Frontispiece, New Chinese Atlas, from Joan Blaeu's "Atlas Maior," volume 10, Amsterdam, 1662

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The Jesuits' contribution to modern cartography was significant and went far beyond Matteo Ricci's world map. The symbol of their order, IHS (an abbreviation of the name Jesus), illuminates this frontispiece from Joan Blaeu's historic 1662 edition of the Atlas Maior. The atlas contains sixteen new maps of China and Japan by the Jesuit missionary Martino Martini, who was active in China from 1643 to 1650 and again from 1657 until his death in 1661. Martini traveled extensively throughout the country, mapping the exact astronomical positions of many towns, rivers, and mountains. This new degree of accuracy is evident even in the decorative map of East Asia held by the putti in this frontispiece. China has assumed a recognizable shape and coastline; the location and scale of Taiwan (the pink island) are more correct; and Korea appears for the first time as a peninsula rather than an island.

Details
Title
Frontispiece, New Chinese Atlas, from Joan Blaeu's "Atlas Maior," volume 10, Amsterdam
Artist Life
1596–1673
Role
Artist
Accession Number
P.14,618
Curator Approved

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