K’oen-yu ts’iuen t’ou [Map of the World], by Ferdinand Verbiest, 1674

Timed to coincide with Asian Art in London, 3rd to 12th November 2011, map dealer Daniel Crouch Rare Books will be exhibiting work by Ferdinand Verbiest completed at the Chinese Court during the start of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912), as well as antique Chinese porcelain, presented by Woolley & Wallis Auctioneers.

Daniel Crouch, who recently opened his new gallery at 4 Bury Street in the heart of St James’s, will have on show the spectacular ‘K’oen-yu ts’iuen t’ou’, or Map of the World, by Ferdinand Verbiest, 1674, as well as ‘Typus eclipsis lunae’, 1682, a description of the lunar eclipse of 25 March 1671, by Verbiest at the Chinese Court.

Ferdinand Verbiest (known as Nan Huairen in Chinese) was a Flemish Jesuit missionary in China, who became a close friend and aid to the Kangxi Emperor. Verbiest was highly skilled in astronomy, mathematics, and geometry, and successfully introduced European astronomy to China. This involved the audacious move of removing a superfluous month from the 1670 year calendar, previously approved by the Emperor himself.

‘K’oen-yu ts’iuen t’ou’, or Map of the World, pictured above, is in fact a free standing screen of two maps representing the eastern and western hemispheres made by woodblock print on silk, each hemisphere about six feet [183 centimetres] squared. This unique map incorporates Chinese text with European cartographic knowledge of the globe at that time. Panels of Chinese characters offer geographical information and even non-Chinese place-names are written in Chinese characters, either as phonetic conversions or by translating the meaning of the name. Exotic animals and birds appear, some misplaced, like the blue giraffe in Antarctica and the bird of paradise placed on the Australian mainland. A lively sperm whale, twin spouts of water jetting from its head, appears above the billows of the waves, a reminder of the rich whaling grounds once fished so relentlessly between Australia and the South Pole. Other real or mythological animals illustrated include Himalayan monkeys, a dragon, a unicorn and a bird looking like a plump, blue-feathered dodo.

Having resolved the issues with the Emperor’s court surrounding the calendar, Verbiest went on to compose a table charting all solar and lunar eclipses for the next 2000 years. Daniel will be exhibiting Verbiest’s ‘Typus eclipsis lunae’, 1682, a description of the lunar eclipse of 25 March 1671.
Verbiest was the only Westerner in Chinese history to ever receive the honour of a posthumous name by the Emperor.

Daniel Crouch Rare Books is a specialist dealer in antique atlases, maps, plans, sea charts and voyages dating from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries.