration of the map, climate zones, the place of Japan, the poles, the Earth's area, and other general topics. Additional notes throughout on seasons, amounts of sunlight, and relative climate between different latitudes. The system of longitude displayed superficially relies on the traditional Earthly Branches, but in the text at top and bottom reflects a numerical understanding of the concept (Nagakubo's 1785 original was the first Japanese map to incorporate longitude in this manner).

This map is ultimately based on the famous 'Ricci map' (坤輿萬國全圖), named for the Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci, who, with his Chinese collaborators, synthesized Western and Chinese geographical knowledge to produce in 1602 the first world map in Chinese. Over the next two and a half centuries, the Ricci map was disseminated throughout East Asia and was a major means by which scholars of the Tokugawa Shogunate understood the outside world amid a harshly enforced policy of isolation. Japan's interaction with foreigners was largely limited to Dutch and Japanese traders at Nagasaki, but these channels did allow new geographic information to enter Japan.

Therefore, while Nagakubo's map was reliant on the Ricci map and did not significantly diverge from it in form, Nagakubo, and Yamazaki after him, were aware of new discoveries. For instance, the northern promontory of the large southern continent here (labelled 'New Holland,' 新阿蘭陀) notes that 'modern red haired people' (i.e., the Dutch) had reached there. Similarly, on the map itself America is referred to as 亞墨利加, but in the legend at bottom left appears as アメリカ, which became standard in the late 19th century, presumably Yanazaki's contribution.

Despite these updates, a number of curious elements remain from the Ricci map or were added by Nagakubo and other Japanese cartographers. For instance, islands east of the Philippines are noted for their powerful pirates (強盜), while areas in the Arctic and Antarctic are referred to as 'country of ghosts' (鬼國), 'country of dwarves' (小人國), and 'country of night dwellers' (夜人國).
Publication History and Census
This map was originally drawn by Nagakubo Sekisui (長久保玄珠, here as 長赤水) in 1785, an extremely popular map among Japanese intellectuals that was reprinted (or 'pirated') several times over the next century. This is the 1850 reprint (dated Kaei 3, 嘉永3), which is marked as 'supplemented by Yamazaki Yoshinari' (山崎美成) of Edo and published by Takaya (高谷). The OCLC notes examples of this edition of the map at the University of California Berkeley, Brigham Young University, the State Library of New South Wales, and the Nichibunken (International Research Center for Japanese Studies). It is also held by the National Museum of Taiwan History, the National Diet Library, and several other museums, universities, and archives in Japan.


Nagakubo Sekisui (長久保玄珠, December 8, 1717 – August 31, 1801) was a Japanese cartographer, Confucian scholar, and sinologist active in late 18th century Edo Japan. Sekisui is considered by some to be the 'Founder of Japanese Geography.' He was born in Akahama village, Hitachi Province, and studied medicine under Suzuki Matuse and Nagoe Nankei. In 1767, he accompanied a delegation from nearby Ishohara village to Nagasaki where, being recognized for his scholarship, was elevated to Samurai status. In Nagasaki he was particularly impressed with his experience of the Dutch and Chinese, for whom he developed great respect. Continuing his travels throughout japan, Sekisui encountered his first foreign maps in Osaka and began remaking Japanese maps using foreign technological advancements. His first map, for example, Kaisei Nihon Yochi Rotei Zenzu (Revised Japan World Distances Map), published in 1779, is the first Japanese map to incorporate a geographical coordinate system. He also issued a world map, Sankai yochi zenzu.(Revised Picture of the 10,000 Nations of the World) based upon the Chinese 1602 Matteo Ricci Map. In 1769 Sekisui became the tutor to the daimyô of Mito Han. He retired in 1791. Sekisui's mapmaking work predates the work of the other legendary Japanese cartographer, Ino Tadataka by some 45 years. More by this mapmaker...


Fair. Wormholing. Japanese repairs evident through areas of loss along fold lines and at fold intersections.


OCLC 21834850, 1020947960, 22819972.