- Japan has a long history of cartography but it was only with the advent of commercial printing and publishing in the early seventeenth century that maps became everyday objects. In the course of the Edo period (1600-1868) an extraordinary quantity of maps were printed for popular sale and distribution, all printed xylographically (with woodblocks). Some of these were frequently revised and updated, and towards the end of the period colour-printed maps became commonplace.
The British Library has an unusually large collection of xylographic maps produced in Japan, most in the Map Collection but a significant quantity in the Japanese Collection as well, but hitherto there has been no classified catalogue of them. This catalogue provides bibliographic descriptions of all the pre-modern Japanese maps that it has been possible to identify in the various collections of the British Library. There may be some others that have been miscatalogued and hence not identified. The maps included are Japanese maps not solely in the sense of maps of Japan but also in the sense of maps of other localities (China, Korea, and the world) which were produced in Japan. Most of the maps listed are either manuscripts or xylographs (printed with woodblocks), but a few nineteenth-century items are copperplate engravings. In the context of Japan, the term ‘pre-modern’ is usually taken to indicate the Edo period (1600-1868) but no hard and fast cut-off date is applied in this catalogue: all xylographic maps are included whenever they were printed.