KOREA. A MANUSCRIPT ATLAS OF KOREA, CHINA AND JAPAN. Korea: 19th-century.

$ 16,000.00

Folio (13 x 6 4/8 inches). 13 fine double-page manuscript maps in black ink and wash colour, on native paper (11 4/8 x 11 4/8 inches) laid down on heavier contemporary stock (some occasional pale staining). Contemporary brown paper wrappers, title in manuscript on the front cover (back strip worn away, edges frayed).

A beautiful manuscript atlas with maps of Korea, each of the eight provinces of Korea, followed by China (showing the great wall), the Ryuku Islands, Japan, and the whole World. From the oldest known examples "(perhaps from the sixteenth century) to almost the end of the tradition in the nineteenth century, the content and structure of traditional Korean maps such as these examples changed very little. The map of the world (or Chonhado) presents Korea, China, and their East Asian neighbors surrounded by rings of exotic, mythical lands and peoples and reflects the traditional Korean view that the world was flat. Being a peninsula, Korea stood out on the map and was close to China, the classical center of Asian civilization. Korean military security concerns about China and Japan stimulated the creation of maps such as the one of Korea only, which provides information on the military and naval defenses of Korea’s eight provinces" (Library of Congress online).

Korea itself, a state founded by Chinese colonists, was rarely independent.  First it was a Chinese satellite, then it achieved independence for a short time during the disorders in China and, after suffering Japanese invasions in the south, finally became subject to China again.  Consequently, Korean literature, science, and art were strongly influenced by Chinese or Japanese examples.  Korean cartography, in particular, was most influenced by China and wholly follows Chinese models and Chinese methods.   As Asia's oldest civilization, China anticipated Western knowledge of the compass, said to be invented in 1100 B.C., the gnomon and the water-level. Astronomical methods were early used to determine the position of points and the first maps produced are said to have been made in about 2000 B.C.  However, until the end of the 4th century B.C., Chinese scholars assumed the world to be a square, the greater portion of which was taken up by their own country.  At this time hints of a new cosmogony began to reach China from India, and the world maps changed their shape in consequence.  The Indian doctrine of Taoism held that China occupied only 1/81 of the earth's surface and was surrounded by an ocean, beyond which were other countries,  separated by concentric rings of ocean. The mythical Chinese work, The Classic of Mountains and Seas (Shan-hai-ching), completed in about 250 B. C., was strongly influenced by these Taoist philosophies and dominated Chinese, and in consequence Korean, mapmaking for many centuries to come.  The Shan-hai-ching contained not only maps, but also representations of distant lands and peoples, with pictures of fantastic men. RARE. Catalogued by Kate Hunter