Canton printing of the Western part of Verbiest's seminal world map
By VERBIEST, Ferdinand , 1860

[The Western Hemisphere].

World World maps
  • Author: VERBIEST, Ferdinand
  • Publication place: [Beijing
  • Publisher: 1674, but reprinted Canton
  • Publication date: 1860].
  • Physical description: Xylograph, printed on three sheets, the southern polar landmass embellished with animals, the spandrels with large lozenges with text descriptions.
  • Dimensions: 1500 by 1500mm (59 by 59 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 1326


The western hemisphere of one of the largest world maps ever printed. Verbiest’s original is as rare as its forerunner produced by Matteo Ricci at Beijing in 1602 (or its now-lost predecessors). This reprint is almost as rare.

A remarkable piece of printing by the Jesuits in China, published to mark their official return to favour. Beginning with Ricci at the end of the sixteenth century, the Jesuits were really only tolerated in China as scientific advisers, and were not allowed to embark on a general mission throughout the country. Nevertheless the influence at the imperial court of Ricci’s successor, Adam Schall von Bel,l aroused the jealousy of imperial agents who, on the pretext of the Jesuits supposedly preparing the way for Portuguese occupation, in 1664, had Schall von Bell and five assistants sentenced to death. Schall von Bell was reprieved, but his Chinese assistants were executed and all the priests in China, were rounded up in Canton with a view to being expelled. It wasn’t until 1667, when the young Emperor K’ang-Hsi began to take a hand in the affairs of government and made friends with Schall’s successor, Ferdinand Verbiest, that the measures taken against the Christians were rescinded and the position of the Fathers made secure.

The 1674 original is reproduced in ‘Europa und die Kaiser’ (Frankfurt, 1985), at p.109-111. A Canton version c1860 is reproduced (in error for the original), in ‘Chine Ciel et Terre’ (Gent, 1982), at p.408-409.