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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The redhaired in Japan : Dutch influence on Japanese cartography (1640-1853) Jacobs, Elisabeth Maria


In examining the spread of Dutch cartographical knowledge to Japan, this thesis intends to throw some light on a neglected chapter of the history of the West-European expansion of the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. The thesis is based on the George H. Beans collection of Japanese maps of the Tokugawa era (1603-1868) preserved in the University of British Columbia Library, Vancouver. Its appendix contains a full description of all fifty-nine Japanese world maps, on which the conclusions of the thesis are based. The hypothesis of distinctive and traceable Dutch influence on Japanese cartography in the period 1640-1853 has three major cornerstones: the exclusive position the Dutch held in Japan for more than two centuries after 1639, when the Japanese government closed the country to all Europeans but the Dutch; the dominant position in world cartography, both scientifically and commercially, the Dutch held during the seventeenth and part of the eighteenth century; the long cartographical tradition in Japan and the general interest in maps among the Japanese. However, the development of Japanese cartography after 1639 shows hardly any traces of Dutch influence. Instead, most Japanese world maps — the only kind which could have borne evidence of Dutch influence— were derivatives of the so-called Ricci-map, a Chinese version of a current sixteenth century European world map made by Matteo Ricci, Jesuit missionary in China around 1600. The explanation of this unexpected conclusion is threefold and has to be found in the limited accessibility of the Dutch maps to the Japanese: none of the goods the Dutch shipped to Japan became generally available to the Japanese, the cartographical works included; all things Western, including the maps, continued to be associated with all things Christian which were suspicious; and the lack of knowledge of the Dutch language prevented the dissemination of Western cartographical information.

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