“The First Japanese Monograph on Chemistry”–Mestler

Seimi kaiso [Elements of Experimental Chemistry].

Trans. by Yoan Udagawa. 14 finely detailed full-page woodcuts, several heightened in gray, red, silver, or blue wash. 21 vols. bound in seven. 8vo, orig. green patterned embossed wrappers, orig. block-printed title label on upper covers, new stitching. Edo: 1837.

First edition in Japanese of William Henry’s The Elements of Experimental Chemistry, which first appeared in English as An Epitome of Chemistry (London: 1801). It was a very successful book with numerous revised and enlarged editions; by the sixth edition, of 1810, the title Epitome had changed to The Elements, which also enjoyed numerous editions and translations.

“Seimi Kaiso plays an important role in the remarkable story of Western scientific influences in Japan. When this work first appeared in 1837, Japan had been almost completely isolated from the larger world for two centuries. The Japanese were not allowed to travel abroad, and only the Chinese and the Dutch were permitted to enter Japan. From about 1720, however, a group of Japanese scholars began studying and translating Dutch scientific literature that reported achievements taking place throughout Europe. Known in Japanese as the Rangakusha, meaning ‘scholars of the Dutch school,’ this group made certain that the advances of modern scientific knowledge would not elude Japan…

“Udagawa Yoan, (1797-1846), a Rangakusha and younger member of the learned Udagawa family, is said to have introduced chemistry into Japan with Seimi Kaiso. It was based on a Dutch translation of William Henry’s popular book, first published in 1800 [sic] as An Epitome of Chemistry and later as The Elements of Experimental Chemistry. Re-working the Dutch text into Japanese, however, was much more than mere translation. Yoan had to develop new terminology to describe chemical substances and processes, expanding the Japanese vocabulary of chemistry as he deepened his own understanding of the science.”–from the Corning Museum of Glass’s website.

This work describes, for the first time in detail in Japan, the revolutionary findings and theories of Lavoisier. Udagawa coined a number of scientific terms that are still in current use in Japan, including those for “oxygen,” “hydrogen,” “nitrogen,” “carbon,” “platinum,” “oxidation,” “reduction,” “saturation,” “dissolution,” “analysis,” “element,” etc.

Henry (1774-1836), studied under Black at Edinburgh University and became a partner in his father’s chemical works. He lectured on chemistry in London.

The illustrations are particularly well wood-engraved.

A very fine set.

❧ D.S.B., VI, pp. 284-86. Mestler, Old Japanese Medical Books, I, p. 327–”The first Japanese monograph on chemistry was the Shamitsu (or Seimi or Shemi) kaiso, published in 1837 by Yoan Udagawa (1798-1846). This was an introduction to chemistry, incorporating translations from The elements of experimental chemistry (edition unknown) of William Henry, and unidentified works of Plenck, Blumenbach, and Ypey, together with accounts of the personal experiences of Udagawa. Shamitsu kaiso includes a chemical analysis of the waters of hot springs in Japan.”.

Price: $8,500.00

Item ID: 7007