Zoshi, narabini furoku [trans.: On the Viscera]. Toyo YAMAWAKI.
Zoshi, narabini furoku [trans.: On the Viscera].
Zoshi, narabini furoku [trans.: On the Viscera].

“An Outstanding Achievement”

Zoshi, narabini furoku [trans.: On the Viscera].

Four finely handcolored full-page woodcuts in the text. 40 folding leaves; 44 folding leaves. Two vols. 8vo, orig. wrappers (minor rubbing), orig. block printed title labels on upper covers, new stitching. Kyoto: Yojuin, 1759.

First edition of the first book to describe the first officially sanctioned dissection in Japan. Until the 18th century, Japanese medicine closely followed Chinese practices which did not regard anatomy as relevant to pathology or therapy. Additionally, there were strong social pressures against the use of dissections for medical research.

Yamawaki (1705-62), a member of one of the greatest medical families of Japan, studied traditional medicine under both Goto Gonzan and Kagawa Shuan but was far more interested in what could be achieved on an empirical basis. He developed a healthy skepticism toward the theories of the internal organs as used in Chinese medicine and wanted to know more about the structure of the human body and the functions of its organs.
“Toyo’s opportunity came in 1754 when five thieves were executed in Kyoto, and three medical men from Obama fief asked for and received, for the first time, official permission to dissect one corpse. This permission was granted by the lord of Obama fief. Toyo was invited to join this group for the observation. Their interest focused mainly on the internal organs…

“Toyo recorded his observations in 1759 in his Zoshi (on the viscera) which consisted of six pages of explanation and four pages of sketches drawn by his pupil Asanuma Sukemitsu. The sketches were reproduced by wood-block printing…The content was simple, elementary, and limited. Nothing of the head, muscles, nerves, or skeleton (except the spine) was recorded — all these had only minor places in Chinese medicine. Still, as the first record of a human dissection observed by Japanese medical scholars, it was an outstanding achievement. The impact on the Japanese medical world was extensive…

“Despite the criticism of more conservative doctors, the implications of Toyo’s work were clear, namely, that the few Chinese crude illustrations of the organs were unreliable, that there was much to be learned from further research based upon dissections, and that anatomical charts in Dutch medical books merited careful study due to their accuracy and precision.”–Sugimoto & Swain, Science & Culture in Traditional Japan, pp. 380-81.

The sketches for the plates were taken on the spot by the author’s disciple, Asanuma Suketsune, who was also a painter of the Maruyama school, famous for his works on anatomy.

Nice set, apparently married. With some mostly marginal worming in Vol. II and some minor worming in Vol. I.

❧ Mestler, A Galaxy of Old Japanese Medical Books, I, pp. 300, 310, & 316.

Price: $50,000.00

Item ID: 6230

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