KAEMPFER, Engelbert (1651-1716); SCHEUCHZER, Johann Caspar (1702-1729), translator. The History of Japan, giving an Account of the Ancient and Present State and Government of that Empire.

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London: Printed for the translator, MDCCXXVII [1727].


2 volumes, folio (13 ⅓ x 9 in.; 34 x 23 cm.): [12], lii, 391, [5], [2], 393-612 pages; Appendix: 75, [3], 11, [1], 11, [5] pages. Title page in red and black, preceded by engraved title page in Latin ("Historia imperii Japonici"); list of subscribers; 7 engraved maps (4 folding, 2 double-page) and 38 engraved plates and plans (6 folding, 27 double-page), plates 36 and 37 reversed but both present; occasional browning and foxing.  Bound in contemporary full brown calf, spines gilt, raised bands in seven compartments, red and green morocco title and volume number pieces, housed in custom clam-shell box; old repairs to joints, overall wear to extremities. 

PROVENANCE: 19th century armorial bookplates of the Heathcote family of Hursley Park, Hampshire, with motto "Deus prosperat justos." Remainder of title: ".of its temples, palaces, castles and buildings; of its metals, minerals, trees, plants, animals, birds and fishes; of the chronology and succession of the emperors, ecclesiastical and secular.together with a description of the Kingdom of Siam. Written in High-Dutch by Engelbertus Kaempfer, M.D., physician of the Dutch Embassy to the Emperor’s Court; and translated from his original manuscript, never before printed, by J.G. Scheuchzer, F.R.S. and a member of the College of Physicians, London." 

FIRST EDITION, SECOND ISSUE, OF THE FIRST SCHOLARLY TREATMENT OF JAPAN IN ANY LANGUAGE.  Kaempfer, originally from Lemgo in Germany, was an inveterate traveler from an early age.  In 1681 he went to Sweden and joined a Swedish trade mission destined for Persia. He arrived in Isfahan in 1685.  While the embassy waited for over a year to be recognized at the Persian court, Kaempfer studied the language, geography, and plants of the region.  Rather than return to Sweden with the embassy, Kaempfer joined a fleet of the Dutch East India Company and spent several years exploring Persia and Java.  In 1690 he was appointed a member of a Dutch trade mission bound for Japan. His resulting work, The History of Japan, is an encyclopaedic and profusely illustrated description of the Japanese flora and fauna, government and industries, and it remained the chief source of Western knowledge of Japan for over a century.  Sir Hans Sloane acquired Kaempfer s botanical specimens after the author’s death, and had this translation by his librarian Scheuchzer prepared from the original manuscript. REFERENCES: Cordier, Japonica pp. 413-15; Cox I:332; Garrison-Morton 6374.11; Nissen BBI 1019 note; Wellcome III:376.