Illustrated manuscript on paper, entitled on manuscript labels on all upper covers “Nangoku kidan” [“Southern Province of Kii Province”]. Natural History of WAKAYAMA.

The Natural History of Wakayama

Illustrated manuscript on paper, entitled on manuscript labels on all upper covers “Nangoku kidan” [“Southern Province of Kii Province”].

One three-page manuscript map & about 30 natural history paintings in the text (some full-page or double-page). 26; 24; 28; 30; 29 folding leaves. Five vols. 8vo (247 x 168 mm.), orig. pale blue patterned wrappers, manuscript labels on upper covers, new stitching. [Osaka]: at end of Preface in Vol. I (in trans.): “Tsuneo recorded in 1855.”

Kii Province (today’s Wakayama Prefecture but in ancient times known as Nangoku, as given in Nihon shoki) is just southwest of Osaka. It has always been a prosperous region with a varied landscape, rich in fishing and agriculture, and with excellent communications by river and inland sea. The province was closely allied with many branches of the ruling Tokugawa family.

This is a record of the natural history of the region in 1855, just at the time of the opening of Japan. There are a number of references in the text to sightings of “foreign ships” (American, Dutch, and Chinese) in the waters off Wakayama.

The first volume begins with a description and a three-page map of the coastline and notable geographical features of the region. The author then turns his attention to the native plants and crops of the region (especially citrus, for which Wakayama is famous). This is followed by descriptions of the local costumes and garb of the male and female inhabitants, of all ranks. The author proposes his theory of the origin of earthquakes. The cuisine of the region is described, with accounts of the different kinds of soy sauce made. Techniques of preserving fresh fish are given. Remarkably, the author describes a dish of steamed meat and wheat flour, described as the latest recipe to come from the United States! There are also extensive comments on the indigenous people, folktales, etc. The most famous temples of the area are described. The minerals of Wakayama are discussed.

Vol. II contains many descriptions of the botany and ornithology of the region, the fishing and hunting possibilities, and the natural history in general.

Vols. III and IV are concerned with the many varieties of sea creatures found off the coasts of Wakayama Prefecture. The author gives a history of whaling in the region.

The fifth volume begins with the market price of fish when traded. The author describes the fishing techniques (with excellent illustrations of fishhooks of many styles, nets, etc.), following this with descriptions of the many shellfish and seaweeds. He then shifts to describing the fossilized rocks of Wakayama and, next, the mushrooms of the area. Finally, the author lists the local festivities, with comments on the seasonal cuisines, entertainments (dancing, singing, musical instruments), alcoholic beverages, etc.

The attractive paintings, well-colored, depict plants, fish, wild animals, and fossilized rocks of Wakayama Prefecture.

Fine set. Some marginal worming in the final two volumes. We find other copies of this manuscript in the libraries of Kyoto and Tokyo universities and Tokyo National Museum.

Price: $9,500.00

Item ID: 7972