Antique Chinese Porcelain collector's expert page, Ming, dynasty, Chinese porcelain marks

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Du Halde, Jean Baptiste

Often referenced early book on China,

The complete title is: DU HALDE, Jean Baptiste. Description géographique, historique, chronologique, politique et physique de l'empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie Chinoise. Enrichie des Cartes générales et particulières de ces Pays, de la Carte générale et des Cartes particulières du Thibet et de la Corée. Paris P. G. Le Mercier 1735

The First edition is the most influential and interesting work on China published in the 18th century, an encyclopedic compendium of its history, geography and culture, no less important to the Enlightenment philosophes who mined its ethnography for their speculations on cultural mores than to the porcelain makers of England, France and Germany, who found here virtually the only published information on its manufacture.

Swedish travellers to China with the Swedish East India Company are often citing information culled from du Halde in their voyage descriptions, commenting and comparing with their own observations.

The work contains the first appearance of 43 maps considered "the principal cartographic authority on China during the 18th century" (Tooley) by the celebrated French cartographer d'Anville, as well as THE FIRST SEPARATE MAP OF KOREA. In four volumes, the work includes a comprehensive geographical description of China's provinces, an extensive treatment of its political and educational institutions, the Chinese language and writing system. There is even a discussion of the exotic artifacts of widespread interest to Europeans (silks, porcelain, etc.).

Volume III covers religion, family structure, and ethics. There is a survey of the development of sciences and Chinese medicine, with a certain amount of materia medica, with extracts in translation of several scientific and medical treatises. Owing to dissension between the French Foreign Mission and Rome, du Halde was under severe pressure to say as little as possible about the progress of Christianity in Asia, lest this show the disagreements within the Order about such contentious issues as the Rites controversy, etc. Accordingly, the emphasis falls heavily on secular material.

Volume IV contains the lion's share of the work's maps and includes the first published account and map of Bering's first expedition based on information which du Halde received from the King of Poland. The maps were drawn by the leading French cartographer of the day, d'Anville, on the basis of recent surveys by Jesuits in China. As the method for formulating projection had recently made great advances, these maps put China in the position of being, paradoxically, the most accurately delineated country in the world for a number of years.

Also included is a 30-page previously unpublished history of Korea by the Jesuit J. B. Régis, along with the first separate map of that country. The work went through numerous editions and translations, and the plates were much copied and pirated, but the first edition had the largest format and is considered best.

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