Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ricci Map at the James Ford Bell Library

I went to see the Ricci Map today at the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota. It's the first map of the world created in China, 1602, and its official name is translated as Map of the Ten Thousand Countries of the Earth.

The library has a great scan of the map available online that allows you to zoom in and scroll around to see the details. (The map is about 12' wide by 5' tall, so there's a lot to see.) It was printed onto six vertical strips of 2'-wide by 5'-tall paper using wood carvings, six per strip (36 printing plates). It's covered in notations about astronomy, cartography, and the inhabitants of the ten thousand countries.

Photos of the map are not allowed at the library (and who needs one when there's such a great version online), but I took a few other photos.

Black and white engraving of the Jesuit Matteo Ricci
Father Matteo Ricci, shown here in an engraving by P. Du Halde, was the Jesuit missionary, mathematician, and astronomer who's credited with creating the map, along with Chinese cartographers and printers.

Hand colored engraving of Chinese men
This amazing engraving is from a 1640 atlas of China, created by another Italian Jesuit.

I highly recommend a visit to the James Ford Bell Library in general, and particularly to see the Ricci Map. While you're there, be sure to note this poignant sign of the times, found in a corner of the reading room:

Small sign atop a wooden card catalog, reading How to use a card catalog
It seems the card catalog itself has become a rare object.

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