[ISHMap-List] Salem and Selden

C Delano-Smith c.delano-smith at qmul.ac.uk
Mon Jun 16 11:15:58 CEST 2014

May I just remind all that Bob Batchelor and Stephen Davies have also written on the Selden map in Imago Mundi, Volume 65:1 (2013),  pp 37-63 and 97-105 respectively, with colour plates. 


Dr Catherine Delano-Smith
Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Historical Research, University of London
Editor, IMAGO MUNDI The International Journal for the History of Cartography

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From: Robert Batchelor 
Sent: Friday, June 13, 2014 2:04 AM
To: edney at usm.maine.edu ; ishm at lazarus.elte.hu 
Subject: [ISHMap-List] Salem and Selden

Forwarding on something I wrote to fellow lister Vera Dorofeeva-Lichtmann about the supposed Salem Map to save her a stamp as it were:

The story became apocryphal by the late nineteenth century, in a often quoted but rarely cited poem that was actually written as a footnote to another poem in 1878:

"Some native merchant of the East, they say
(Whether Canton, Calcutta or Bombay),
Had in his counting-room a map, whereon
Across the field in capitals was drawn
The name of Salem, meant to represent
That Salem was the Western Continent,
While in an upper corner was put down
A dot named Boston, SALEM'S leading town." 
Charles Brooks in "The Fifth Half Century of the Landing of John Endicott at Salem Massachusetts" (Salem: Essex Institute, 1878), 113n.  As you can see, it was already a joke in 1878, and it sounds like it was a joke much earlier.

That volume was part of the series "Historical Collections of the Essex Institute."  All nicely digitized on Google Books

In almost all the stories, most of them post-dating 1878, the map is a manuscript hanging on the wall of a merchant.  The story usually says Calcutta, but as with most folklore there are Canton and Bombay versions.  The only odd thing is the way it clearly goes from being a very self-aware Orientalist joke with multiple referents to being local history.  The inscription is supposed to be in English when the map is in Calcutta.  The source of the Peabody Essex rumor about a Chinese map is David Ferguson, "Cleopatra's Barge" (1976), whom I suspect read this poem in the "Historical Collections" and then claimed the map was there.  His book, while entertaining in its way, is somewhat notorious for this kind of slippage.

Also, as it may be of interest to list members, I just returned from Hong Kong, where the Selden Map is on display at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum as part of the exhibition "Mapping Ming China's Maritime World" and there was a major conference  on the Selden Map.  A number of elaborations of points made in the Imago Mundi articles by Stephen Davies and myself were made.  Davies himself presented important new work questioning the centrality of the compass to Chinese and East Asian navigation generally, using the Selden Map to show a 'repertoire' of techniques in play.  Other scholars presented equally important discoveries that can help with provenance questions, confirming and elaborating much of what has previously been presented as tentative.  It was very clear that for those working in East Asia on maritime issues as well as cartography, this is a very important map, helping to rework and shift direction in a number of fields.  A group from the Philippines that has recently published a volume on early modern cartography mapping those islands made the trip just for the conference (in part because of the importance of the Selden Map's depiction of the archipelago).  In general, it is a really exciting time to be doing comparative work in East Asian maps.  The atmosphere was highly dynamic in no small part thanks to the visionary people at HKMM, who are very interested in maritime cartography.  It was clear by the end of the conference that we are going to be seeing a lot more largely unknown East Asian maps from the early modern period challenging and even overturning many of our assumptions about cartography during this period.

The full program can be found at: http://www.hkmaritimemuseum.org/media/fck/files/Leaflet_6pps.pdf

Bob Batchelor

Robert Batchelor
Associate Professor of History
Georgia Southern University
Forest Drive Building (Office 1211)
PO 8054
Statesboro, GA 30460
Phone: 912-660-6613
FAX: 912-478-0377 

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