- Japoniæ Insvlæ: The Mapping of Japan; Historical Introduction and Cartobibliography of European Printed Maps of Japan to 1800 by Jason C. Hubbard
I must confess that the moment I laid eyes on this sumptuous volume, I knew that I had to have my own copy. After nefariously obtaining one for purposes of review, I began to read and soon discovered that Japoniæ Insvlæ is itself the result of a similar acquisitive urge. The author, Jason C. Hubbard, is not a professional scholar but rather a retired international businessman whose passion is collecting old maps. Hubbard’s interest in Japan stems from a 1977–1980 work assignment in that country. After acquiring some loose-sheet maps of the Japanese islands, he began to wonder, “What was their origin? Who had engraved them? To what atlas or travel account did they belong? Could a map be precisely dated? Why were the maps so different (and some almost identical?” (p. 12). Using a 1967 monograph by Tony Campbell as his guide, Hubbard began to assemble a representative collection. In the process of doing so, he discovered that Campbell’s list was by no means complete. In order to bring it up to date, Hubbard and fellow collector Lutz Walter compiled a revised “cartobibliography” in 1994. That too, however, was soon rendered obsolete as new maps (and different versions of previously known ones) continued to turn up in the marketplace. Ever the completist, Hubbard began work on the present volume, whose purpose is “to identify and classify all known printed single-sheet maps and charts, first issued in Europe before the year 1800, which concentrated on the Japanese islands” (p. 25). Japoniæ Insvlæ presents 125 original printed maps, together with many subsequent “states” and “varieties,” resulting in a total of 203. This compares with 149 maps in the 1994 list by Hubbard and Walter and 77 in the original work by Campbell. No doubt, as Hubbard suggests, the future holds still more discoveries, but for now Japoniæ Insvlæ represents the state of the art in our knowledge of early European maps of Japan.
Although not part of Japoniæ Insvlæ’s cartobibliographic “lineage,” one book to which it will inevitably be compared is Hugh Cortazzi’s Isles of Gold: Antique Maps of Japan, which was published in 1983.1 Both are lavish coffee-table volumes, begging [End Page 289] to be savored one page at a time for their rich information content and sheer beauty. Both consist of a lengthy introductory essay followed by reproductions and descriptions of old maps (92 in the case of Cortazzi’s book). Both were written by “amateurs” who collected maps in their spare time while occupying nonacademic day jobs. (The distinguished Sir Arthur Henry Hugh Cortazzi was British ambassador to Japan at the time of Isles of Gold’s publication.) The study of old maps is evidently one area where some of the best research is still done not by credentialed scholars in ivory towers but by well-rounded “Renaissance men” (pardon the sexism) with a bit of extra time, and money, on their hands.
In addition to these similarities, there are also some differences between the two volumes. To start with a minor note on production, Japoniæ Insvlæ makes use of glossy paper (allowing better reproduction of detail), whereas Isles of Gold is printed on uncoated stock (allowing the reader to examine maps without distracting reflections). I prefer the latter, although this is admittedly a matter of taste. Regarding the more important differences of content, Japoniæ Insvlæ has many more maps than Isles of Gold, but the coverage is much narrower. Whereas Cortazzi gives equal treatment to Japanese and Western maps, Hubbard’s focus is squarely on the latter. (He does discuss indigenous maps in the introduction, but the content is derivative—particularly of Cortazzi and of Kazutaka Unno’s definitive 1994 contribution to the Chicago History of Cartography.)2 Chronologically, too, the maps reproduced in Japoniæ Insvlæ all come from...