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Mr. Selden's Map of China: Decoding the Secrets of a Vanished Cartographer Hardcover – 22 Oct 2013

5.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (22 Oct. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1620401436
  • ISBN-13: 978-1620401439
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 2.3 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 995,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"The definitive study of the singular Selden Map...The scholar will appreciate the level of detail, breadth of analysis, and ingenuity in Brook's ability to expound such a wealth of history from a single document." - "Publishers Weekly
" "A work of exuberant scholarship...An infectious, satisfying exercise in intellectual doggedness." - "Kirkus " "An engagingly written, insightful look into just how fluid perceptions and realities have been in both the past and the present." -"Booklist"

[A] fascinating tale...[Brook] weaves a wonderful tale of the interaction of peoples of a different age in lands where sovereignty was barely a concept." - "Economist """Mr. Selden's Map of China" charts a fascinating course...A platter of diversions and fascinations made by someone with a deep knowledge of East Asia in the 1600s." -"Seattle Times""The definitive study of the singular Selden Map...The scholar will appreciate the level of detail, breadth of analysis, and ingenuity in Brook's ability to expound such a wealth of history from a single document." - "Publishers Weekly
""A work of exuberant scholarship...An infectious, satisfying exercise in intellectual doggedness." - "Kirkus " "An engagingly written, insightful look into just how fluid perceptions and realities have been in both the past and the present." -"Booklist"

[A] fascinating tale [Brook] weaves a wonderful tale of the interaction of peoples of a different age in lands where sovereignty was barely a concept. "Economist"

A finely woven story, situating the map s production and use at the intersection of Chinese enterprise and European curiosity. [Brook] is especially fascinated with the fusion of technical skills necessary to make a map at the juncture of these worlds. His account is . . . a gracefully rendered and highly personal early modern itinerary occasioned by an unusual Chinese map whose features form around not an imperial dynasty but a thriving oceanic culture. Brook takes us into these unsettled waters, with the benefit of long experience of this region of the world. Migrating through many different hands, the Selden map becomes our portolan, guiding us wherever we need to go . . . An enjoyable and elegant micro-history. "The Nation"

The definitive study of the singular Selden Map The scholar will appreciate the level of detail, breadth of analysis, and ingenuity in Brook's ability to expound such a wealth of history from a single document. "Publishers Weekly"

A work of exuberant scholarship...An infectious, satisfying exercise in intellectual doggedness. "Kirkus"

An engagingly written, insightful look into just how fluid perceptions and realities have been in both the past and the present. "Booklist"

"Mr. Selden's Map of China" charts a fascinating course A platter of diversions and fascinations made by someone with a deep knowledge of East Asia in the 1600s. "Seattle Times"

"Spellbinding."
"The Times (UK) on VERMEER'S HAT"

"Elegant and quietly important . . . Brook does more than merely sketch the beginnings of globalization and highlight the forces that brought our modern world into being; rather, he offers a timely reminder of humanity s interdependence." "San Francisco Chronicle on VERMEER'S HAT"

"A fascinating approach to cultural history, providing new ways of thinking about the origins of commonplace objects." Entertainment Weekly on VERMEER'S HAT

"Elegant and quietly important . . . Brook does more than merely sketch the beginnings of globalization and highlight the forces that brought our modern world into being; rather, he offers a timely reminder of humanity's interdependence." Seattle Times on VERMEER'S HAT"

About the Author

Timothy Brook is a professor of history and principal of St. John's College at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of many books, including "Vermeer's Hat," winner of the Mark Lynton Prize for outstanding achievement in world history, and "Confusions of Pleasure," which received the Joseph Levenson Prize from the Association for Asian Studies. He lives in Vancouver, Canada.


Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Timothy Brook writes an absorbing account of a little-known forbidden map of the South China Sea that has much to tell. In the early 17th century, John Selden and Grotius were "the brightest people in the room" and together, through a collision of objectives, came to write the founding international laws of the sea. Britain had seen enclosures of the land: the new trade with China would shape the world and help legitimise the enclosures of the sea craved by Charles I in his rivalry with the Dutch in the eary days of the British Empire.
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Format: Hardcover
I just completed the audiobook. Utterly pointless and wonderful. The entire book is about an obscure map, a potted history of 17th century Europe, the spice trade and so on. Read it when you want to relax. There isn't much of a point to it, except that it's wonderful to listen to the narrative of historical sleuthing and a world now gone.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Was a present to a teacher relative who was highly pleased.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
i bought this book for a friend but am waiting for my opportunity to read it myself. very interesting book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x93ac2534) out of 5 stars 14 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93afd0cc) out of 5 stars Another essay on the globalizing 17th century world 23 Mar. 2014
By Hess John Scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
This is essentially a follow-on from his previous work, Vermeer's Hat, in that it uses contemporary artifacts as conversation pieces for a discussion of certain aspects of the growing global interconnections of the 17th century.

By weaving together strands of thumbnail biography, anecdote, intellectual and legal history, and an analysis of the development of mapping techniques and geographic awareness, Brook helps the reader to better understand the critical transformations taking place at that time that have shaped the internationally connected world in which we live today--and which are still being negotiated! (Ie, the ongoing dispute over how to attribute sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracell Islands, and the South China Sea more generally.)

Brook writes well, and at 180 pages, he doesn't weigh heavily on your time. So if this subject interests you at all, you probably will not regret buying it.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93afd120) out of 5 stars Asia by Sea 25 April 2014
By PBjW - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
An easy narrative about the discovery of a map probably drawn in China or by a Chinese cartographer around 1608 that falls into the hands of an English academic at some point before he wills it to the Bodleian Library in 1654. The tale is well told of its previous owners, its possible origins, its secrets, and the impact it might have had on the west's understanding of Asia and cartography had it been made available to the public during Selden's lifetime, which it was not. There are fascinating sections on a number of related topics making the actual map a vehicle to discuss Chinese history, the story of the Spice Trade, early cartography, dry versus wet compasses, tatooed slaves, and maritime law in a friendly and convivial manner. Brook, in short, is a great story-teller, as those who have also read his most popular book, Vermeer's Hat, can attest to. Two or three evenings' reading, at most, and probably more enjoyable to those who have some knowledge of these subjects to begin with because then the various tidbits fall into place amongst the larger fabric of Asian history--the tale of the capture of the Santa Catarina at the south end of the Malay Peninsula in 1603, for example, or Zheng He's great maritime adventures.

Although it was written as a narrative, enveloped in a modern story that begins with the author's departure from China as a student and the confiscation of a map in his ownership at the time, it would be helpful to have a little more technical information--a time-line, for example, at the end, summarizing the facts given in my first sentence of this review (which took me about 15 minutes to locate and find individually as they're not given chronologically in the text--in fact, its dating of 1608 is one of the last educated guesses shared in the last pages of the book).

Nevertheless, enjoyable to all lovers of pre-modern Chinese history and antiquarian books/maps...and a book one might want to give to someone who hasn't already learned that history can be entertaining.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93e1c954) out of 5 stars History as mystery 23 July 2014
By Sceptique500 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Some books are stark intellectual endeavor – the author’s mentor, Joseph NEEDHAM, wrote 26 volumes or so on China’s technology. A few books, however, reflect the author’s unalloyed joy in chance discovery, the pure pleasure of ferreting out the infinite “why’s” of the reality in which we are wrapped. This book belongs to the second category. The author, a premier historian of China’s culture and the Ming period, gives his best (and more).

The author chances across a XVIIth century map of the South China Sea. With great skill he plumbs not only the “secrets” of the map, but also the context in which it was acquired. The result is a comparative portrait of culture and mindsets in Europe and China – in all directions. This research in itself would be enough to justify reading the book. Along with earlier works by the author, this work helps dispel the view of the Ming period as static and self-regarding. It was China’s tragedy that, the author concludes, having refused trade, it invited imperialism.

This is not all: in my view, there is much more in the book. For every “mystery” uncovered, the author plants “new” ones – subtle metaphors about the historian’s skills and limitations. Here an example: map-drawing is akin to history writing, where the “curvature” of the past (the divide of experience can’t be undone) makes it impossible for any historian fully to reconstruct the past. The skill is in minimizing the “fudging.”

“Odd as this may seem, one book is not enough to open all doors hidden behind the details of the map, let alone travel the corridors that lead from other doors, still less to enter all the rooms that open off the corridors.” (pg. xxiii) This is a light-hearted answer to Matteo Ricci’s “memory castles,” in vogue at the time of the map: the idea that the living world could be categorized and neatly locked up into rooms and castles of knowledge.

Finally, the author feels much sympathy for Luo Xongian, who “spotted a problem and burrowed into it as deeply as he could.” (pg. 140) Luo is contrasted with Zhang Huang who, eschewing “a goal-oriented view” and aimed to “achieve reliability,” what I’d call “good enough knowledge” to live by. Ironically, the map yields “reliability”…

I’m sure there are as man new “secrets” the author has buried in the text as he has uncovered, nor, if I knew, would I revel them. Many may even be unconscious, and emerge only with the passage of time – as with the map. Four hundred years from now the book will be read again, both as a light to the times of the map and the times of the author. What a delight.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93afd3a8) out of 5 stars Fascinating 12 Mar. 2014
By Thomas Couts - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I admit that I am only halfway through, and as yet I don't know what the book is pointing at, I do agree that the book is fascinating on many levels. Brook excels in his storytelling, weaving together many different lives, professions, the Dutch East Indies Company, the English trying to establish themselves in the East Indies, Japan, and especially China. Wow. It is hard to put down.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93afd348) out of 5 stars Mr Selden's Map of China 18 Mar. 2014
By Garleeque - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Somewhat tedious and boring, but informative. Not the greatest book I have ever read. However, if you are really into learning more about how things were done way back then, worth while .. (I am a history buff)
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