The Institute of Brazilian Studies of the University of São Paulo (Brazil) currently holds a manuscript Japanese world map dated to 1886 and signed by a certain 74 year-old Sōrosha Tōka艸露舍 東霞, otherwise unknown. The manuscript relies on a printed map by Yamada Yukimoto山田行元 (1851-1899) from his “Newly Compiled Elementary Treatise on Geography” Shinsen chiri shōshi 新撰地理小志 in four volumes. This work immediately became highly popular and enjoyed four editions between 1879 and 1883.
Yamada’s map consists of two separate hemispheres, each printed on a sheet about four times larger than the pages in Yamada’s book, folded and inserted into volume 4. The map applies a long out-dated and rarely used globular projection with parallels drawn as straight lines, Apian Globular I (1524), but with a sparser graticule (20°). It was most likely chosen for its affinity with the Ortelius Oval (1564), which spread widely across East Asia through the Chinese world maps of Matteo Ricci (1552-1610).
Comparison of the manuscript map with its prototype from the point of view of physical properties, cartographic characteristics and content allows one to reveal several new or uncommon features of the derived map. The manuscript map was designed to be displayed on a wall. It is considerably larger in format (each sheet is about 120 x 90 cm) and is drawn in colour, though not skilfully. In addition to characters it uses katakana readings for the less educated public. It contains more toponyms, but omits cartometric data, e.g. zero meridian (in the prototype map delineated through Tokyo), and introduces errors, e.g. in delineating graticule lines, tropics and polar circles in the “Asia-Europe-Africa” hemisphere, which are not found in the prototype map. The manuscript map is distinguished by a contrast between an out-dated approximation of the “Asia-Europe-Africa” hemisphere and much more accurate representation of the “Americas” hemispheres. The two hemispheres are also demarcated visually through the difference in colours – the “Old World” looks faded and blurred, the “New World” bright and sharp.
These characteristics allow one to advance a hypothesis that the map might have been drawn for education purposes in his milieu in Latin America by a Japanese immigrant or descendant, neither a cartographer nor an artist, yet a product of traditional Japanese culture and a skilled calligrapher.