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Otsuki Genkan. 西音發微 [Seion Hatsubi]. n.p. [182-?] 26x18cm original wrapper; 3;31;7 double folded leaves (ie 82pp). Some worming, only of moment on a couple of leaves where a couple of characters are obliterated. In a modern chitzu. Au$275

An exact manuscript copy of this pioneering study of western pronunciation by one of the more eminent scholars of Dutch studies. The Seion Hatsubi was published somewhere around 1826 and this is obviously contemporary. Our copyist has skipped the publisher's advertisements at the ends but has otherwise done a job that needs more than a cursory glance to discern from the printed book, even to the extent of reproducing the seals at the beginning and end of the preface.
There is a fine tradition of manuscript copies of rare or supressed books in Japan but this is the most exact facsimile I've seen. There is an inscription and small seal inside the back cover that may well identify the transcriber but I can't read it.


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Giichi Akita. [The entry used by Worldcat names him Hodo Akita]. 算法地方大成 [Sanpo Jikata Taisei]. Tokyo, Kitajima Junshiro &c 1837 (Tenpo 8). Five volumes (25x18cm) publisher's wrappers; 4,156 double folded leaves, numerous woodcut illustrations. A very good set. Au$450

First edition of this manual of land management and surveying, published at a troublesome time in Japanese history: the 1830s brought a movement, fiercely resisted by the authorities, towards the adoption of western science and technology and, relevant to this book in particular, a period of horrendous drought, famine and unrest in rural Japan.
Land surveying was primarily concerned with taxation and, before the Meiji reforms, accurate measurement was not only unimportant but unwanted. The extent and value of land was a matter for negotiation.
The intricacies of Japanese land surveying in the early modern period demand long learned essays - and after reading a couple I'm none the wiser - but what is clear is that this book is a major work in the history of rural engineering, survey and management.
It was also problematic for the authorities: "problems in surveyor education were aggravated by government censorship. Bakufu officials did not want administrative uses of survey techniques discussed in public. Under the guise of 'respect authority; despise the people (kanson minpi),' the mysteries of official practice were not to be released to the public domain." (Brown: A Case of Failed Technology Transfer - Land Survey Technology in Early Modern Japan; 1998).
The authorities did suppress or attempt to suppress the Sanpo Jikata Taisei; Brown refers us to the preface of the 1976 reprint of this book for details and I came across another reference that claimed the woodblocks were destroyed. This seems fairly scarce outside Japan; the title is well represented in western libraries but once we discard the 1976 reprint I found only two libraries with originals through Worldcat.


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Kurofune Kawaraban. Perry and the Black Ships in Japan. Kawaraban or illustrated news sheet titled 亜墨利加舩号人物姓名録 [Amerika sengo jinbutsu seimei-roku - Details of the people from the American ships]. n.p. n.d. [1854]. Woodblock printed broadside 17x24cm. Some insect holes in the margins repaired. Au$1050

These illicit illustrated news sheets for the streets were produced by the million for a couple of hundred years so of course few survive. They were produced for anything more interesting than the drop of a hat and the arrival of the Black Ships, the American squadron commanded by Perry, in 1854 eclipsed any and all tiresome earthquakes, fires, plagues, famines, murders and scandals. For most Japanese this was the same as a squadron of alien space ships arriving on earth now. These prints are the kurofune kawaraban.
The columns of detail about the members of the ships - and it may well be fact - give this the authority of documentary evidence but what is immediately clear is that the artist drew this view of the procession carrying gifts from description. He certainly had never seen an American and had no authentic picture to copy from, so things unfamiliar have become things somewhat familiar: the Americans' odd hats are like those of the mongol Chinese, Americans carry swords so naturally they would be carried on their back. What must also have been described and is beautifully caught is that Americans are a shambling, undisciplined bunch but they seem cheery enough.
So, why not use pictures of the Dutch as models? Was this issued in some provincial city where even images of the Dutch were unfamiliar? Did the differences as described overwhelm the similarities? Or, as I suspect, was it a canny commercial decision that a new alien race that looked much like the Dutch would sell no papers?
The Ryosenji - the Black Ship Museum in Japan, which boasts the largest collection of Black Ship material - does have a copy of this among the fewer than twenty kawaraban they list. I can't find one anywhere else.


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Kurofune Kawaraban. Perry and the Black Ships in Japan. Kawaraban or illustrated news sheet of a sumo wrestler defeating three American sailors while American and Japanese onlookers laugh and clap. n.p. n.d. [1854]. Woodblock printed broadside 17x24cm. Some insect holes in the margins repaired. Au$1150

A joyous depiction of perhaps the first international wrestling match in Japan? The text explains that first one, then two, then three foreigners took on the Sumo wrestler. Our artist captures the moment one hits the ground and the other two are about to follow him. The Americans are laughing hard enough to cry while two of the Japanese spectators take their role as critics or judges seriously. Are they a summation of Japanese reactions to the westerners: disapproval, delight and a clinical determination to do the job right?
There exists a kawaraban perhaps by the same artist showing Sumo wrestlers delivering a gift of rice for the Americans to the beach close to their ships. Three wrestlers pirouhette and juggle hefty bales of rice like toys. There was quite a bit of fun in these meetings despite the arrogant aggression of Perry himself.
The Ryosenji - the Black Ship Museum in Japan, which boasts the largest collection of Black Ship material - doesn't have a copy of this in their catalogue and I can't find one anywhere else.


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Kurofune Kawaraban. Perry and the Black Ships in Japan. 海陸御固附 [Kairiku Okatame Tsuke]. [Tokyo? 1854 (Kaei 6)]. Woodcut broadside 41x62cm on two sheets joined in the middle. Folded, a small repair in the bottom margin, a couple of pin holes; a remarkably good copy. Au$2400


Perry's ships in the bay and the defensive array of clans with tens or hundreds of thousands of troops along the shorelines was a popular kawaraban subject; this and one similar are the largest and busiest I've seen. The other version I've seen of this - titled Shinkoku Taihei Take Mori Mata Akira - is the same size, looks similar and features the American sailor in the corner, but is printed from different blocks with the ships in a different spot.


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[BRIDGMAN, Elijah Coleman.] Mitsukuri Genpo. 聨邦志畧 [Renpo Shiryaku]. Tokyo, Yorozuya Heishiro 1864 (Genji 1). Two volumes, large octavo by size (260x180mm) publisher's stitched embossed yellow wrappers with printed labels (marked or dusty); 50 & 54 leaves (ie 208pp in all); five full page maps with colour and a fair quantity of small maps, some with colours; woodcut illustrations. A rather good copy, quite fresh inside. Au$1500

First edition of the adaptation by Mitsukuri Genpo of the American missionary Bridgman's Da Mei lian bang zhi lue published in Shanghai in 1861 or 62; this was reprinted in 1871.
The Shanghai version has been wrongly claimed as the first account of America in Chinese - but it's sort of true as it is a revision of Meilige heshengguo zhilue published by Bridgman in Singapore in 1838. It isn't so for the Japanese. This was preceeded by the fabulous (in the true sense of the word) Meriken Shinshi of 1855 but I suspect this is their first thorough and ostensibly trustworthy account, written as it is by an actual American. I also suspect that the Meriken Shinshi is a sort of reverie inspired, in part at least, by the earlier Chinese edition of Bridgman.
I should make it clear that this is an account of the United States, not of the Americas. The first volume is general, covering history, government, education, culture ... and the second volume zooms in on individual states illustrated by a number of small local maps. It is the first account of American democratic government for the Japanese. I can't tell you how Mitsukuri dealt with Bridgman's reformist, proselytising, aim but anything produced by Mitsukuri carried a lot of weight. A physician by early training he was a scholar of the west and pioneered the introduction of western science, medicine and technology (like the first description of a steam engine) into Japan, usually via the Dutch or Chinese - pretty much the only means of transmission - and served as translator for the Perry mission in 1853.


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CORNELL, Sophia S. Cornell's Primary Geography for the Use of Schools. First Edition. 地学初歩 [Chigaku Shoho]. Yedo. [Edo (ie Tokyo), Watanabe [1866?]. 18x12cm publisher's wrapper (insect blemished, title label missing); [72]pp on double folded leaves and seven folding colour maps, two colour maps and some illustrations in the text. A stain in the top corner; a thoroughly decent copy. Au$500

I wonder what, if anything, a Japanese student made of Miss Cornell. After her nonsense about Japan, how could anything else she said be taken seriously? Miss Cornell's Primary Geography - one of a string of geographies she prepared for all stages of schooling - first appeared in New York in 1855.
Here we are introduced to the concept and working parts of a map, then run through a brief introduction to the regions of the world.
There seem to be two printings of this "First Edition"; one dated "the 2nd year of Kei-ou" on the title and apparently without a colophon; the other (our copy) not dated, with a colophon. In this undated copy the text is within borders, the other not. Waseda University also has a third, quite different printing but their copy is severely defective and has no title page or colophon. A Japanese translation was made in 1867. Worldcat finds only one copy of this outside Japan.


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Tameto Abe. 英学捷徑七ッ以呂波 [Eigaku shokei nanatsu iroha]. Tokyo : Harimaya Kiemon, 1867 (Keio 3). 18x12cm publisher's wrapper with title label (midly used); 18 double folded leaves (ie 36pp). Signs of use, an ink smudge across one leaf; still rather good. Au$400

A neat manual for learning to write the English alphabet - it is specifically English rather than generic western - which is read western style: it opens right to left.


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[Fukuzawa Yukichi]. 西洋各國事情 [Seiyo Kakkoku Jijo]. Osaka, 1868 (Keio 4). Three volumes octavo by size (180x125mm) publisher's wrappers with printed title labels; 38; 80; 84 double folded leaves (ie 404pp) including 14 full page colour woodblocks (six form three double page plates), introductory pages to volume one with colour borders. A rather good set. Au$1850

Fukazawa was a member of the first Japanese embassies to the United States, in 1859, and Europe, in 1862, and his Seiyo Jijo (Things Western), the most important and influential Japanese study of western nations of the period, was published in parts betweeen 1866 and 1870. It was such a best seller that piracies, fakes and spin-offs soon appeared.
This is one of those fakes but it is, thanks to the illustrations, far more appealing than the original. The foreign ships and Russians are charming but not so remarkable, the flags sometimes puzzling, but the plate of western handwriting is mysterious and intriguing and the four panel view of a massive canal towering high over a port city must be one of the best imaginary architecture renderings of all time.


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Masakata Ishibashi. 英語箋 [Eigosen]. Tokyo [Bankyukau c1870?]. Two volumes (18x12cm) publisher's wrappers, title labels mostly gone. Some worming at each end of volume one, unsightly on a couple of leaves but not serious. Pleasingly used, with some annotations in red, some pencilled notes and a bored-student kabuki face brush drawn at the end of the first volume. Au$375

A comparatively substantial English Japanese vocabulary and conversation book which like many of their first such manuals I suspect is based on some outdated, possibly Dutch model. There seems no other explanation for the long chat about what can only be the Napoleonic wars.
The expected errors are sweetly amusing of course but I think I can see two completely different kinds of errors - those that come from phonetic transcription and those that come from copying alien writing. In more than one case I suspect the woodcutter gave up and aimed at a swirl that held the spirit of the word he had to copy.
Waseda University illustrates their copies of an 1861 edition, an 1872 edition and an undated edition. This most closely resembles the 1872 edition but there are several differences.


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Hashizume Kan'ichi. 世界商売往来 [Sekai Shobai Orai]. Tokyo, Seikichi 1871 [Meiji 4]. 180x120mm publisher's wrapper (a bit rumpled); 26 double folded leaves; one full page and numerous small illustrations throughout. Title page on yellow with a man operating some mysterious, to me, mechanism. Au$385

First edition of this handy bilingual vocabulary of world trade giving the English, with Japanese explanations, of a wide range of terms, quantities, goods, professions, and so on.
I used to think the bibliography of Hashizume's handbooks on foreign trade was straightforward: three, this, the first in 1871 following it up with two more in 1873. Since then I've discovered variants and variants of variants. There are some of the expected errors in spelling and typography but far fewer than in the later books.
Hashizume, who specialised in handbooks on trade and on foreign languages, produced, I think, maybe four of these guides for merchants with similar titles. This is the first and the next two or three supplement this.


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Hashizume Kan'ichi. 世界商売往来 [Sekai Shobai Orai]. Tokyo 1871? 180x120mm publisher's wrapper (title label with a small chip); 26 double folded leaves; one full page colour and numerous small colour illustrations throughout, a half-page plain illustration inside the front cover. Clearly a read copy, with some small blotches and smudges but still rather good. Au$750

The deluxe colour edition. I've seen a couple of copies of the second edition, 1873, not in colour. Neither can I find a record of a colour copy of any edition. Waseda University illustrates a copy of the 1871 edition with the half page illustration inside the front cover in colour but nothing else.
Clearly even workaday Japanese books like this can be intricate enough to please any French bibliophile.


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VAN DER PYL, R. [Reinier van der Pijl]. 英吉利會話篇 [[Igirisu Kaiwahen] Conversation of English Language; for those, who begin to learn the English. Third edition. Numadz, Watanabe 1871 (Meiji 4). 183x122mm publisher's wrapper with printed label (wrapper discoloured); title leaf and 50pp. Several annotations and corrections in pencil and ink. A nice copy. Au$350

I would elect this a pioneering piece of Chindogu (Japanese unuseless inventions) but that phrase books have a long history of being nonsensical. You may wonder at the lack of parallel Japanese translations in this and suspect that, illogical as it would be, a companion volume exists but it's all weirder than that. No Japanese-English version ever existed.
This evolved out of a Dutch guide for learners of English, 'Gemeenzame Leerwijs ...', that was already out of date by the time it was reprinted in Japan in 1857. But it made sense that scholars of things Dutch could use it as a bridge to the fresh urgency of learning English. By the beginning of Meiji learning English was ever more important and Dutch obsolete so naturally enough the Dutch half is dumped and we are left with a series of quaint, stilted, often incorrect, exchanges of little use to anyone in Japan in the seventies.
I don't know how much van der Pijl is to blame and how much is local corruption. Nevertheless, three editions and the annotations show that this was used, carefully used. Waseda University helpfully illustrates its copy, likewise, but not identically, dutifully annotated, which all goes a long way toward explaining the Japanese approach to English for the next century or so.


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英字訓蒙図解 [Eiji Kunmo Zukai or Ei Kuno Zukai depending on the transcriber]. Kyoto, Ogawa Kinsuke 1871 (Meiji 4). 225x155mm publisher's wrapper with title label; woodblock illustrations throughout. Some worming and a marginal stain, neat repairs to the first few margins. A very decent copy with its colour illustrated outer wrapper, this smudged and rumpled but complete and untorn. Au$750

A rare and most appealing illustrated introduction to English. To an extent unseen in any other non-western culture faced with the colonial ambitions of the west the Japanese controlled their own re-education. They were not showered with unwanted primers by missionaries and other pious businessmen. They produced, printed and determinedly digested their own, using whatever sources they could find, the occasional hired expert and their imagination.
The more I look at books like these, which were assiduously studied, the more I wonder how anyone learnt any English. How many Japanese went to their graves calling a camera a desk and hoping for an opportunity to introduce 'pluckant' into conversation?
Leaving aside errors, books like these make no sense as tools to me but tens, hundreds, of thousands of Japanese students set out with these as guides on the road of bunmei kaika - government sponsored enlightenment and civilization - and got there way faster than anyone should have. The more I think about it the more I wonder how anyone learns any language.


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和西十體以呂波 [Wasei Jutai Iroha]. Tokyo, Yoshidaya Bunzaburo 1871 [Meiji 4]. 165x63mm, publisher's wrapper with title label (rumpled and forgivably grubby); 30pp accordian folding. Used but a more than decent copy. Au$475

A nifty little pocket book - that opens right to left like western books - teaching how to write English letters but not in English. This teaches how to write Japanese phonetically with the English or romanised alphabet - what was to become romaji.
The Portugese missionaries had formulated a romanised system so that missionaries could instruct their Japanese victims without having to learn how to read Japanese but once they were tossed out of Japan such a system was quickly forgotten. It was only with the Meiji restoration and orders from the top that modernisation must follow that making Japanese intelligible to westerners became a desirable skill.
At the end are numbers, the twelve animals of the zodiac - more or less, unfamiliar characters and spelling defeated the writer or block cutter on a few - and the seasons and points of the compass.
This seems rare, both in and outside Japan. OCLC finds no copies and my searches of Japanese libraries finds only one copy - in the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.


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Hashizume Kan'ichi. 大日本國盡 英字三體 [Dai Nihon Kunizukushi - Eiji Santai]. Tokyo, Wan'ya Keihe 1871 [Meiji 4]. 18x13cm publisher's wrapper (a bit used, label missing); 36pp on 18 double folded leaves; opening right to left. Au$300

A writing guide teaching how to read and write the English alphabet in its three guises but not in English. One of the earlier attempts at formulating what is now Romaji; Hashizume here standardizes Japanese place names into phonetic transliteration.
Worldcat finds a couple of copies in Japan, none outside.


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Hashizume Kan'ichi. 續編世界商賣往來 [Zokuhen Sekai Shobai Orai]. Tokyo, Gankinya Seikichi 1872 (Meiji 5). 180x120mm publisher's wrapper without title label (cover marked); 26 double folded leaves; one double page illustration and several small illustrations through the text, title page framed in blue Fairbanks standing scales. Mildly used. Au$350

First edition I think of this handy bilingual vocabulary of world trade giving the English, with Japanese explanations, of a wide range of terms, quantities, goods, professions, and so on. I used to think the bibliography of Hashizume's handbooks on foreign trade was straightforward - three, the first in 1871 following it up with two more in 1873. Since then I've discovered variants and variants of variants.
This book isn't 'Zokuzoku Sekai Shobai Orai' as I first thought. The contents are completely different. Zokuzoku begins with foreign measures of quantity, this begins with foreign currencies. Like that the English text has been cut in wood, it isn't type. There are some endearing spelling mistakes, mishapen or reversed letters and odd truncations - fewer than in the later book - but more puzzling than these are some of the chosen terms for Japanese traders to learn. The tools of trade for printers and binders are included, which makes sense - as do fruit and vegetables - but how many merchants dealt in camels and leopards?


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Heidosai Shujin & Ryuu Joshi. 世界一覧 [Sekai Ichiran]. Tokyo, Izumiya Ichibee 1872 [Meiji 5]. Two volumes 235x155mm, publisher's wrappers with title labels (a label apparently removed from the bottom of the first wrapper); 48;52pp on double folded leaves and a double page colour world map, smaller woodcut maps and illustrations throughout. A rather good pair. Au$850

A beguiling book, both as a digest of the world and as an essay in digesting exotic western typefaces and scripts; in digesting all things western really, from language to image. Curious that by 1872 Japan had plenty of pictures of the outside world to study and while the maps seem pretty accurate the views are still like imaginings worked up from descriptions. The pyramids seem to be in a jungle - perhaps the artist couldn't imagine desert and thought his model incomplete - and poor Paris, without an Eiffel Tower to centre on, is just a railway works yard.
Is the text an adaptation from Chinese? I can't find any such reference and I can't find another copy of this outside the National Diet Library.


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Yanagawa Shunsan. 西洋時計便覽 [Seiyo Tokei Benran]. Tokyo, Yamatoya Kihee 1872 [Meiji 5]. 185x80mm publisher's stiff wrapper with title label (marked), accordian folding to form 34pp with woodblock illustrations throughout. A nice copy. Au$750

An introduction to the western watch and its workings and - more important - western time and how to tell it. Roman numerals and the hour, minute and seconds hands are explained and a series of watch faces guide us through the rest of the intricacies of measuring time in the western style.
Obviously for the pocket, this could be hauled out with the new gizmo when its fledgling owner was stumped. Or even by a non-watch owner faced with a public clock. At the end the thermometer is illustrated and explained too.
This is not to say that the Japanese hadn't already mastered the clock. Since the Jesuits introduced clocks in the 16th century Japanese clockmakers had developed complex weight and spring driven mechanisms to run timekeepers according to the unequal hours of day and night, varying according to season. But in 1872 the government switched from the lunar calendar to the solar calendar and abolished traditional timekeeping and a whole nation had to start again from scratch.
Makes sense to me that daylight hours are longer and night hours shorter in summer and the reverse in winter. We all know that despite what the clock says all hours are not created equal. Bring back traditional Japanese timekeeping I say.


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英和早学字引便覧 English, Japanesh, Small Dictionary; [Eiwa haya-gaku jibiki Binran]. Tokyo, Osaka? 1872 (Meiji 5). 16x6cm publisher's wrapper with title label; illustrated title in English on red paper, 30pp accordian folding, first page printed in blue. Owner's inscriptions on the covers. A pleasing copy, a most pleasing book. Au$450

Perfect for the narrowest pocket, or sleeve maybe. The explanatory Japanese with each of the 509 entires is tiny and clear.
Osaka Women's University has a copy and that's all I could find anywhere. The NDL database lists it only on microfilm as part of a collection of English studies titles issued in the seventies.


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Train at Night. Japanese colour woodcut of a train and signal man. n.p. n.d. Early Meiji, c1872? 160x375mm, a few small holes. Au$650

Before even the first train hit the rails every person in Japan who could hold a brush or chisel was hard at work turning out prints of trains. They range from naive scratches to elaborate pageants of life in modern Japan but I've never seen another like this. The format and the style mark it out but maybe more remarkable is that this is a train at night.
Kiyochika is credited with being the first to upend the conventions of how the machine was to be seen with his mordant and somewhat fictional print 'View of Takanawa Ushimachi Under a Shrouded Moon' of 1879 which shows how the train changed the night wherever it went - which in turn was a reversal of most prints in that series which show how night changes the world.
The anonymous print here might be loaded with symbolism but there is no play of light and shadow; there is no ambiguity, no hint of landscape to be obliterated, no way to read melancholy into it. There is nothing of traditional Japan here, only telegraph poles, train, signalman in western uniform waving the train onward with the new national flag, westward ho. The only hint of the past here is the heroic stance of the signal man, familiar from prints of warriors urging their troops into battle.
Undoubtedly this is the train that will run between Tokyo and Yokohama starting in 1872.


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