Nieuhoff's Important Description of the Chinese Empire
"L'Ambassade de la Compagnie Orientale des Provinces Unies vers l'Empereur de la Chine, ou Grand Cam de Tartarie...", Nieuhoff, Johann
Period: 1665 (published)
Color: Black & White
9.6 x 14.6 inches
24.4 x 37.1 cm
This is a French edition of the first Dutch description of the Chinese Empire and one of the few non-Jesuit sources on China of this period. Nieuhoff was the official chronicler and draughtsman for the first embassy to China by the Dutch East India Company (VOC), then at the height of its power. His record of the trip became the most important source of information about China for Europe in the 17th century. The book includes a large folding map of China, a double-page plan of Canton, and over 100 engravings featuring views and costumed figures.
The lovely map, Reys-Kaerte vande Ambassade der Nederlantse Oost Indies Compagnie, door China aen den Grooten Tartersen Cham / Carte du Voyage des Ambassadeurs de la Compagnie Orientale des Provinces Unies vers l'Empereur de la Chine, is nearly void of details, as the embassy was not allowed to venture into the interior. They traveled from Canton to Peking by way of rivers and canals, and this route is filled with place names, starkly contrasting to the rest of the map. In place of details, Nieuhoff filled the map with little vignettes of the indigenous animals (although it is doubtful that elephants roamed the Gobi Desert as pictured here). The map extends to include Korea, Japan and Formosa, none of which are detailed. The map is further embellished with a VOC ship and a variety of Asian sailing ships, and a title cartouche enclosed in a garland of exotic fruits and held aloft by cherubs.
The bird's-eye view of Canton, Kanton in Platte Grondt, depicts the city and the surrounding countryside with ships and junks in the harbor. Putti hold the title cartouche and key that flank the plan. The key appears in both French and Dutch. Among the sites identified are a mountaintop pagoda, palaces, and a pair of castles in the water.
Folio, 134 pp. A lovely presentation example, professionally rebound in red pebbled leather with gilt embossing on covers and spine, raised bands on spine, and marbled endpapers. A.E.G.
Overall the volume is clean and bright with plates that have superb, dark impressions. The folding map of China is in "C" condition due to a large chip at bottom left that has been professionally replaced with old paper, however the image is missing. Both the map and the view of Canton have professionally repaired tears that enter the image. The title page has an old manuscript notation at bottom and a chip and a tear that have been professionally repaired. The new binding is in excellent condition.