The Beginnings of the Sumitomo Corporation

Kodo zuroku [Illustrated Book on the Smelting of Copper].

27 full-page woodcuts (14 of which are partly color printed) by Tokei Niwa. 14, 6 folding leaves. Large 8vo, orig. wrappers (a little soiled), orig. block-printed title label on upper cover, new stitching. Osaka: Sumitomo clan, ca. 1801-11.

First edition of an important and fascinating illustrated work on the history and technology of smelting copper in Japan, which by the late 1670s had become the largest copper producing and exporting country in the world (replacing Sweden and replaced by China in the 1740s), with much of the copper being exported by the Dutch East India Company to European and Asian markets. Copper mining, refining, and exporting were the early primary businesses of what became the Sumitomo Corporation.

Masuda (d. 1821), who describes himself as a “slave” (employee) of the Sumitomo clan of Osaka, provides a history of the introduction of liquation (or Seiger process, invented in the early 15th century in Nuremberg) into Japan in 1591 by a Portuguese. The information was transmitted to Riemon Soga (1572-1636), a metallurgist and brother-in-law of Masatomo Sumitomo, the founder of the famous company. Japanese metallurgists modified the Seiger process and called it nanban-buki. The process spread throughout Japan and was first used to extract silver. By the middle of the 17th century, many silver mines had been exhausted, and copper mines began production. Soon, there were more than 200,000 miners and 100,000 charcoal producers at 50 copper mines throughout Japan.

The fine woodcuts are by Tokei Niwa (1760-1822), a prominent artist of the period, and 14 are color printed. They depict the stages of copper production from mining and hand sorting to smelting to casting into bars. Three of the plates show the steps of smelting the ore to produce black copper; the removal of silver is depicted on three further plates. The final 13 woodcuts, in black & white, show the tools used in the processes. All the plates have captions in Japanese describing the activities. One of the colored plates depicts men raising water from the mine to a height of 220 meters.

The final six leaves of text, written in Chinese with Japanese reading marks, give more details about nanban-buki along with an account of the Sumitomo clan and its important involvement in the copper industry.

Fine copy and quite rare.

❧ Smith, Cyril Stanley & Shirakawa, Zenryu, Kodo Zuroku: Illustrated Book on the Smelting of Copper (1983).

Price: $9,500.00

Item ID: 6852

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