ILLUSTRATED EARLY JAPANESE BOOK OF WESTERN MEDICINE
[HOBSON, Benjamin]. First Lines of the Practice of Surgery in the West [Seii Ryakuron]. [Tokyo: Tojuen Zoshi], (1858). Octavo, original embossed yellow paper wrappers, bound with silk cord, white paper label. $1200.
First Japanese edition of this introduction to western surgical techniques, with 16 pages of woodcuts, Volume I of four volumes.
British citizen Dr. Benjamin Hobson was a missionary doctor in China from 1839 to 1859. During that time, he was instrumental in introducing Western medical techniques to China through opening clinics in several cities, training local physicians, and writing four medical texts in Chinese, of which this title is the second, and were some of the earliest Western medical texts to be widely available in Japan. This first Japanese edition is in the original Chinese (i.e. kanbun) with Japanese furigana notation; it was first published the previous year in Shanghai. Hobson describes methods of Western medical and surgical treatment, particularly amputation and excision, for which he coined many new medical terms that have since become standard in Chinese and Japanese. Hobson’s work represents a radical departure from many of the precepts of traditional medicine used in China and Japan—surgery and amputation were rarely employed, and the focus was more on internal harmony of functions. The woodcut illustrations of surgical instruments, surgical techniques, and disease conditions are a mixture of European and Chinese imagery; some feature Europeans in Western dress, while others are in Chinese attire. The 16 pages of woodcuts contain 115 separate images.
Hobson’s published his books at a highly revolutionary time in Japan’s history. Only five years earlier, American Commodore Matthew Perry had arrived in Japan to break the nation’s enforced isolation from the rest of the world; for the past 250 years, contact with other nations had been primarily limited to Dutch and Chinese traders on two islands off the coast of Nagasaki. In 1858, the Harris Treaty was signed by Japan, opening up the borders to free trade for the first time in centuries, and beginning Westernization. This volume was therefore one of the first books about modern Western medicine to be published in Japan, at the dawn of its new age. The remaining three volumes, absent here, include a dictionary of English and Chinese/Japanese medical terms, and further details about certain conditions such as burns, parasites, and wounds of various kinds. See Mestler, A Galaxy of Old Japanese Medical Books, 127, 306, 323).
Fragile rice paper only lightly rubbed at extremities. Original paper wrappers bright but lightly soiled. An extremely good copy, with lovely woodcut illustrations.