About the Exhibit
One of the many treasures within the James Ford Bell Library rests folded within a thin, square wooden box which sits innocuously on a shelf next to weighty tomes and expansive maps; though the box is small, once the wad of rice paper inside is removed and unfolded, it reveals a colorful, detailed depiction of a port and bay with a number of visiting ships. The viewer is entreated to a birds-eye view of Nagasaki Harbor in the middle of the eighteenth century, the haven for Japanese commercial relations with the Dutch, the only group of Europeans allowed to trade with Japan at the time. The vividness of blue water, green hills, yellow rice patties and red and blue roofs pops out of the pale-yellow page, leading the eye around the nuanced details of the coastline and through the center of a rather bustling port town, replete with street names and many other labels.
Of all the maps in the collection (and there are quite a few!), what makes this particular one (call number 1741 mNA) so intriguing? By taking a number of diverse points of view, we can explore the many ways this map reveals information about both 18th-century Japanese culture as well as the world in the mid-1700s in general, helping us better understand how distant (and nearby!) peoples interacted and understood each other. The categories on the left-hand side of this page represent a small number of these different perspectives, and each contains an exploration of how we, as students of history and members of our global community, might consider the 1741 map.
Though images of the map will appear throughout these articles, the map at large is available to be viewed online at the University of Minnesota Libraries' UMedia website.