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Collection of maps of China, Japan and Asia featured in Swann Galleries' December 6 auction
Sekisui Nagakubo, The World based on new Dutch interpretations, color woodblock map, Kyoto, 1796 (estimate: $1,200 to $1,800).

NEW YORK, NY.- Swann Galleries’ auction of Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Historical Prints, Ephemera on Thursday, December 6 opens with nearly 150 lots from The collection of Dr. Stephen and Michiko Levine of River Edge, NJ. The Levines have assembled one of the largest collections of European and Western printed Japan-related maps in private hands. Amassed over a 40-year period, the collection represents the history of Japan as seen through Western eyes, and also includes important maps of Japanese origin.

In addition to maps of Japan proper, this vast collection also contains mappings of Asia and the Pacific showing Japan in numerous and sometimes bizarre configurations. These depictions evolved from discoveries by the earliest explorers into later, more accurate delineations that put Japan in its proper place and configuration on the Globe.

Highlights of the Levine collection include the first printed map of Japan to appear in an atlas, Ortelius’s Japoniae Insulae Descriptio, Antwerp, 1595 (estimate: $5,000 to $7,500); Linschoten/ Langren, Exacta & accurate delineatio cum orarum maritimarum . . . , a map of East Asia with Korea appearing as an island and Japan barely recognizable, except by name, London, 1598 ($5,000 to $7,500); Robert Dudley’s Carta particolare della Grande Isola de Giapone è di Iezo con il Regno di Corai, based on findings by Dutch merchants plying Japanese waters, 1647, which became a cornerstone for later works by Janssonius, Sanson, Van der Aa and Chatelain ($12,000 to $18,000); Louis Renard’s 1715 map, Magnum Mare del Zur cum Insula California, featuring Japan in the West and California—as an island—in the East ($2,000 to $3,000); and Adrien Reland’s Imperium Japonicum, Amsterdam, circa 1720 ($3,000 to $4,000).

Featured maps of Japanese origin are a large illustrated map of Yamashiro by Hyakuga and Shimokawabe, Kyoto, 1778 ($3,000 to $4,000); Sekisui Nagabuko’s New Entire Map of the Globe, Kyoto and Osaka, circa 1785, erroneously considered to be one of the first world maps printed in Japan, but more likely the first widely circulated printed map ($4,000 to $6,000); and Ranzan Takai, Illustrated Map of Great Edo revised in the Man’ei period, Tokyo, 1843 ($1,500 to $2,500).

In addition to early maps of Japan, the Levines collected many 20th-century maps relating to World War II, produced both during and following the conflict. A fascinating example is an unfinished compilation of dozens of maps by a U.S. Army cartographer, created in the event that a land invasion became necessary.

A notable Japanese map in the sale that is not from the Levin Collection is Rôkashi Zuda’s Outline map of all the countries of the universe base on Buddhist beliefs, a muti-sheet wood-block map of the world, 1710 ($18,000 to $22,000).

Desirable maps of other subjects include Willem and Jan Blaeu’s Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Geographica ac Hydrographica Tabula, Amsterdam, circa 1630 ($8,000 to $12,000); a manuscript plat, Plan of the Point of Pines, a Plantation on Edisto Island in the State of South-Carolina, representing property divisions made under the last will and testament of a large landowner, 1804 ($4,000 to $6,000); and Laurie and Crutchley, Fredonia or the United States of North America: including also Cabotia, or the Canadian Provinces . . ., first edition of this influential mapping of the U.S. or Fredonia, based on the observations of Lewis and Clark and other sources, London, 1830 ($15,000 to $25,000).

Among books prized for their plates are volumes 2-5 of John Gould and Richard Bowdler Sharpe’s Birds of New Guinea and the Adjacent Papuan Islands, London, 1875-88 ($20,000 to $30,000); a singed first edition of Walter Rothschild’s Extinct Birds, London, 1907 ($5,000 to $7,000); volume 3 of the exquisite Gazette du Bon Ton, Paris, 1920 ($4,000 to $6,000); wonderful illustrations of fishes, horses and insects, as well as several Japanese works and books on Japan, such as Thomas and Harriet Tindale’s The Handmade Papers of Japan, Rutland and Tokyo, 1952 ($3,500 to $5,000).

There are also fine Japanese examples among the decorative graphics, in addition to individual plates from Audubon’s The Birds of North America and hand-colored Currier and Ives prints.

The sale concludes with a selection of ephemera, which includes group lots of Victorian-era scrapbooks, menus, postcards, sheet music and theater programs and playbills.

The auction will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, December 6, and will continue after a lunch break at 1:30 p.m. The material will be on public exhibition Saturday, December 1, from noon to 5 p.m.; and Monday, December 3 through Wednesday, December 5, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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