In 2009 a highly unusual map was found in the Bodlean Library archives. Unusual enough that it might have been considered a fake, if not for the fact that the records of the Library receiving the map in 1659 still exist. It’s an early 17th century map in Chinese of China and Indonesia and out to the Philippines and Japan, and it looks like no other known Chinese map.

Brook’s book is an idiosyncratic look at this map with lots of connected history included. It tours through a number of different subjects, such as the origins of modern international law, and really doesn’t come together as a cohesive whole.

That said, I really enjoyed the book. The various subjects are all interesting, especially as Brook tells it. Also, it’s not all that long, so nothing has a chance to outstay its welcome.

And, while a lot of the book is on the world around the map, there are little bits of tales of Brook figuring out things about it, and at the end he finally talks about what we can know about where it comes from. Most interestingly, the map started with defining the trade routes of the region, and then arranged the land masses around those.