"THE LAST MAJOR WESTERN WORK ON JAPAN BEFORE THE OPENING OF THE COUNTRY": TITSINGH’S ILLUSTRATIONS OF JAPAN, 1822 FIRST ENGLISH EDITION, WITH 13 SPLENDID HAND-COLORED PLATES, INCLUDING A LONG FOLDING PLATE OF FUNERAL PROCESSIONS
(JAPAN) TITSINGH, Isaac. Illustrations of Japan; Consisting of Private Memoirs and Anecdotes of the Reigning Dynasty of the Djoguouns, or Sovereigns of Japan; a Description of their Feasts and Ceremonies Observed throughout the Year at Their Court; and of the Ceremonies Customary at Marriages and Funerals. London: Ackermann, 1822. Quarto, contemporary full diced calf rebacked, gilt-decorated spine, black morocco spine label, marbled endpapers and edges; housed in a custom clamshell box.
First English edition of this rare and important work, with a hand-colored line-engraved frontispiece and 12 hand-colored line-engraved and aquatint prints, including a folding panoramic strip of a funeral procession on three attached leaves, “faithfully copied from Japanese original designs,” and printed by Rudolph Ackermann.
"The last major Western work on Japan before the opening of the country… was a history of the Tokugawa Shoguns, the dynasty which had been the country's political rulers since 1603, and who were to remain so until 1868. The author was a Dutch East India Company official, Isaac Titsingh, who had been at Deshima between 1779 and 1784… From the detailed accounts of the lives of the Tokugawa Shoguns up to his own time it would appear that Titsingh must have had close collaborators among the Deshima interpreters… [his] Lives of the Tokugawa Shoguns mixed historical facts with anecdotes of the kind that must have circulated in Japan at the time… [and includes] descriptions of spectacular natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and fires, as well as a fairly comprehensive catalogue of religious ceremonies and feast days month by month, followed by sundry information on weights and measures, the computation of time, a description of seppuku, suicide by cutting open the abdomen, fragments of Japanese poetry, and a plan of the island of Deshima…[as well as] a detailed report on Japanese wedding and funeral ceremonies, complete with a series of illustrations….clearly made from originals drawn by Japanese artists" (Catherine Blomberg, The West's Encounter with Japanese Civilization). Titsingh collected Japanese books and objects of art, among which "were a few (fewer than a dozen) color-prints, probably prints by Utamaro. As far as any definite records tell us, Titsingh's prints were, most probably, the first to find their way to Europe in the hands of a collector, apart from any which arrived as wrappings for merchandise" (Stewart).
"The book consists of private memoirs and anecdotes of the sovereigns of Japan, descriptions of feasts and ceremonies, and remarks on language and literature. Its eleven colored plates in aquatint or line… are of interest as illustrating one of the first books, dealing with things Japanese, introduced into this country. Isaac Titsingh… was among the earliest European collectors of Japanese prints, the modern appreciation of which may be said to date from the Paris Exhibition of 1867" (Hardie). Translated from the French by Frederic Shoberl, Titsingh's Illustrations of Japan not only contains "faithful copies" of Japanese prints, but also provides valuable firsthand information on Japanese culture during the period of seclusion, unavailable anywhere else. His accounts of brewing sake and producing soy sauce are the earliest published in a Western language. First published in French in 1820. Text and plates watermarked 1821. Abbey Travel 557. Tooley 489. Prideaux, 128. Bookplate; owner signature.
Interior generally clean and fine, hand-colored plates quite nice. Light edge wear and rubbing to contemporary calf covers, with expert restoration to corners. A very good, attractive copy of this finely illustrated and rare work.