Mr Selden's Map of China (Ebook)

The spice trade, a lost chart & the South China Sea

Timothy Brook

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

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.

Publication date: 12/09/2013

£9.99

ISBN: 9781847658814

ISBN 10 / ASIN: B00EQXX0G8

Imprint: Profile Books

Subject: History & Classics

Mr Selden's Map of China (Paperback)

The spice trade, a lost chart & the South China Sea

Timothy Brook

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

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.

Publication date: 05/02/2015

£12.99

ISBN: 9781781250396

Imprint: Profile Books

Subject: History & Classics

Reviews for Mr Selden's Map of China

'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

'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

'A fascinating look at the story behind the map.'

Sally Newall The Independent

'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

'[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

'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

'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

Timothy Brook

Timothy Brook

A native of Toronto, Timothy Brook has taught Chinese history at the University of British Columbia since 2004. He was appointed Shaw Professor of Chinese at Oxford in 2007, but returned to UBC in 2009, where he holds the Republic of China Chair in UBC's Institute of Asian Research. An honorary professor of East China Normal University in Shanghai, he holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Warwick.
Primarily a historian of the 16th and 17th centuries, Brook also works on Japan's wartime occupation of China and human rights in contemporary China. He has written eight books and edited nine, in addition to serving as editor-in-chief of the six-volume History of Imperial China from Harvard University Press.
Profile published his most widely read book, Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global Age, in 2008. It was awarded the Mark Lynton Prize from the Columbia School of Journalism and the Prix Auguste Pavie from the Académie des Sciences d'Outre-mer, Paris, and has been translated into a dozen languages.
Brook lives on Salt Spring Island with his wife, Fay Sims. Their four children are spread from Vancouver to New York.

Related books