James Ford Bell Library

Historical Maps


Matteo Ricci and Zhang Wentao World Map of 1602Matteo Ricci and Zhang Wentao World Map of 1602

Kunyu wanguo quantu, or Map of the Ten Thousand Countries of the Earth, is the oldest surviving Chinese map to show the Americas. It is a xylograph (wood block print) on six scrolls of fine native paper, each scroll measuring approximately 1820 x 3650 mm (each panel is approximately 2 feet by 5.75 feet). The carving of the wood blocks was done by Zhang Wentao.



Many researchers think of the James Ford Bell Library solely as an Historical Map Collection, unaware that the Bell Library's rare maps are an unique and invaluable part of a much larger collection of resources on the history and impact of international trade. These other resources can be discovered through The Collection link in the navigation sidebar on the left-hand side of this page.


However, the cartographic holdings of the James Ford Bell Library are very rich, indeed. To whet the researcher's appetite, above and below we present two of the most unique and rarest maps in the James Ford Bell Library's collection (with links to pages devoted to each), the Matteo Ricci and Zhong Wentao World Map of 1602, recently acquired for the benefit of the Bell Library by the James Ford Bell Trust and the Waldseemüller globe gores, upon which the name "America" first debuts.


Waldseemüller Globe GoresWaldseemüller Globe Gores

In 1507, Martin Waldseemüller published both a wall map and these globe gores, intended to be cut out and pasted onto a sphere to form a globe, upon which the name "America" first appears. The James Ford Bell Library owns one of four surviving copies of the globe gores.



The purpose of this page is to introduce researchers to the richness of the Bell Library's cartographic holdings. Additional Bell Library maps can be found in the UMedia Archives, which also includes a zoom feature.


Links to images of many of these maps can be found listed by cartographer.


Additional Resources for the History of Cartography

Imago Mundi. The International Journal for the History of Cartography

Map History/History of Cartography, a web site maintained by Tony Campbell, former map library at the British Library

The Portolan: the journal of the Washington Map Society

Terrae Incognitae: the journal of the Society for the History of Discoveries

Historical Maps Listed by Cartographer


Olaus MagnusOlaus Magnus - Carta Marina
Just one example of the Bell Library's maps that can be found on the Historical Map Images web page is the Carta Marina by Olaus Magnus, Archbishop of Uppsala, 1490-1557, published in Rome in 1572.

The Bell Library owns the second edition of this unusual map of the Scandinavian area (along with a 9 sheet hand-colored facsimile published in 1949), which shows numerous details of the economy, history, and commerce of that region. Pictured here is an altered version of the hand-colored facsimile, trimmed so that each sheet fits snuggly together without interior borders.
View a Google Scholar Search for articles about this map.


Other digital map collections at the U of M:

Chinese Ming History seen through Illustrated Maps







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