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Early Mapping of Southeast Asia

Thomas Suárez

Early Mapping of Southeast Asia documents the idea of Southeast Asia as a geographical and cosmographical construct, from the earliest times up until the dawn of the modern era. Using maps, itineraries, sailing instructions, travelers tales, religious texts and other contemporary sources, it examines the representations of Southeast Asia, both from the historical perspective of Western exploration and cartography, and also through the eyes of Asian neighbors.

From the time of Herodotus and Alexander the Great to the medieval cosmologies of the Christian Fathers, Southeast Asia was as much a place of myth and legend in Western thought as it was a geographical reality. Later, with the rediscovery of Ptolemy's Geographia and the ground-breaking journeys of Marco Polo and others like him, a more definite image of Southeast Asia began to inscribe itself in the contemporary cartographic record and paved the way for the great voyages of discovery in the late 15th and early 16th centuries - Columbus and Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama and Magellan.

Author Thomas Suarez sympathetically relates the difficult task faced by the earliest mapmakers who had to fight against conflicting sources and their own prejudices to get Southeast Asia down on the map. He explains, for example, the peculiar continental peninsulas which suddenly appeared in the early sixteenth century, and why some parts of Southeast Asia subsequently washed up on the shores of Terra Australis. He also describes the growing popularity of printed maps in 17th century Europe and the rise of the East India Companies which ultimately led to the colonization of many parts of Southeast Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the course of its study of the mapping of Southeast Asia, the book sheds new light on fundamental questions of cartographic history, offering, for example, fresh insight into the important image of world proposed by Oronce Fine in 1531, and the place of Southeast Asia in the psyche of late medieval Europe. Early Mapping of Southeast Asia follows the story through to the very end, closing with the exploration of the interior of the region as the final chapter in this fascinating account of Southeast Asian geography and mapmaking.
REVIEWS

"...a book that is a model for the treatment of the history of the cartography of a particular region... most satisfying textually and graphically... [the] first comprehensive chronological survey of mapping Southeast Asia and the European voyages of discovery to that part of the world."
(-Kenneth Nebenzahl, in Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America Newsletter)

"... a history of economics, ideology and adventure masquerading as a gorgeous coffe table book... ...seldom [has the story of Europe's discovery of Asia] been told from such a comprehensive viewpoint as Thomas Suarez'. Early Mapping of Southeast Asia is both an eye-popping and an eye-opening book."
(-The Maui News)

" 'Early, 'Mapping', and 'Southeast Asia' are each terms of wide interpretation in history, and in a lavish production this highly literate author takes each in a generous embrace... a wide range of types of mapping and cosmographical and topographical images is deployed, from the sixteen lower heavens of the Thai cosmos or cakkavala to coastal profiles in The English Pilot... many of the illustrations, particularly in the indigenous mapping chapters, have rarely been seen before to such effect... His commitment to the study of the work of the early European cartographers of Southeast Asia is apparent everywhere, and he gives few footholds for the critics of minutiae... [Discussed] minor criticisms apart, this is a stimulating work, and the Southeast Asian perspective it gives on European geographers' gropings for knowledge at the periphery of their world is fresh and revealing... I thoroughly recommend it to discerning readers."
(-Andrew S. Cook, India Office Records, The British Library, in Imago Mundi 53)

"...exceeded all my expectations. It's a wonderful book, with first-rate production values, a great deal of informative text, and many beautiful illustrations, some in color. The text is especially valuable, as Suarez covers in depth the history, culture, and geography of the area, as well as the map making from the 16th to the 19th centuries. It's a truly valuable book, and a necessary addition to all map collections." (-Fred Musto, Map Librarian of Yale University, in Map and Geography Round Table)

"... an intriguing book ...intellectually rich, hugely informative, and lucidly written ...at last the mapping of this important and fascinating area has the author and the book it deserves."
(-IMCoS Journal, summer, 2000).

"... an interesting juxtaposition of maps, tales of travellers and early explorers, excerpts from religious texts and other contemporary information from Western, Middle Eastern and Asian sources, Suarez details observations from the differing geographical and cosmological perspectives ... no library in Asia would be complete without it."
(-Sunday Star, Singapore)

"Suarez's beautifully laid out book will appeal to cartographers, map collectors and anyone keen to explore the history of the region through the looking glass of the early map... a scholarly and sumptuous publication not just for those interested in cartography but for anyone interested in the history, geography and cultures of Southeast Asia."
(-ZingAsia)

"Suarez very astutely details observations from the differing geographical and cosmological perspectives... he makes us feel what an exciting place Southeast Asia is for the traveller and adventurer."
(-Harold Stephens in The Bangkok Post)

Thomas Suárez's admirable project, Early Mapping of Southeast Asia, patently a years-long labor of love, presents a history of contacts between Europe and Southeast Asia by means of maps and their development over the centuries. It is a story of fact and of fantasy, exploitation and trade, understanding and misunderstanding, and it is gorgeously illustrated by old, older, and ancient maps.. ... [the images] painstakingly and beautifully reproduced... readable and informative.
(-Douglas Spangle, The Asian Reporter)

"Suarez provides an excellent history of the region and its geographical importance, examining the history of its representation and exploration."
(-Midwest Book Review)

"Tom Suarez brings the subject to life with scholarly care and fine, clear writing ...for the first time we have a comprehensive and careful volume devoted entirely to the cartographic history of this important and fascinating area."
(-Mercators World Magazine).

"A truly exceptional book."
(-Going Places).
CONTENTS

Part I  -  Southeast Asia
1. The Land and Peoples of Southeast Asia
2. Southeast Asian Maps and Geographic Thought
3. Asian Maps of Southeast Asia

Part II  -  The Early Mediterranean and European Record
4. Asia and Classical Europe
5. Medieval Europe
6. European Pioneers

Part III  -  The View from the Deck: Early European Maps
7. Europe's Quest for a Sea Route to the Indies
8. A Confusion of Peninsulas and Dragon Tails
9. Printed Maps Through 1538
10. First Maps from the Spanish Voyages 1525-1540
11. Giacomo Gastaldi's Three Models 1548-1565
12. Tangling with Terra Australis and Snared by the Linea
13. 1570 - ca. 1600: Diversity in a Transition to Standardization

Part IV  -  Companies and Colonization
14. The Advent of the East India Companies
15. The Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries
16. The Nineteenth Century and the Mapping of the Interior

Endnotes
References
Index
Early Mapping of Southeast Asia, Thomas Suarez, 280 pages, approximately 160 color & b/w illustrations. Hardcover with dustjacket. Periplus Editions (Singapore) and Tuttle USA), 1999. ISBN 962-593-470-7. Distributed in the United States by Charles E. Tuttle, tel 800 526-2778