Illustrated manuscript on paper, containing confidential Japanese reports on the American and Russian expeditions to Japan in 1853, entitled on manuscript title labels on upper covers: “Kaei zakki” [Reports from the Kaei Period]. REPORTS ON FOREIGNERS.
Illustrated manuscript on paper, containing confidential Japanese reports on the American and Russian expeditions to Japan in 1853, entitled on manuscript title labels on upper covers: “Kaei zakki” [Reports from the Kaei Period].
Illustrated manuscript on paper, containing confidential Japanese reports on the American and Russian expeditions to Japan in 1853, entitled on manuscript title labels on upper covers: “Kaei zakki” [Reports from the Kaei Period].
Illustrated manuscript on paper, containing confidential Japanese reports on the American and Russian expeditions to Japan in 1853, entitled on manuscript title labels on upper covers: “Kaei zakki” [Reports from the Kaei Period].
Illustrated manuscript on paper, containing confidential Japanese reports on the American and Russian expeditions to Japan in 1853, entitled on manuscript title labels on upper covers: “Kaei zakki” [Reports from the Kaei Period].
Illustrated manuscript on paper, containing confidential Japanese reports on the American and Russian expeditions to Japan in 1853, entitled on manuscript title labels on upper covers: “Kaei zakki” [Reports from the Kaei Period].
Illustrated manuscript on paper, containing confidential Japanese reports on the American and Russian expeditions to Japan in 1853, entitled on manuscript title labels on upper covers: “Kaei zakki” [Reports from the Kaei Period].
Illustrated manuscript on paper, containing confidential Japanese reports on the American and Russian expeditions to Japan in 1853, entitled on manuscript title labels on upper covers: “Kaei zakki” [Reports from the Kaei Period].
Illustrated manuscript on paper, containing confidential Japanese reports on the American and Russian expeditions to Japan in 1853, entitled on manuscript title labels on upper covers: “Kaei zakki” [Reports from the Kaei Period].
Illustrated manuscript on paper, containing confidential Japanese reports on the American and Russian expeditions to Japan in 1853, entitled on manuscript title labels on upper covers: “Kaei zakki” [Reports from the Kaei Period].

The Beginning of the End of Japanese Isolation

Illustrated manuscript on paper, containing confidential Japanese reports on the American and Russian expeditions to Japan in 1853, entitled on manuscript title labels on upper covers: “Kaei zakki” [Reports from the Kaei Period].

22 fine brush & wash illus. (some double-page) & a large folded sheet with ink drawings bound-in at end of Vol. I. Two vols. 56; 68 folding leaves. 8vo (262 x 180 mm.), embossed & patterned wrappers, heightened with mica, cont. manuscript title labels on upper wrappers, new stitching. [Japan: ca. 1853-54, one of the folded drawings at the end of Vol. I dated 1854].

The opening of Japan was a goal of many European nations from the 17th century onwards. All attempts fell short until 1853, when the United States instigated negotiations to open the island nation. These manuscript reports contain confidential Japanese observations on the near-simultaneous American and Russian efforts to initiate commercial relations with Japan. The Russian Empire was wary of the United States extending its influence to the Pacific Rim, and upon learning that President Fillmore had sent Commodore Perry to end Japanese isolation, the Russians prepared an expedition led by vice-admiral Euphimius Putiatin. The Americans disembarked at Kurihama in July of 1853, while the Russians appeared off Nagasaki a month later. This collection of reports presents Japan’s perspective on the two nations vying for geopolitical supremacy in eastern Asia.

These two volumes present a series of reports produced by eyewitnesses and those involved in the negotiations with both the Americans and Russians. Such accounts were compiled in multiple copies and sent throughout Japan to the principal fiefdom lords to keep them apprised of the tumultuous and profound challenges precipitated by the arrival of foreign warships. This set bears the seal of Manabe Akikatsu (1804-84), seventh daimyo of Sabae Domain in Echizen province. He was an influential voice within the Japanese government for several decades.

Appended at the end is a Japanese account of John Manjiro’s famous journey to the United States and his long-delayed return to Japan. Due to his knowledge of English, the Japanese recruited Manjiro (1827-98) to participate in negotiations with the Americans that led to the Treaty of Kanagawa.

The beginning of the first volume is a set of contemporaneous reports on Perry’s first expedition to Japan in July 1853. After tense negotiations, the Japanese received the Americans at a hastily constructed reception hall on the beach of Kurihama. The first leaf contains color wash depictions of American musical instruments, equipment, and a sword seen at Kurihama. Subsequently, we find two consecutive double-page detailed renderings, the first showing the area around Kurihama and Edo Bay, with fortifications and the reception hall noted; and the latter a close-up of the reception hall, which is surrounded by Japanese security forces. This second illustration gives us information on the number of attendees and the names of key representatives.

The next two illustrations are double-page drawings of about 350 Japanese representatives from an array of fiefdoms (their banners are hand-colored, and notable officials are labelled), followed by a closer view of American troops flanked by several Japanese negotiators — Nakajima, Hasebe, and Shimosone — who presumably helped compile the original report.

Found on the following opening is an assortment of hats the American and Japanese representatives were wearing. Facing this page and on the following page are two rather bizarre renderings of what looks like an American diving suit, which we assume was seen by the Japanese on board one of the American ships. The text around the first drawing provides thorough explanations of the suit, its composition, and its capabilities. We have not seen such a drawing in any of the materials we have handled. Institutions such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Library, the Library of Congress, Brown University, and Yale University do not seem to have similar illustrations. This portion on the Americans ends with a simple illustration of a ship and its anchor, with a wooden oar at the bottom of the page.

The second section (beginning with leaf 27) of this manuscript consists of reports on the first Russian visit by Putiatin in August 1853. It begins with two vivid, scaled-down views of islands and towns on the way to Nagasaki. A black ink line seems to delineate the Russians’ route. Several pages later, a Russian banner is depicted.

Next is a list of Japanese representatives who participated in the opening discussions with Putiatin near Nagasaki, most from the local Fukuoka clan. It is followed by an inventory of supplies that the Japanese provided to the Russians. We then find a detailed report compiled by the Japanese on what is known about the Russian Empire. Further along in this volume, on a double-page opening, the illustrator has rendered a map of a landmass that is probably Russia. Within the circular construction, several figures are seen in various parts of Russia. One of them points to the North Star.

At the end of the first volume, we find a large bound-in sheet that has delicate ink sketches of Commodore Perry — “Messenger sent by the North American king, Matthew Heruri” — along with images, we believe, of the American interpreters, Samuel W. Williams (“Ureyansu”) and Anton Portman (“Hente”). There are, additionally, sketches of the expedition’s artist, unnamed, but who can be identified as Peter Bernhard Wilhelm Heine. He is shown painting a landscape at the Shomyoji temple. The other figure is Luo Sen, the Chinese translator who had travelled to Japan on previous occasions and was part of Perry’s expedition. The adjacent text describes Luo Sen’s excitement about joining the American squadron on the way to Japan. To the left of this text are illustrations of two fans, on which Sen has recounted his journey. One reads “Calm Air,” but this can also be read as “Japanese Style.” He seems to have offered similar items to the Japanese as gifts. This added sheet is dated 1854 in two places and mentions the town Hakodate in Hokkaido.

The second volume of our manuscript begins with depictions of four armed American sailors, with notes on their equipment and curiously rendered headwear. The next double-page opening shows the wooden supports for odaiba (artificial islands) constructed by the Japanese to bolster their defensive network. This is followed by a detailed briefing on the United States, its government, resources, military ships, etc. Then we find a list of the American expedition’s leaders, such as Perry and others whose names and ranks are transliterated into confusing katakana characters that we are unable to decipher. A short passage after this briefing contains an account of Perry’s appearance and clothing at the first meeting between the two sides.

The subsequent five pages of text provide us with the names of the principal American representatives and how many people were present. The next page gives us the same information for the Japanese delegation. This is followed by an enumeration of gifts from the Japanese, such as silk brocade, lacquerware, smoking pipes, eggs, etc. On board one of the American ships, the Americans then offered bread, crystal glasses, decorative trunks, medicine, images of the United States, etc. We then find a copy of the translated letter (two pages) from President Fillmore delivered to the Japanese, explaining the Americans’ intentions and desire to inaugurate a relationship with Japan. Another American letter is reproduced in Japanese on the next few pages. This portion concludes with Japanese commentary on this historic formal meeting and a letter seemingly composed by Perry.

The next part in this manuscript, beginning with leaf 19, concerns the Japanese defense forces. We find the names of the primary fiefdom lords responsible for protecting the area around Edo Bay. The names of the compilers of this section are listed at the foot of the first page. This is followed by a double-page map showing the locations of 11 odaiba, warehouses for ammunition, and other defensive structures. One page later, there is a further enumeration of the Japanese forces, with the facing page bearing another map of the area crowded with odaiba. The rest of this part contains diagrams of the odaiba, notes on their construction, and detailed information on the defensive network around Edo Bay.

Our manuscript’s penultimate section (leaf 26) concerns the well-known story of the Japanese fisherman Manjiro. The first single-page map shows the beginning of his travails, when he was shipwrecked on the island of Torishima, south of Japan. An American whaler rescued him and continued its voyage to the United States with him aboard as a new crew-member. This text is followed by a double-page map representing Japan’s knowledge of the Western Hemisphere. It depicts North and South America on the right and Japan on the left, with the equator indicated with a thick, red line. Explanatory text on the right page recounts Manjiro’s travels to and from the United States. The next opening, consisting of a double-page illustration showing a whaling ship, a whale, the North Star, and the outline of mountains in the background, describes Manjiro’s circuitous return to Japan. A peninsula in the bottom left corner, colored red, is noted as American and Russian territory and may be part of present-day Alaska.

A thorough, 16-page account of Manjiro’s journey follows. After this is a copy of a high-level Japanese government report (24 pages) containing extensive interviews with Manjiro and four other shipwreck survivors. This portion is dated 1852. The rest of the manuscript (from leaf 57 to end) presents a number of reports, many dated 1850, regarding national defense. These include copies of reports by Abe (Masahiro) Ise no kami and Matsudaira Satsuma no kami, two influential officials who helped craft Japan’s response to the possibility of foreign invasion.

In excellent condition; a few places with minor marginal dampstaining.

❧ See Renata V. Shaw, “Japanese Picture Scrolls of the First Americans in Japan” in The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress, Vol. 25, No. 2 (April 1968), pp. 134-53.

Price: $15,000.00

Item ID: 7125