"FOR MORE THAN A CENTURY THE CHIEF SOURCE OF WESTERN KNOWLEDGE OF THE COUNTRY": KAEMPFER’S SUPERB ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF JAPAN, 1728, WITH 45 SUPERB COPPER-ENGRAVED FOLIO PLATES
(JAPAN) KAEMPFER, Englebert. The History of Japan, Giving an Account of the Ancient and Present State and Government of That Empire; of Its Temples, Palaces, Castles, and other Buildings; of Its Metals, Minerals, Trees, Plants, Animals, Birds, and Fishes;… of The Original Descent, Religions, Customs, and Manufactures of the Natives, and of their Trade and Commerce with the Dutch and Chinese…. London: Printed for the Publisher, and sold by Thomas Woodward… and Charles Davis, 1728. Two volumes. Folio (9 by 14 inches), contemporary full mottled calf sympathetically rebacked in calf-gilt, red morocco spine labels; pp. (10), lii, (4), 1-391, (20 plates), (4); (4), 393-612, 75, (2), 11, (25 plates), (10). $21,000.
First edition, expanded second issue, of "the most authoritative account" of Japan in the early stages of its commerce with the West, with engraved additional title page and 45 striking large copperplate engravings (most of which are double-page or folding) including maps, views, and detailed illustrations of temples, palaces, ships, animals and plants. Issued just one year after the first, this second issue was expanded to include the journal of 1673 English voyage to Japan.
A German physician and naturalist with an inclination for travel, Kaempfer visited India and Batavia before reaching Japan in 1690. For the next three years he compiled information for his History. "After Kaempfer's death, his manuscripts passed into the hands of Sir Hans Sloane, who had the German manuscript on Japan translated and published. The resulting History of Japan (1727), was for more than a century the chief source of Western knowledge of the country. It contains the first biography of Kaempfer, an account of his journey, a history and description of Japan and its fauna, a description of Nagasaki and Deshima; a report on two embassies to Edo with a description of the cities which were visited on the way; and six appendixes, on tea, Japanese paper, acupuncture, moxa, ambergris, and Japan's seclusion policy" (DSB). "Has long been recognized as the most authoritative account of that country published at that time" (Cox I:332). Second issue, with letterpress title pages printed in red and black, dated 1728, and with "Printed for the Publisher" in the imprint; this second issue was expanded to include the 11-page "Second Appendix," with separate title page, printing the journal of an English voyage to Japan in 1673. Engraved additional title page dated 1727, the year of the first issue. Includes list of subscribers. Cox I:332. Engraved armorial bookplate affixed to versos of letterpress title pages.
Text and plates generally quite clean and fine, with crisp impressions of the plates; expert restoration to board extremities. A very nicely restored copy in excellent condition.