This extremely rare, large format map is, importantly, the first advanced mineralogical map of Korea and the most accurate and detailed general map of the country made to date. Created by the Geological Survey Office of the Government-General of Korea, and issued in December 1927, it was used, especially in the form as seem here with contemporary mounting and rollers, as a ‘Headquarters Map’ by senior Japanese administrators and military officers for strategic planning and the exploitation of the country’s natural resources (which were desperately needed to fuel the Japanese Empire’s hyper-industrialized economy).
The result of decades of sophisticated trigonometrical surveys, the map provides an incredibly detailed and precise rendering of the countryside, labeling the locations of all cities, towns and villages, the exact delineation of coastlines, rivers, the sites of peaks with spot heights in metres, and the charting of railways, highways, local roads and the district and provincial boundaries.
The map is also the first advanced mineralogical map of Korea, based on years of geological investigations. It features the title and the names of major cities in both Kanji and English, with the mineralogical information assuming international forms, to make the map relatable to a global academic audience, even as if it was primarily intended for high level Japanese administrative use. The legend in the bottom margin provides the symbols employed on the map, being Latin letters and mineralogical symbols to identify the locations of natural resources across Korea, for example, gold, silver, lead, iron, copper, etc.
The map was intentionally printed in black and white, with details very carefully and clearly placed, for the purposes of clarity and so that any potential manuscript additions could potentially be added without creating unwanted visual distraction. Indeed, the present example of the map features contemporary manuscript additions in very neat red pen (which present in a very clear fashion, owing to the black and white background). The provincial boundaries are thus outlined in red, while a series of red triangles, some accompanied by numbers, are placed throughout the country, in obviously strategic locations, while a solitary pink arrow in crayon showing the movement between two points. The significance of the manuscript additions is a subject for further research, although it may have to do with the disbursement of military forces, as the locations of the red triangles seem to coincide with what would be barrack towns.
The present map was made during a period of intense activity and change. Japan wrested Korea from being a Chinese tributary state during the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-5) and preceded to progressively make Korea into a client state, before annexing the country and dissolving its government in 1910. From that point onwards, Japan severely repressed the Korean people and their culture with their military and security forces, while successfully harnessing the country’s human and natural resources into making Korea into an industrial powerhouse and a major source of support to the economy of Metropolitan Japan. Such a detailed map would have been vitally useful for administrative, industrial and military planning during a period of rapid development and change.
Importantly, the present map served as the template for the 朝鮮地質総圖 / General Geological Map of Chosen (Korea) (Tokyo: Kobayashi Printing Office, Shōwa 3 ), which appeared only three months later, in March 1928. It was the first scientifically accurate and complete general geological map of Korea. The basis of the map is identical to the present, save that coloured geological zones are overprinted according to the legend added in the lower left, while the title is also modified. Please see an image, courtesy of the Kyoto University:
A Note on Rarity
The map is very rare, it would have been issued in only a very limited print run, while most examples would have perished. We can locate 4 institutional examples worldwide, held by the Kyoto University Library; British Library; University of California – Berkeley Library and the University of Queensland Library. Moreover, we cannot trace any sales records for any other examples.
References: Kyoto University Library: 680//61/掛図40-154(2); British Library: Cartographic Items Maps X.3027; University of California – Berkeley: NRLF (UCB) G7901.H1 1928 .K6; University of Queensland Library: G7900 .S1000.1928.G46 1928; OCLC: 497860821, 1111560313, 21727257, 223029338; Вестник Геологического комитета (Vestnik Geologicheskogo komiteta / Bulletin of the Geological Committee), vol. 3 (Leningrad, 1928), p. 70.