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January 12, 2010

Rare 1602 World Map, the First Map in Chinese to Show the Americas, on Display at Library of Congress, Jan. 12 to April 10

A rare, 400-year-old map that displays China at the center of the world will be on exhibit at the Library of Congress from Jan. 12 to April 10, before it heads to its intended home at the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota. The map is on loan from the James Ford Bell Trust.

The Matteo Ricci World Map, the first in Chinese to show the Americas, will be on exhibit for the first time in North America, joining the Library of Congress’ cartographic gem, the 1507 Waldseemüller World Map, in the ongoing exhibition "Exploring the Early Americas." The exhibit is free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday, in the Northwest Pavilion on the second floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.

After the three-month display, the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division will digitally scan the 1602 document and make the electronic image available to scholars and students for research.

"When the James Ford Bell Trust asked the Library to be the site for unveiling the Ricci map in North America, I was delighted," said Deanna Marcum, associate librarian for Library Services. "The Ricci map, the first map in Chinese to show the Americas, will be placed near the Library’s Waldseemüller Map of 1507, the first document to name America and to depict a separate and full Western Hemisphere. These two maps will ‘talk’ to each other, offering a unique perspective on East-West linkages."

The 1602 map was drawn by Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci (1552-1610), a missionary in China, and measures 5.5 feet tall by 12.5 feet wide. It was designed to be mounted on a folding screen.

The James Ford Bell Trust purchased the map for $1 million from the firm of Bernard J. Shapero, a noted dealer of rare books and maps in London, for the benefit of the James Ford Bell Library.

When the map returns to Minnesota, it will be displayed for a limited time at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Afterward it will move to its intended home in the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota.

The James Ford Bell Library documents the history and impact of international trade prior to 1800. Its premier collection of rare books, maps and manuscripts illustrates the ways in which cultural influences expanded worldwide, with a special emphasis on European interactions.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, with nearly 145 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site, in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill, and through its award-winning website at Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at

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PR 10-002
ISSN 0731-3527

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