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1602 World Map of Matteo Ricci

Chinese text with part of solar system and map title
Small section of 1602 Ricci Map

Kunyu wanguo quantu 坤輿萬國全圖 (Complete Geographical Map of Ten Thousand Countries), is the oldest surviving map in Chinese to show the Americas. It is a xylograph (wood block print) on six panels of fine native paper (made with bamboo fiber), each panel measuring approximately 608.33 mm x 1820 mm (2 feet by 5.75 feet). Li Zhizao (1565-1630), a Chinese mathematician, astronomer and geographer, who worked on the project with Ricci, may have engraved the map. It was printed by Zhang Wentao of Hangzhou, possibly an official printer of the Ming court.

A Jesuit priest, Matteo Ricci (1553-1610) arrived in China in 1583 and, with fellow Jesuit Michele Ruggieri, established the first Christian mission. In 1597, Ricci was named Superior or head of the entire Jesuit missionary effort in China. His world map, published in 1602, is a true collaboration between the European scholars of the Jesuit mission and the Chinese scholars and artisans of the imperial court. Vivid descriptions of the continents, praise of the Chinese emperor, lunar charts, and scientific tables documenting the movement of the planets adorn the map, a unique representation of East-West relations in the early 17th-century.

  • The Bell Library's Ricci Map will be back on exhibit in fall 2021 in the Bell Gallery in the Elmer L. Andersen Library, suite 15.  A new online exhibit about the Ricci Map will go live in August 2021 in anticipation of the gallery exhibit. 

The 1602 Ricci map is a gift to the University of Minnesota and the James Ford Bell Library from the James Ford Bell Trust in memory of trustee Diane Brutout Neimann (1943-2019).

View the Ricci Map