Among our recent acquisitions is a marvelous untitled manuscript map of the Japanese city of Nagasaki, its harbor, and the surrounding region, drawn in ink and water colors on rice paper by an anonymous cartographer/artist, ca. 1741-65. The map, which measures 21.5 x 53.5 inches, is oriented toward the northwest. It provides an exceptionally rich portrait of the then thriving trading center, including the fan-shaped, artificial island of Dejima that was constructed in 1634-36 for Portuguese merchants. Nagasaki Harbor detail
When the Portuguese were expelled in 1639, only Dutch traders were permitted in Japan, but they were largely confined to this island, which severely limited contact between the merchants and the Japanese people. European traders were forbidden from learning Japanese, and were not allowed to carry books or artifacts associated with Christianity. In addition to municipal buildings and shrine, private homes are depicted, including the Togin district, where Chinese traders lived. In the harbour are 4 ships flying Dutch flags, three Chinese vessels, and a number of small, local fishing craft. Rice fields and roads are also depicted, as well as the surrounding mountains.

Portuguese Merchant and WifePortuguese
Merchant and Wife

Although Nagasaki was the primary point of contact between Japan and the West prior to the 19th century, the Japanese people maintained an interest in the outside world. This depiction of a western merchant and his wife is from a book by Nishikawa Joken (1648-1724), Shijūni-koku jinbutsu zusetsu (Illustrated commentary on the inhabitants of the forty-two realms), the first Japanese book to depict westerners (Bell call number 1720 Ni). Nishikawa was himself born in Nagasaki. An astronomer, geographer, and interpreter of the mid-Edo period* (1603-1868), he was summoned to Edo (Tokyo) in 1718 to present works on astronomy and calendar-making to the shogun Yashomune; this work was published in Edo in 1720.

Native AmericansNative

Included among the peoples of the 42 realms are Native Americans, no doubt drawn from descriptions provided by western merchants.

*Also called the Tokugawa period for the ruling Tokugawa shogunate.