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Redefining the Renaissance with Chinese Maps
Renaissance Society of America Conference (2013)
  • Robert K. Batchelor, Georgia Southern University

Renaissance scholars from Scaliger and Cardano to Bacon often suggested that East Asian technologies like printing, the compass, gunpowder, and porcelain were important aspects of the Renaissance. While debating this trope of translation studii has clear classical and medieval roots, the recent rediscovery of the 1619 Selden Map of China ( suggests that East Asian cartography may have played a more dynamic role in redefining European understandings of time, space, and data than simple linear translation of techne across episteme. Three Chinese maps arriving in London between 1589 and 1650 illustrate how Chinese cartography proved conceptually useful for critiquing universal claims about space and time put forward by Clavius, Ortelius, and the Jesuits from the 1580s and shifting towards models emphasizing empirical data. The paper will analyze the role of these Chinese maps as translating devices to help understand the more global dimensions of the Renaissance and Scientific Revolution.

  • Space,
  • Jesuits,
  • Cartography,
  • Ming Dynasty,
  • China,
  • Francis Bacon
Publication Date
April, 2013
Citation Information
Robert K. Batchelor. "Redefining the Renaissance with Chinese Maps" Renaissance Society of America Conference (2013)
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