A richly illustrated & lengthy scroll composed of 35 joined thin paper sheets (13,240 x ca. 275 mm., height not entirely uniform), containing contemporary reports & copies of letters delivered by American & Russian representatives during the countries’ first consequential expeditions to Japan. Numerous ink, brush & wash drawings in red, blue, black & gold, with manuscript text. BLACK SHIP SCROLL.
A richly illustrated & lengthy scroll composed of 35 joined thin paper sheets (13,240 x ca. 275 mm., height not entirely uniform), containing contemporary reports & copies of letters delivered by American & Russian representatives during the countries’ first consequential expeditions to Japan. Numerous ink, brush & wash drawings in red, blue, black & gold, with manuscript text.
A richly illustrated & lengthy scroll composed of 35 joined thin paper sheets (13,240 x ca. 275 mm., height not entirely uniform), containing contemporary reports & copies of letters delivered by American & Russian representatives during the countries’ first consequential expeditions to Japan. Numerous ink, brush & wash drawings in red, blue, black & gold, with manuscript text.
A richly illustrated & lengthy scroll composed of 35 joined thin paper sheets (13,240 x ca. 275 mm., height not entirely uniform), containing contemporary reports & copies of letters delivered by American & Russian representatives during the countries’ first consequential expeditions to Japan. Numerous ink, brush & wash drawings in red, blue, black & gold, with manuscript text.
A richly illustrated & lengthy scroll composed of 35 joined thin paper sheets (13,240 x ca. 275 mm., height not entirely uniform), containing contemporary reports & copies of letters delivered by American & Russian representatives during the countries’ first consequential expeditions to Japan. Numerous ink, brush & wash drawings in red, blue, black & gold, with manuscript text.
A richly illustrated & lengthy scroll composed of 35 joined thin paper sheets (13,240 x ca. 275 mm., height not entirely uniform), containing contemporary reports & copies of letters delivered by American & Russian representatives during the countries’ first consequential expeditions to Japan. Numerous ink, brush & wash drawings in red, blue, black & gold, with manuscript text.
A richly illustrated & lengthy scroll composed of 35 joined thin paper sheets (13,240 x ca. 275 mm., height not entirely uniform), containing contemporary reports & copies of letters delivered by American & Russian representatives during the countries’ first consequential expeditions to Japan. Numerous ink, brush & wash drawings in red, blue, black & gold, with manuscript text.
A richly illustrated & lengthy scroll composed of 35 joined thin paper sheets (13,240 x ca. 275 mm., height not entirely uniform), containing contemporary reports & copies of letters delivered by American & Russian representatives during the countries’ first consequential expeditions to Japan. Numerous ink, brush & wash drawings in red, blue, black & gold, with manuscript text.
A richly illustrated & lengthy scroll composed of 35 joined thin paper sheets (13,240 x ca. 275 mm., height not entirely uniform), containing contemporary reports & copies of letters delivered by American & Russian representatives during the countries’ first consequential expeditions to Japan. Numerous ink, brush & wash drawings in red, blue, black & gold, with manuscript text.
A richly illustrated & lengthy scroll composed of 35 joined thin paper sheets (13,240 x ca. 275 mm., height not entirely uniform), containing contemporary reports & copies of letters delivered by American & Russian representatives during the countries’ first consequential expeditions to Japan. Numerous ink, brush & wash drawings in red, blue, black & gold, with manuscript text.
A richly illustrated & lengthy scroll composed of 35 joined thin paper sheets (13,240 x ca. 275 mm., height not entirely uniform), containing contemporary reports & copies of letters delivered by American & Russian representatives during the countries’ first consequential expeditions to Japan. Numerous ink, brush & wash drawings in red, blue, black & gold, with manuscript text.
A richly illustrated & lengthy scroll composed of 35 joined thin paper sheets (13,240 x ca. 275 mm., height not entirely uniform), containing contemporary reports & copies of letters delivered by American & Russian representatives during the countries’ first consequential expeditions to Japan. Numerous ink, brush & wash drawings in red, blue, black & gold, with manuscript text.

An Unusual “Black Ship Scroll”

A richly illustrated & lengthy scroll composed of 35 joined thin paper sheets (13,240 x ca. 275 mm., height not entirely uniform), containing contemporary reports & copies of letters delivered by American & Russian representatives during the countries’ first consequential expeditions to Japan. Numerous ink, brush & wash drawings in red, blue, black & gold, with manuscript text.

Japan: [from first passage]: “Kae 6,” i.e., 1853, and at end “copied 1854.”

A rare type of “Black Ship Scroll”: our scroll is unusual as it has accounts of not only the first Perry expedition but also the competing Russian mission of August 1853. Moreover, it contains many finely rendered illustrations that do not appear in the majority of other extant “Black Ship Scrolls.”

The opening of Japan to trade was a goal of many European nations from the 17th century onwards. All attempts fell short until 1853, when the United States forced 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. 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 1853, while the Russians appeared off Nagasaki a month later. This collection of reports — produced by eyewitnesses and those involved in the negotiations with both the Americans and Russians — presents Japan’s perspective on the two nations vying for geopolitical supremacy in eastern Asia. 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 scroll begins with an extensive Japanese briefing on the United States of America. It explains that it is a country of about 30 distinct states, with its capital in a town called Washington. The Japanese note that Perry’s squadron of four vessels departed from the nation’s west coast and first went to China. This section provides the transliterated names for the Susquehanna, Mississippi, Plymouth, and Saratoga. The report also records each ship’s class and size, number of crew and cannons, and describes its ornaments. The final passage in this section communicates that this is a copy of the original report sent to Toda Izu no kami, the Japanese plenipotentiary.

The subsequent passages of text enumerate the local defense forces that arrived to protect Japan from a possible invasion. It mentions troops from local fiefdoms under the command of Toda Izu no kami, Ido Iwami no kami, Ii Naosuke, and three officials from the Matsudaira clan. We learn the number of troops, whether they are infantry or on horseback, and their equipment – e.g., spears, “handheld cannons,” and swords. This portion ends with a list of Japanese officers and their responsibilities.

A short passage afterwards describes Americans employing 14 small boats to land at Kurihama with a letter to deliver to the Japanese emperor. There were five delegates, joined by a translator. Their arrival was announced by a six-cannon salute and a marching band.

The next segment provides physical descriptions of the American leaders, Perry, Buchanan, Adams, etc., and explanations of their ranks. We then find a list of ranks and the number of sailors of each rank, as ascertained by the Japanese. It notes that there are 284 foot soldiers. Seven categories represent those in the marching band: “taiko,” “small drum,” “horizontal flute,” “vertical flute,” “curved tube,” and two more we are unable to translate.

Then there is a report on the American landing party, which consisted of about 400 men. Around 12 lines of text detail the position of the American ships in Uraga Bay. A large passage of text is likely a Japanese translation of a letter sent by Captain Buchanan.

Following the information on the American squadron, we find this scroll’s first illustrations, which show four armed American sailors who were likely present at one of the earliest negotiations. The artist has closely reproduced the Americans’ muskets fitted with bayonets, unsheathed swords, and uniforms, down to the epaulettes and headwear. The adjacent text notes their ranks and parts of their equipment. The next set of illustrations is devoted to an examination of American headwear (and its indication of rank); it shows the American translator wearing a straw hat. An array of musical instruments (e.g., drums, tambourines, trumpets, flute) reminds us that two American bands were part of the landing party on 14 July, when Commodore Perry imperiously announced his arrival on Japanese soil, unsettling Japanese horses (McOmie, pp. 119-22).

Two American rowboats are depicted next; these ferried American sailors and officers to the first formal meeting between the United States and Japan, which took place at a hastily constructed reception hall just off the beach. Above the two boats is a close-up of a sheathed American sword. Text regarding these illustrations details their functions and measurements.

Subsequently, there is an arresting drawing of Perry’s flagship, the Susquehanna. From the billowing black smoke to the golden waves surrounding the ship, the illustrator of this scroll has carefully rendered one of the American “Black Ships.” On board, we see crew members and, below them, the portholes for cannons. The artist has also reproduced the paddle wheel on one of the ship’s sides. Tied to one of the masts on the left is an American flag, crudely rendered. Manuscript notes at the center of the ship mark Perry’s chambers. The text above the vessel presents measurements of the sails and the number of cannons, describes 28 holes for “arrows” to be shot through, and estimates that such a ship necessitated a crew of 500.

This is followed by several depictions of the American landing party that disembarked on 14 July to establish diplomatic relations with Japan. A drummer, flagbearers, and trumpeters lead a long column of armed troops, ahead of a smaller column with an officer in red uniform, who must be Commodore Perry. He marches right behind two “young boys” who carry chests with the official diplomatic letter from President Fillmore addressed to the head of the Japanese state. The next segment charts their route from shore to the reception hall, as denoted by small yellow dots. The banners of two regional clans are planted next to the path, showing which troops stood guard during these tense moments.

After this is a panorama of the Japanese reception hall at Kurihama and its surroundings. Surrounded by several dozen small Japanese boats and approximately 3000 soldiers on shore, Perry, his officers, and sailors landed on the beach here. The Japanese, led by the Hikone fiefdom lord, awaited the American representatives inside the tent in the middle. Four American officers, including Perry, entered the tent to initiate formal negotiations between the two nations. To the left of this panorama, we find a detailed bird’s-eye view of Uraga Bay depicts two large American steamships, Japanese coastal defenses, and several towns and villages.

The remainder of this scroll is concerned with the Russian expedition led by Putiatin to Nagasaki, which reached Japan a month after Perry. It begins with a report on the strength of the foreign expedition: four ships, about 400 men on the frigate Pallada, 38 on the steamboat, around 100 on the corvette (probably the Olivutsa), and 28 on the transport ship Knyaz Mnshikov. A passage of text gives important details on the initial interactions with the Russians.

We then find depictions of several groups of Russian sailors. The first, a group of three low-level troops, shows them carrying red chairs, presumably for their commanders to sit on. The following series illustrates a column of Russians, with those in the middle carrying a flag with a black eagle on a red background. The text written above identifies Putiatin, his officers, and lower-ranked members of the expedition. The majority of them have swords in red sheaths. Those at the head of the column all bear muskets with bayonets attached. Just behind them, an officer carries a diplomatic letter from Tsar Nicholas I. The text of this letter is subsequently translated and copied in both Chinese characters with Japanese reading marks and in Japanese. The contents of these letters are exhaustive and continue for the final fifth of this scroll.

Signed at the end, “detailed copy by Fujita Sakube, 1854 in Edo.”

Overall in fine condition, with a few correction slips pasted over text. There is some marginal worming to the beginning and end of the scroll, just touching the text on a few occasions. The drawings are untouched by worming. Towards the end, one of the places where two sheets have been joined is a little loose and split.

❧ 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. For helpful recapitulations of accounts from each country, William McOmie, The Opening of Japan, 1853-1855: A Comparative Study of the American, British, Dutch and Russian Naval Expeditions to Compel the Tokugawa Shogunate to Conclude Treaties and Open Ports to Their Ships (2006).

Price: $29,500.00

Item ID: 7299