Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era

UBC Library's Rare Books and Special Collections holds one of the world's largest collections of maps and guidebooks of the Japanese Tokugawa period, ca. 1600-1867. The collection varies in both format and size: items range from small single-sheet maps to more than thirty square feet, and also include a ceramic plate, a woodblock, and maps in scroll format.

Most of this collection was acquired from George H. Beans, the original collector, and is accompanied by his inventory A List of Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era. To that has been added a small collection from George Bonn, as well as a number of maps acquired from various other sources.

About the Maps

Most of the items in the collection are rare, and some are unique. The collection varies in both format and size, ranging from very small single-sheets maps to a map that when folded out, covers over thirty square feet in area. In addition, there is a ceramic plate and a woodblock, as well as 15 maps in scroll format. A number of the maps are folded accordion-style in covers, or bound in book format. Further, other maps are included in atlases, accounts of travel and geographies. The collection also includes the three volume work Amerika Shinwa.

Unlike most of the collections outside Japan, this collection does not contain many government or administrative maps. Its focus is on privately published and travel related maps and guides published in Japan during the Tokugawa or Edo period. There is world coverage, although the majority of maps are of the whole or parts of Japan. A number of prominent Japanese ukiyo-e (woodblock print) artists are represented, among whom are: Hishikawa Moronobu, Miyagawa Chôshun, Shiba Kôkan, Kuwagata Keisai (Shôshin), Katsushika Hokusai, Ando Hiroshige and Hashimoto Sadahide.


The University of British Columbia Library acquired the Beans Collection of Japanese maps in 1965 from the original collector, George H. Beans of the Philadelphia Seed Company. Since then, the library has added to the collection, most notably in 1986 with the purchase of the George Bonn collection of 59 maps, 15 of which are manuscript maps.

Beans collected his maps over a number of years, and had a catalogue, extending to three supplements, published under his own Tall Tree Library imprint. A List of Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era appeared in 1951, followed by the three supplements, A-C, between 1955 and 1963.

For more information see:

George Beans and George S. Bonn Collection introduction (see pp.22-24 of the PDF).

George Beans, A List of Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era, 1951.

George Beans Collection Of Japanese Maps Of The Tokugawa Period - Finding Aid.

George S. Bonn, Japanese maps of the Tokugawa and Meiji periods, 1986.

Bonn Collection Of Early Japanese Maps - Finding Aid.

About the project

The digitization of RBSC’s Japanese maps collection is a collaborative project between the UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections and University Archives. The project was funded by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, and has also received support from the Department of Asian Studies.

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