I mainly collect antique British comics, story papers and boys’ adventure books. But I also have a small collection of old books about Japan. My favourite historical period is the 1890’s to World War 1, and in that time Japan and Britain were close allies. In fact their alliance was the first proper one the British Empire made with another power. Even the Entente Cordiale was more of an agreement not to fight each other than a promise to fight together!
Of course I’m saving like mad to go to Japan, so Can’t buy any more books at the moment unless I see very cheap ones. But here are some pictures from what I have!
1901: Japan, A Record in Colour
By Mortimer Menpes
Using V for U was actually pretty pretentious even then!
Ive written about this before, on a now-dead forum. Mortimer Menpes was apparently the original Otaku! The text of the book is filled with rants about how western theatre is “barbaric” because it has scenery, and how other Japan-lovers are “semi-savage” because they don’t display their collection of Japanese artifacts correctly. But for all that the paintings are wonderful. Mortimer Menpes has also published books with paintings of China, Britain and France, and probably other places too. They fetch high prices on ebay. This particular book cost me £10 but is falling to bits. Also I think at the time it was the only one by him on there, there was a few bids other than mine which may have resulted in other people who owned his works sensing “a market” and selling them.
It was published in 1901 by Dorothy Menpes, his daughter. Its probable, then, that the pictures are actually considerably older and show the Japan of the late 19th century. He apparently went to Japan in 1887 then came back and had an exhibition, presumably of the paintings in this book. I wonder where the originals are now?
Theres about 100 paintings, all in colour (it must have been very expensive when new! though apparently went through several reprints, I’ve seen editions from 1905 advertised) and some look almost like photographs. I couldnt take pictures of many of them because the binding is extremely weak. However if you google the title photocopied copies of it can be bought from an apparently Indian company (the prices are in Rs, presumably Rupees) for around £25. I’ve seen on some forums that this company have a reputation for creating photocopied editions of out-of-copyright books and in some cases even trying to act as if they now own the copyright. I’ve also heard that the quality of their copies can vary… proceed at your own risk (though if you do and it’s any good tell me and I’ll post a follow up).
This looks like a house but is actually a small shrine. The gate in the foreground symbolises passing from the living world to the world of the gods.
Young Japanese children. If the youngest ones managed to survive to a ripe old age it’s just possible my life overlapped with theirs!
A temple on a lake near ‘Kioto’. It’s name escapes me but it’s still there today.
This is a short Japanese book. I got the title and date off the ebay auction for it, as I cant read Japanese very well yet. Especially not handwriting where several individual strokes are turned into one squiggle. It opens like a concertina (no spine) but there’s only print on one ‘side’.
1907: A Handbook of Modern Japan
By Ernest W Clements
This is American, and is more about Japans economy, history and society than about visiting there. Being American it also has a lengthy chapter about how Shinto is not a real religion and how one day Japan will have to see the light and accept Jesus. Luckily America wasnt into empire building like Britain was, so they didnt try to remake Japan in their own image. Well not at that point anyway.
Something tells me this picture was staged…
By Clive Holland
I believe the author of this one actually moved to Japan and married a Japanese woman. At least judging from the titles of his other books! Having gone native he is able to explain some of the customs, subtleties of the language and even say the newly-arrived foreigner may find X very strange. Nothing ever changes XD
1907 and 2009. Next time I go I’ll try and get a picture from the same angle as in the book!
1907 and 2009. Repair work being done…
1908: Japanese Fairy Tales
By Yei Theodora Ozaki
This is a book of translated stories that are aimed at being simple for children (the children of 1908 that is!) to read. As opposed to “more authentic” translations in scholarly language with heaps of footnotes explaining variations and themes. At least it gives me an understanding of traditional stories that I can make reference to when talking to Japanese children. It’s also apparently “illustrated by Japanese artists”… though seemingly only one did all of them.
By Colonel P.T. Etherton and H. Hessel Tiltman
This is another one looking at Japans economy and society, this time in the context of Japans military build-up and ambitions of creating an empire. If youre thinking well its not their fault they came to the empire game late, after the Europeans had captured everything good” well, er, that’s exactly what the book says too.
Oh if only the British and Japanese empires had stayed allied and somehow joint-governed Burma, shared Singapore and allowed for Japanese colonies in Australia, eh?
Various militant build-up. Those sound detectors are all they had before Radar.
Modern Tokyoite says: Needs more lights
Heh, ‘only’ 150,000 passengers a day?