This particular map was a great advancement at the time. Before it was done, a mapmaker by the name of Abraham Ortelius had tried to depict East Asia, and it was very, very rough-hewn indeed. One might say the same of this map, but it has to be noted that it is, and was, a significant, significant improvement.
Several features might be pointed out. There is an island called “Pakan al I. Formosa,” which is modern-day Taiwan. Off to the west, there is a completely mythical lake, “Lake Chiamay,” in the western-extreme portion of the map, that happens to be where Assam, India now lies. So, you can see that, as with so many maps of this period, there was a lot of guesswork being engaged in by the mapmaker and not all of it was right. Happily, this map has survived in very good condition and is marked by beautiful delineation of the best knowledge that the mapmakers had at that time.
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This woodcut was in a style that follows what is known as the Ptolemaic way of portraying maps. Claudius Ptolemy was a geographer in the Second Century of the Common Era operating out of Alexandria in Egypt. And, in his day, not much was known about the whole world, but he made it his business to know a great deal about the then-known world and included what were then very rough longitude and latitude markings. In any event, maps made from his geographic pinpoints – his longitudes and latitudes – were the best maps of the then-period of time and, for a thousand years more, continue to be the best maps – or at least the model of maps. So what we have here is a map that was made in the 16th Century, but follows the style and the locations of many of the points of the area that were devised by a 2nd Century Greek.
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