On December 6, 2012, Swann Auction Galleries will host a one-of-a-kind sale, featuring an extraordinary collection of maps of Japan, dating back to the 16th century. Consigned by Dr. Stephen and Michiko Levine of River Edge, NJ, this sale represents one of the largest collections of maps of Japan in the West. The sale also includes a number of Japanese-made maps of the country.
Dr. Stephen Levine has been enamored with maps his entire life. His first map purchase, a 1750 French-made map of Japan, was his entrance into the world of collecting.
“Part of the draw of Japanese maps is that one can witness the unique transformations in map-making over the years. We have maps ranging from the 16th century, well into the mid-20th century,” says Levine. “What you’ll see are many different manifestations of Japan, since there was so little knowledge of the country’s contours until recent eras, when mapping became more accurate.”
According to Levine, “Not only does the collection bring the importance and growth of Japan full circle, but many of these maps are more than just physical land representations. The embellishments – featuring different exotic animals, sea creatures and plants – really turn these works into true pieces of art.”
What may arguably be one of the most important maps in this sale is English explorer and cartographer Robert Dudley’s 1647 creation, Carta particolare della Grande Isola de Giapone è di lezo con il Regno di Corai [estimate: $12,000 - $18,000]. One of two Japanese maps from Dudley’s famous Dell’Arcano del Mare, this represents the more modern of the two maps and is based on findings by Dutch merchants traveling Japanese waters. This map also became a cornerstone model for later works by Janssonius, Sanson, Van de Aa and Chatelain.
Other notable items available in Swann’s December 6 sale include:
• Ortelius’ 1595 creation Japoniae Insulae Descriptio [estimate: $5,000 - $7,500] (pictured), referred to as “the first printed map of Japan to appear in an atlas…[that] was to remain the standard form until replaced by the Martini map of 1655;”
• Nova et Accurata Japonniae, Terrae Esonis ac Insularum adjacentium [estimate: $1,000 – 1,500], a 1658 representation of Japan incorporating information from the Dutch, by Joannes Janssonius;
• Louis Renard’s 1715 map, Magnum Mare del Zur cum Insula California [estimate: $2,000 – $3,000], featuring Japan to the West and the island of California to the East.
In addition to a range of topographical and geographical Japanese maps, the sale will offer a selection of tourist and occupational maps, a number of items from Japan before and after World War II, as well as maps of the first Japanese railroad and the first road map of Japan written in the English language.
In addition, maps of East Asia, China, Korea, Siberia and even California will be up for auction in addition to Japanese maps with the original Japanese text.