Leen Helmink Antique Maps

China and Japan by Fries/Waldseemüller




Ta. Superioris Indiae [on verso]


Strassburg, 1522


29.0 x 45.5 cms



Stock number





$ 4250


Wonderful woodcut map of China and Japan by Laurentz Fries after Waldseem├╝ller's 1507 world map, which was - for these regions - modeled after Martellus Germanus' 1490 and 1492 world maps and Martin Behaim on his 1493 globe).

This map is the earliest "modern" map dedicated to Japan and/or China. The geographical contents is derived entirely from the accounts of Marco Polo, and many quotations from Polo's book are placed on this map. Japan is shown as one single island named "ZINPANGRI" and two cities "Sympangri" and "Cobebe" (although Marco Polo gives no Japanese city names ...). A picture of the Great Khan is included. The map is contiguous to the map of South East Asia from the same work.

Marco Polo himself had not visited Japan, and his accounts are based on information that he got from the Chinese. In fact, many European scholars were sceptical about the Polean accounts, and the existence of Japan was not confirmed until 1542 when it was first sighted by Europeans. The Portuguese discovered it by accidence, when a ship was drifted in a storm.

"This trapezoidal format is typical of the maps that were derived from the text of Ptolemy's 'Geographia'. In fact, however, Ptolemy's view of the world only extended to 'Farther India'. Hence, Waldseem├╝ller transferred the information on Tartary and Zipangri taken from Marco Polo and added it to Ptolemy's description of the world."


"The [Ptolemy] edition contains a general map by Laurentius Frisius [...] and two new maps of eastern Asia. [...]

Out of the three maps, not borrowed from the [Ptolemy] edition of 1513, the [...] map of the world by Laurentius Frisius is certainly an original work [...]. The other two maps are the 'Tabulae Moderna Indiae orientalis' and 'Tabula superioris Indiae et Tartariae Majoris'. A closer examination of these maps shows that they are still almost exclusively based on traditions from Marco Polo, and the globe of Behaim. They may indeed, to a certain extent, be considered as the first reproduction of this globe, so often referred to in modern geographical literature."


"The first post-Ptolemaic map of the Far East and a much overlooked map, being of considerably more significance, importance and influence in the early European cartography than often credited.

Originally published by Laurent Fries in the 1522 Strasburg edition of Claudius Ptolemy's 'Geographia', and reissued in subsequent editions of 1525, 1535 and 1541, this map forms one of the first 16th Century maps to update Ptolemy's cartographic concepts of the Far East and reconcile them with the influential account of the 13th Century Venetian traveller Marco Polo. Polo had been the first European [that reported] to reach the court [in Peking] of the Mongol Kublai Khan in 1275. He was also the first European to describe Japan or 'Zipangu', which he identified as a single island off the coasts of China.

The cartography of the classical scholar Ptolemy [Alexandria, AD 150] barely extended beyond the Malay Peninsula or 'Golden Chersonense' with the Indian Ocean landlocked at its eastern perimeters. This map reflects contemporary theories, including those of Columbus, as to the configuration of the Eastern coastlines of Asia. Most of the names are drawn verbatim from Polo's work. Japan is shown as a single island, a note indicating that it is an idolatrous country that does not pay tributes to the Chinese Khan. A fine portrait of the Kublai Khan, enthroned in stylised European splendour in a tented encampment appears top right."