Charting Cartographic Exchange, Japan

Charting Cartographic Exchange by Edward Boyle

In the early-1800s, the question of the Japanese island of Karafuto, the northern island in its amorphous and ill-defined Ezo region, was a vital one for Japanese policymakers. Dispute raged on whether or not it was connected to the continent, and what exactly its relation to the mysterious island of ‘Saghalin’ showing up on European and Chinese maps was. A succession of geographers, astronomers and polemicists produced analyses in support of these positions, engaging in a cross-cultural exercise of comparative mapping in order to discern the truth with regards to Sakhalin’s geography.

The items in this exhibit together serve to illustrate the scientific background against which Japanese geographers in the early-nineteenth century were operating. In seeking to define the borders of Ezo, discerning the relations between Karafuto, Saghalien and the continent were presented as vital for the security of the nation. The views of three Japanese administrators, written in dialogue with one another, sought to justify their distinct positions on the reality of Karafuto’s status. They did this partially through reference to the Western materials presented in this exhibition.

The subsequent presentation delivered at the David Rumsey Center will focus on the cases presented by these three interventions from the Japanese side and allow for the variety of materials utilized in this moment of dialogue between different cartographic traditions to be recovered and for an examination of how this comparative mapping occurred. It will also provide an opportunity to reflect upon the constitution of fact through the circulation of these cartographic materials, a process visible in the materials shown here.

La Grande Tartarie Suivant les Nouvelles Observations
La Grande Tartarie Suivant les Nouvelles Observations, Pieter van der Aa, 1713
Pieter van der Aa, a Dutch publisher and printer was best known for his cartographic work. In this map of Great Tartary, van der Aa updated an earlier work illustrating Nicholas Witsen’s account of North and East Tartary, responding to the publication of Witsen’s enlarged second edition of 1705. A version of this map would be published in Paris by Guillaume de L'Isle, and subsequently make its way to Japan as part of the Atlas Nouveau (or Nieuwe atlas) published in Amsterdam by Covens & Mortier. The map indicates the proximity between the ‘Terre d’Yeco’ and the ‘Isle d’Amour’; the nature of the geographic relation between these two islands would not be resolved for over a century.
Troisieme partie de la carte d'Asie, contenant la Siberie, et quelques autres
   parties de la Tartarie. Publiee sous les auspices de Monseigneur Louis-Philippe d'Orleans
   Duc d'Orleans, Premier Prince du Sang. Par le Sr. d'Anville, Secretaire de Son. Alt?
   Sereniss? Guill? De la Haye (sculp. A Paris, chez l'Auteur, aux Galeries du Louvre). M DCC
Troisieme partie de la carte d'Asie Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville Paris: 1753
The enormously influential representation of Asia by d’Anville, who had earlier produced the maps accompanying the 1735 Description geographique, historique, chronologique, politique, et physique de l’empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie chinoise by the Parisian Jesuit Jean-Baptiste du Halde, which had sought to collate and make available the immense volume of material collected by the Jesuits over the course of their long sojourn in the country. As de Halde’s preface noted, the maps were largely adaptations of Chinese charts originally produced for the emperor of China with the assistance of the Jesuits. The maps in the Description would themselves arrive in Japan via a circuitous route, as the Dutch translation published by Pieter de Hondt of A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels. In this later map, d’Anville sought to make the Jesuit survey commensurable with Vries’ sightings, by extending ‘Sahalien-ula-hata’ down to Cape Patience at its base, and locating Cape Aniwa on the continent, rather than as part of the island of ‘Jedo-gasima’. Together with the two earlier examples, this map would again appear in Japan as part of Covens & Mortier’s Atlas Nouveau, with the three maps appearing in succession in the text.
Chart of the Discoveries made in 1787, in the Seas of China and Tartary by the
            Boussole and Astrolabe from their leaving Manilla and Arriving in Kamtschatka, Sheet II
            Published as the Act directs Novr. 1st 1798, by G.G. & J. Robinson, Paternoster Row
            London. Neele sculpt. Strand. No. 46.
Chart of Discoveries, Made in 1787, in the Seas of China and Tartary, Sheet II Jean-Francois de Galaup La Perouse London: 1798
From the two volume English translation entitled The Voyage of La Perouse round the world in the years 1785, 1786, 1787 and 1788, published in 1798. The voyage was launched as a French response to Cook, whom La Perouse greatly admired. Leaving Brest in August 1785, the Astrolabe and the Boussole visited Chile, Hawaii, Alaska, California, East Asia, Japan, Russia, the South Pacific and Botany Bay. La Perouse and the expedition were lost in 1788, but had despatched journals, charts and letters back to Europe on two occasions, with M. de Lesseps, who left the group at Kamchatka, Russia, and on board the Royal Navy ship Sirius. La Perouse’s sightings indicated that both Capes Aniwa and Patience should be understood as part of ‘Sagaleen’.
A Chart of the World upon Mercator's projection exhibiting all the new discoveries
A Chart of the World upon Mercator's projection exhibiting all the new discoveries, Aaron Arrowsmith, 1790, 1798, 1808
This chart, one of eight sheets making up the map of the world, is the one that launched Arrowsmith’s career. It incorporated the results of La Perouse’s expedition from its 1798 edition (this is the later 1808 reprint), although without ‘tracking’ La Perouse’s voyage on the map itself, and it is this 1798 edition that arrived in Japan in the early nineteenth century, either with Rezanov’s Embassy in 1804, or through being imported by the Dutch through Deshima around that time. Its adoption of the results of La Perouse’s survey in its representation of North-East Asia was to be immensely influential on the Japan’s cognition of this area to the north of Jesso, with its understanding of ‘Saghalin’ proving central to the map that Takahashi Kageyasu, the Shogunal Astronomer, produced for Japan’s government in 1809-18016.
Asia, by J. Arrowsmith. London, pubd. 15 Feby. 1832 by J. Arrowsmith, 35 Essex
            Street, Strand
Asia John Arrowsmith London: 1832
This map of Asia was produced by John Arrowsmith, Aaron’s nephew, for the London Atlas of Universal Geography, first published in 1834. The Atlas sought to exhibit all “the physical & political divisions of the various countries of the World, constructed from original materials”, and represented the physical division of Sakhalin from the continent, although retaining the ambiguity that surrounded the question of whether the channel between it and the continent were navigable, which had been answered in the negative by the combined results of the voyages of La Perouse, Broughton and Kruzenstern. The map adopted the understanding of the political division on the island also reached in Japan, of it as divided between Japanese and Qing areas of influence. Understanding of this political division was the direct result of the complicated history of the island’s charting.