Manuscript on paper. Two hand-drawn maps & a diagram of a Japanese sword. OFFICIAL REPORTS, LETTERS FROM THE BAKUMATSU ERA.
Manuscript on paper. Two hand-drawn maps & a diagram of a Japanese sword.
Manuscript on paper. Two hand-drawn maps & a diagram of a Japanese sword.
Manuscript on paper. Two hand-drawn maps & a diagram of a Japanese sword.

Manuscript on paper. Two hand-drawn maps & a diagram of a Japanese sword.

Three parts in two vols. 139; 86 folding leaves. 8vo (235 x 165 mm.), cont. patterned covers (extremities a little worn), new stitching. Edo: ca. 1863.

A fascinating compilation of contemporary reports chronicling the first 11 years of the turbulent Bakumatsu era, 1853-67, the period between Commodore Perry’s first visit to Japan and the establishment of the Meiji government. These two volumes consist of manuscript copies of high-level official documents in the years 1853 to 1863, describing pivotal moments in Japan’s history that fundamentally shaped its relationship to the rest of the world.

Heralding the end of the Edo period and a Tokugawa-controlled government, the Bakumatsu period saw Japan end its policy of strict isolationism. The shogun reluctantly accepted that interactions with the rest of the world were unavoidable; however, sizable factions steadfastly and violently resisted opening Japan to the world. The influx of Americans, British, Russians, French, and Dutch in several port cities instigated numerous crimes against foreigners. In one notable incident in January 1861, a group of samurai assassinated a Dutchman named Henry Heusken, who was serving as secretary and interpreter for the American embassy. That summer, at the British legation in Edo, a band of ronin (masterless samurai) attacked ambassador Rutherford Alcock and several other diplomats, killing two.

Composed in a single hand, our manuscript preserves firsthand reports on many consequential events during the first ten years of the Bakumatsu period. These include detailed accounts of:

—an American ship approaching Haneda in 1853. The text of the letter from President Fillmore delivered by Perry and a hand-drawn map of the Uraga Channel and the positions of American ships follows;

—an early sighting from Tsushima Island of a Russian ship on 13 April 1854;

—Perry’s second expedition;

—the 1858 Treaty of Amity and Commerce between Japan and the United States;

—the Sakuradamon incident;

—the marriage of Princess Kazunomiya to Shogun Iemochi;

—the Tenchugumi incident (accompanied by a hand-drawn map of the battlefield);

—the Namamugi incident;

—the battle of Shimonoseki Straits;

—the British bombardment of Kagoshima;

—the closure of Yokohama to foreigners;

—and many other pivotal events.
In most of these episodes, the main figures, both Japanese and Western, are listed.

Throughout the two volumes we have eyewitness insights into the reactions and decision-making of Japanese officials as they were confronted with seemingly existential threats. There are several copies of communiqués from the shogun to fiefdom lords, which are either orders or inquiries soliciting advice from the lords. We also learn about contingency plans, the formulation of replies to foreign demands, and efforts to reassure the Japanese people — for example, an order for citizens to pray accompanied the production of 100 special white-silver coins to be donated to temples across the country for good luck.

The anxieties of Japanese officials about opening the country to foreigners are expressed repeatedly, and reveal the divide between those accepting of it and those who strove to reverse it. This dilemma came to a head with the Sakuradamon incident, when ronin of the Mito clan brazenly murdered Ii Naosuke, the head diplomat who had signed the 1858 treaty with the United States. This event is described at length in this manuscript, and the account even records the punishments handed down to the perpetrators.

In good condition and composed in a legible and neat hand. The volume marked “I & II” on the cover has several worm trenches touching text. The other book has only a few wormholes, which do not touch the text.

❧ Reinier H. Hesselink, “The Assassination of Henry Heusken,” Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 49, No. 3 (Autumn, 1994), pp. 331-51. John McMaster, “Alcock and Harris: Foreign Diplomacy in Bakumatsu Japan,” Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 22, No. 3/4 (1967), pp. 305-67.

Price: $7,500.00

Item ID: 6674