Mr. Selden's Map of China: Decoding the Secrets of a Vanished Cartographer [NOOK Book]

Overview

From the author of the award-winning Vermeer's Hat, a historical detective story decoding a long-forgotten link between seventeenth century Europe and China.

Timothy Brook's award-winning Vermeer's Hat unfolded the early history of globalization, using Vermeer's paintings to show how objects like beaver hats and porcelain bowls began to circulate around the world. Now he ...
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Mr. Selden's Map of China: Decoding the Secrets of a Vanished Cartographer

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Overview

From the author of the award-winning Vermeer's Hat, a historical detective story decoding a long-forgotten link between seventeenth century Europe and China.

Timothy Brook's award-winning Vermeer's Hat unfolded the early history of globalization, using Vermeer's paintings to show how objects like beaver hats and porcelain bowls began to circulate around the world. Now he plumbs the mystery of a single artifact that offers new insights into global connections centuries old.

In 2009, an extraordinary map of China was discovered in Oxford's Bodleian Librarywhere it had first been deposited 350 years before, then stowed and forgotten for nearly a century. Neither historians of China nor cartography experts had ever seen anything like it. It was so odd that experts would have declared it a fakeyet records confirmed it had been delivered to Oxford in 1659. The Selden Map," as it is known, was a puzzle that needing solving.

Brook, a historian of China, set out to explore the riddle. His investigation will lead readers around this elegant, enigmatic work of art, and from the heart of China, via the Southern Ocean, to the court of King James II. In the story of Selden's map, he reveals for us the surprising links between an English scholar and merchants half a world away, and offers novel insights into the power and meaning that a single map can hold. Brook delivers the same anecdote-rich narrative, intriguing characters, and unexpected historical connections that made Vermeer's Hat an instant classic.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/19/2013
Historian Brook (Vermeer’s Hat) offers the definitive study of the singular Selden Map, an archived and forgotten enigma thought to be from the Ming era. Unexplored prior to this book, the Chinese map is named for 17th-century historian John Selden, who, though unable to decipher its characters, donated the map to Oxford out of his “passion to ensure the survival of knowledge.” Brook continues this tradition of scholarly passion with a methodical analysis, exploring the map’s anachronisms, its stunning accuracy for the time, and its emphasis on sea routes. These features are explained through histories of the complex trade relationship between East and West in the 17th century. Ironically, the map was of little practical function; it passed quickly from use and into storage, and was made redundant by improved maps that were created only a few decades later—making its accuracy “now purely of historical interest.” While Brook finds the Selden Map to be the key to a wide range of historic insights, the cascade of names, dates, linguistic analysis, and maritime policy may be daunting for the casual reader. The scholar, however, will appreciate the level of detail, breadth of analysis, and ingenuity in Brook’s ability to expound such a wealth of history from a single document. Agent: Beverley Slopen, Beverley Slopen Agency. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
[A] fascinating tale…[Brook] weaves a wonderful tale of the interaction of peoples of a different age in lands where sovereignty was barely a concept." – Economist

"Mr. Selden’s Map of China charts a fascinating course…A platter of diversions and fascinations made by someone with a deep knowledge of East Asia in the 1600s." –Seattle Times

“The definitive study of the singular Selden Map…The scholar will appreciate the level of detail, breadth of analysis, and ingenuity in Brook’s ability to expound such a wealth of history from a single document.” – Publishers Weekly

“A work of exuberant scholarship...An infectious, satisfying exercise in intellectual doggedness.”

Kirkus

 

"An engagingly written, insightful look into just how fluid perceptions and realities have been in both the past and the present." –Booklist

Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-01
A work of exuberant scholarship radiates from a map of China bequeathed to Oxford's Bodleian Library in 1659. Brook's (History/Univ. of British Columbia; The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, 2010, etc.) mentor was the legendary "English historian of Chinese science" Joseph Needham, and Brook creates an intriguing intellectual detective story around a map that the author was summoned to examine several years ago. Evidently the work of a Chinese cartographer, it was an enormous and beautifully wrought map that just didn't fit with the usual work of the Ming period and thus puzzled scholars. It centered on the South China Sea, rather than the landmass of China, and it was strikingly accurate in terms of modern proportions and coordinates. Tracking down the English lawyer John Selden, who had left the map to the library upon his death as part of an enormous donation of books and manuscripts, yielded the writings of this brilliant 17th-century scholar who was embroiled in the raging debates of the day over free trade and the rights of citizens versus sovereignty of the king. Brook works backward in uncovering the provenance of the map, from the first Chinese scholar at Oxford, Michael Shen, encouraged as part of the passion generated for Oriental languages by Selden and others; to the East India Company commander John Saris, who traded in Asian goods and probably brought the map to England as payment of a debt; to the strange and wonderful Chinese characters and symbols on the map itself, which reveal it to be a sophisticated charting of sea routes by a canny cartographer with some acquaintance of European maps and of Southeast maritime trading. An infectious, satisfying exercise in intellectual doggedness.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781620401446
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 11/12/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 594,027
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author

Timothy Brook received a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship for the work on which this book is based. He holds the Shaw Chair in Chinese studies at Oxford University and is the author of many books, including the award-winning Confusions of Pleasure.
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