Dutch Distillation Methods in Japan

Illustrated manuscript on paper, entitled on manuscript label on upper cover “[first two characters cannot be read but probably a reference to Dutch teaching] ryu abura gusuri shuge” [“[first two characters] School’s Collection of Descriptions of Oil Medicines”]; title on first leaf “Oranda abura gusuri no shuge” [“Collection of Dutch Oil Medicines Described”].

Written throughout in a fine neat hand. 14 finely painted color illus., some of which are full-page. 25 folding leaves. 8vo (290 x 200 mm.), orig. stiff blue boards, manuscript title label on upper cover, new stitching. [Japan]: mid-Edo.

A handsomely illustrated manuscript describing about 44 recipes of various medications and liniments using Dutch methods of distillation and other techniques. For each medicine, the anonymous author has provided the name phonetically from the Dutch in katakana, its Chinese/Japanese equivalent in kanji, recipes, and descriptions of the materials used in preparing each drug. Some of the ingredients include honey, lily flowers, worms, poppy seeds, deer horns, cinnamon, anise, ginger, orange peel, pine nuts, chicken eggs, sulphur, etc., etc.

The manuscript is beautifully illustrated with depictions of distillation apparatus, furnaces, cooling vessels, and receiver and storing flasks, each with extensive descriptions of its purpose and workings. These apparatus are finely depicted in colors of black, gray, green, yellow, orange, red, rust, and pink.

Most of the medications — including oleum rosarum, oleum cariophyllorum, and oleum chamomillae — were liniments or plasters to be applied to the skin, but in several cases, it is suggested that the drug should be diluted and applied to the eyes and ears for infections.

We learn from the final leaf that this was copied from the secret book by Gentetsu Nishi (1681-1760), a student of Chinzan Narabayashi. Nishi wrote a work based on Paré’s surgical writings, which was considered to be the most precise of all the books in surgery written by the followers of the Dutch school in Japan.

Price: $9,500.00

Item ID: 7006