The Arrival of Western Surgical Techniques in Japan;
A Richly Illustrated Luxury Manuscript

Manuscript on fine quality mulberry paper, entitled “Geka Soden” [trans.: “Complete Manual of Surgery” or “Red-Head Style Surgery Text”]. 39 leaves with 134 finely drawn & colored illus., including multiple illus. on many of the leaves, some full-page. 38 leaves (two are blank); 25 leaves (two are blank); 38 leaves (two are blank). Three vols. Small oblong folio (235 x 325 mm.), orig. patterned wrappers, new stitching. Preface in first volume dated 1706.

A richly illustrated manuscript, important in the history of medicine and surgery in Japan, revealing the introduction of European medical knowledge in Japan, through Ambroise Paré’s Chirurgie, Scultetus’s Armamentarium Chirurgicum, and Spigelius’s Opera. This is a luxury copy (one other similar set is at Nagasaki), in oblong folio format, and written and finely illustrated on fine thick mulberry paper. Our manuscript contains 134 exquisitely drawn and richly hand-colored illustrations.

Chinzan (or Eikyu) Narabayashi (1648-1711), belonged to a family of professional interpreters in Nagasaki and became proficient in the Dutch language. He had contact with several Dutch physicians on the island of Dejima and their influence inspired the young Japanese to forsake his profession to study medicine. By 1691, the shogunate offered him a position of “official physician.”

Narabayashi learned Western medicine from the Dutch doctors on Dejima and from them he acquired an edition of Paré’s Chirurgie in 1688. That very copy remained in the family until 1891 when it was presented to Tokyo University Library. It was destroyed during the 1923 earthquake and fire.

“Geka Soden” is based on the masterworks of Paré, Scultetus, and Spigelius and also took into consideration oral instructions given by Dutch physicians to Narabayashi, along with his own theories derived from his own surgical experiences. The text also reflects Chinese influences including the explanation of in-yo (the positive and negative) and applying prescriptions used in Chinese medicine. There are considerable similarities in structure in the first part to Chin Jikko’s (or Chen Shigong, 1555-1636) Geika Seiso or Waike zhengzong [trans.: Principles of Surgery], first published in China in 1617.

In 1706, Narabayashi’s “Geka Soden” first appeared in manuscript and copies were immediately made (the text was never published). An “ideal” complete copy of the “Geka Soden” consists of six parts:

1. “Geka Soden” [“Shikake sho”] (introduction to pathology and treatment of disease),

2. “Kinso sho” (on the treatment of wounds),

3. “Koyaku sho” (on treatment by the use of ointments and plasters),

4. “Abura-no-sho” or “Orandakoku yaku yu shuge” (on Dutch treatment by oils),

5. “Yushuyo shozu” (on the removal of oil), and

6. “Geka Soden Kinso tetsuboku-bu” (illustrations of the treatment of wounds).

According to Mestler (Part V, p. 192), the whereabouts of the original manuscript by Narabayashi is unknown and the only “ideal” copies with all six parts are in the Tokyo University Library (however, this is not listed in Japan’s Union on-line catalogue of Japanese books and manuscripts ) and the Takeda Science Foundation, Osaka (but this manuscript is in 8vo format, less finely illustrated, seems to be rather later, from the 1740s or later, and written by a student or disciple). Following the appearance in 1706 of Narabayashi’s original manuscript, the text and illustrations immediately became well-known and were very popular. Right away, the “Geka Soden” was copied in codex format and in scrolls and all of them, with the exception of the above-mentioned copies at Tokyo University and Takeda Science Foundation, included only selected parts. Even the Narabayashi family copy — not the original manuscript — contains only parts 1-4.

Mestler writes: “Chinzan’s manuscript was very popular among the Japanese, and is known to have been copied and recopied several times, in the process of which parts of the original work were almost certain lost or substitutions made.”–Part V, p. 192.

Our fine and beautifully illustrated manuscript consists of parts 1, 4, and 6, each in a separate volume; it was prepared in a luxurious oblong folio format and displays the most sophisticated drawings and ornamentation of any of the surviving manuscripts (along with the Nagasaki example which is in bad condition). It was acquired by Jean Blondelet in Japan sometime in the 1960s and was sold at auction in Paris in 2001 to Dr. Gabor Lukacs. Dr. Lukacs prepared a monograph which deals in part with “Geka Soden,” Regarding this manuscript, he has written: “The only known facts about its provenance is that the volumes were bought in Japan in the middle of the 1960s. The manuscript, in an exceptionally fine state of preservation in a pavlownia wood-box, does not carry any seal. It consists of three oblong-folio volumes, bound in brown, unrepaired, decorated paper. Endpapers protect the text on both sides. The leaves are unnumbered. The text is written on thick leaves made from mulberry, the most commonly used material of the period for papermaking. The manuscript, destined for the elite, is written in Chinese, the language of scholarship. Its compilation in the first years of the eighteenth century, coincides with the rise of Chinese cultural influence to an unprecedented level. The quality of the regular script, emphasizing the clarity of the ideographs, is indicative of a professional scribe without a particularly fine hand…

“The magnificent, coloured, carefully brush-painted, richly ornamented illustrations mark out the manuscript as a copy originally destined for an important person. To find illustrations at this level of execution in a medical work written before the Genroku period (1688-1704), or even during the whole of the eighteenth century is highly unusual, if not unequalled…

“The artist, endowed with an imaginative and unconventional mode of expression, must have received an advanced degree of formal training in one of the major workshops of Nagasaki. He was unquestionably intimately acquainted with the intention of the manuscript’s author. All the illustrations of Kinso tetsuboku zu appear to be the work of the same hand. The name of the artist remains unknown.”–Lukacs, Kaitai Shinsho. The Single most famous Japanese Book of Medicine & Geka Soden. An early very important Manuscript on Surgery (2008), p. 220.

As noted above, a very similar copy with the same contents survives at the Nagasaki University Medical Library. Apparently, the same scribe and artist prepared that manuscript as well. According to Dr. Lukacs, who examined the manuscript, it is in very bad condition.

As mentioned above, our copy of “Geka Soden” is in three oblong folio volumes. The first volume — “Shikake-sho” — is unillustrated. It is a general discussion on the pathology of diseases and their treatment. There is a Preface dated 1706 by Kaibara Ekiken (1630-1714), the most famous scholar in Japan at the time, and who was familiar with Western science, especially botany.

The second volume — “Orandakoku yaku yu shuge” — describes various medications and oils, many of which clearly come from Dutch pharmacopoeias. Others derive from Narabayashi’s own experiences and from Chinese medicine. The name of each medicament is followed by its source, therapeutic effect, and method of preparation. It is finely illustrated with depictions of distillation apparatus, furnaces, cooling vessels, and receiver and storing flasks which Narabayashi saw at Dejima. The distillation apparatus is clearly Western.

The final volume is entitled “Kinso tetsuboku-zu” and the text and illustrations clearly derive from Paré, Scultetus, and Spigelius along with information received from Dutch doctors on Dejima and readings of Chinese texts. The numerous illustrations are very finely drawn and are in rich fresh colors. There are illustrations of the opened skull, many kinds of saws and surgical instruments, a trepanned head from the front, a levatory placed on the trepanned head, the bandage of Galen, a dry suture to heal a facial wound, a patient with an eye injury, treatment of a hair lip, a bandage on a mutilated arm, dismembering knives, restorations of dislocated shoulders, restoration of a dislocated spine, extension of a broken humerus, surgical tools to remove bullets, amputation of a leg, removal of an arrow and a dart from the leg and thigh, more surgical tools, etc., etc.

While the human figures in the illustrations are in Western dress, they have “orientalized” faces.

We cannot trace any manuscript of “Geka Soden” in any library outside of Japan (and very few in Japan). This is the finest manuscript of this text to ever appear on the market.

In fine condition, preserved in a wooden box.

Price: $95,000.00

Item ID: 5974

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