The History of Japan: Giving an Account of the ancient and present State and Government of that Empire;
KAEMPFER Engelbert (1727.)
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of its Temples, Palaces, Castles, and other Buildings; of Its Metals, Minerals, Trees, Plants, Animals, Birds and Fishes; Of The Chronology and Succession of the Emperors, Ecclesiastical and Secular; Of The Original Descent, Religions, Customs and Manufactures of the Natives, and of their Trade and Commerce with the Dutch and the Chinese. Together with a Description of the Kingdom of Siam... With the Life of the Author and an Introduction. First English edition. 2 vols. Engraved half-title to vol. 1, 45 engraved maps & plates, many folding. Folio. Original boards, rebacked in calf. An honest, unsophisticated copy in very good condition, plate 1 supplied from another copy. [xii], lii, 391, [iv](explanation of plates), [vi](index to both volumes)pp.; [iv], pp.393-612, 75, [iv](explanation of plates)pp. London, Thomas Woodward,
Until the 19th century Kaempfer's 'History of Japan' was regarded as the single most important source about Japan. Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716), a German doctor with an urge to travel, joined the Swedish embassy to Persia under Louis Fabricius in 1683. Rather than return home to Europe he travelled throughout Persia and India (1684-89) and eventually made his way to Java where he signed up with the Dutch East India Company (VOC) who sent him to Nagasaki in 1690. Working as a surgeon he lived on Deshima island for close to four years and spent much of his spare time studying the language, history, medicine and botany of Japan. With the help of his interpreter Imamura Gen'eimon Eisei (1671-1736) he formed an important collection of books, maps, and artefacts which he managed to take back with him to Europe (the collection is now in the British Library). Twice he was allowed to make the journey to Edo on the annual mission (Edo sanpu) to visit the Shogun. He secretly took a compass which gave him the opportunity to collect the most accurate geographical information to date of the region along the Tokaido and parts of Kyushu. Amongst the beautifully engraved plates are nine section maps of the journey to Edo and it is the combination of these maps with the descriptive text that is of a precision and detail hitherto unknown. The 'History of Japan' was first published by C. Scheuchzer (1702-29), librarian to Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) who had acquired Kaempfer's manuscripts as well as his collection after his death. It contains a wealth of information on Japanese customs, culture, medicine (acupuncture), and botany. The present first edition with the date of 1727 on the title is particularly rare. It does not include the 'Second Appendix' which was only issued in the following year. Cordier, 414-415; Streit VI, 1429; Laures, 594; Landwehr 530.
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