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Mr Selden's Map of China: The spice trade, a lost chart & the South China Sea [Hardcover]

Timothy Brook
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.99
Price: 12.91 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

27 Feb 2014

In 1659, a vast and unusual map of China arrived in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. It was bequeathed by John Selden, a London business lawyer, political activist, former convict, MP and the city's first Orientalist scholar. Largely ignored, it remained in the bowels of the library, until called up by an inquisitive reader. When Timothy Brook saw it in 2009, he realised that the Selden Map was 'a puzzle that had to be solved': an exceptional artefact, so unsettlingly modern-looking it could almost be a forgery.

But it was genuine, and what it has to tell us is astonishing. It shows China, not cut off from the world, but a participant in the embryonic networks of global trade that fuelled the rise of Europe - and which now power China's ascent. And it raises as many question as it answers: how did John Selden acquire it? Where did it come from? Who re-imagined the world in this way? And most importantly - what can it tell us about the world at that time?

Brook, like a cartographic detective, has provided answers - including a surprising last-minute revelation of authorship. From the Gobi Desert to the Philippines, from Java to Tibet and into China itself, Brook uses the map (actually a schematic representation of China's relation to astrological heaven) to tease out the varied elements that defined this crucial period in China's history.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (27 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781250383
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781250389
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 275,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Praise for Vermeer's Hat -

'Spell-binding ... as a guide to the world behind the pictures Vermeer's Hat is mind-expanding

(Sunday Times)

A brilliant attempt to make us understand the reach and breadth of the first global age (Guardian)

Brook takes you into the paintings in a way that can be spookily intimate (Evening Standard)

[the map] has inspired a book filled with historical detective work that is one of the best I have read for years... [Brook] embarks on an extraordinary series of physical, historical and linguistic journeys... Brook has an enviable gift for picking his way through a vast amount of arcane historical and scientific material to produce a fast-moving, conversational narrative, which flies by before you realise you have just been guided through some of the more esoteric aspects of Chinese science or folklore. It is punctuated by telling personal anecdotes and trenchant observations on how the past continues to shape the present - especially when dealing with China... This book shows that we all need Timothy Brook to keep switching on the lights. (Jerry Brotton Literary Review 2014-02-13)

Mr Selden's Map of China is a picaresque journey, laced with asides, yet each digression contains a jewel of insight... Alternating between early modern and modern history, England and China, biography, science and culture, Brook holds us spellbound, just as he did in his earlier compelling series of interwoven tales of China and the west, Vermeer's Hat (2008).. Brook has brought an entire, largely unknown, set of cross-cultural exchanges vividly to life. (Lisa Jardine Financial Times 2014-02-15)

The quest is fascinating and picaresque, a sort of cartographical Tristram Shandy with a sure-handed narrator steering us from Ming dynasty China to pre-Civil War Oxford to the Spice Islands of South-East Asia. (Rana Mitter Sunday Telegraph 2014-02-23)

The great charm of this book lies not only in its illustrative, erudite detail but in the serendipity that regularly seizes Brook and adds spice to a spellbinding story. (Iain Finlayson The Times 2014-03-01)

A fascinating look at the story behind the map. (Sally Newall The Independent 2014-02-28)

The book is an enjoyable read and, in an age where China is flexing its muscles and where the South China Sea is a growing source of contention, there is no better time to look closely at a long-forgotten map of the region that highlights, through its unique history and features, the early interchange between foreign lands, cultures and individuals. (South China Morning Post 2014-03-09)

The book is an enjoyable read and, in an age where China is flexing its muscles and where the South China Sea is a growing source of contention, there is no better time to look closely at a long-forgotten map of the region that highlights, through its unique history and features, the early interchange between foreign lands, cultures and individuals. (South China Morning Post 2014-03-11)

Book Description

Forensic history at its best: an ancient map reveals the origins of world trade, and surprising twists in China's history.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful Kindle edition 27 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Awful, awful kindle edition, in which it is impossible to find the illustrations. Given that this is a book about a map, being unable to look at a picture of the map renders it almost useless. Buy the paper edition or don't bother!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No illustrations in KindleFire 1 May 2014
By MHWebb
Format:Hardcover
Like the previous reviewer, I started to read the book on my Kindle Fire but discovered that there were no illustrations. I sent an enquiry to Amazon Help and spoke to a pleasant lady who had the same problem when she downloaded it on to her computer. She promised to get this problem fixed and to email me in a few days to let me know that it was done. After 2 weeks I have heard nothing and have decided to buy the hardback - from what I have read of the book so far, I am sufficiently interested to persevere.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb! 19 July 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
From Timothy Brook's earlier book "Vermeer's Hat" I was aware that he is a historian who can write superbly and segue smoothly between events geographically and culturally oceans apart. An academic who communicates brilliantly, he encourages me to look up his other books. His linking of the text with the images is particularly well done, as his his pen sketches of the key players.
I also greatly enjoyed his forthright and polite debunking of other academics who attributed a ridiculous speed potential of 12 to 20 knots for the Chinese trading junks. As a maritime historian,and a keen sailor, I have been shocked by the stubborn attachment of academic archaeologists to exaggerated performance characteristics of ancient craft.
I unreservedly recommend this book.
Fair Winds and keep up the good work, Timothy.
Hal Sisk
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GREAT BOOK 26 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Prof. Brook has really unravelled the mystery of Mr. Selden's Map. His research is painstaking and the book is very readable. It was great to be immersed in the sixteenth century and learn about how maps and maritime law evolved and how nations tried to control trade routes. The anecdotes and historical detail leaves one enthralled and amazed. A great read and great fun! I have to go and see the Map now. Thank you.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New to me at the Moment 26 Mar 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have begun to read the book that takes you on ajourney through China and parts of the world with trade. It is fasinating.
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