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FIELDING, Henry. An Enquiry Into the Causes of the Late Increase of Robbers, &c. With some proposals for remedying this growing evil ... the second edition. London, Millar 1751. 12mo contemporary (or publisher's?) calf (rubbed and a bit crazed, small chip from the spine, hinges cracking but firm); xxii,203pp. A little browning at the very ends, a rather good, fresh copy. With the half title advertising the book at 3/- bound, 2/6 sewn; bookplate of diplomat and Pennsylvanian folklorist Henry W Shoemaker. Au$375

A timely best-seller. This second edition followed the first edition (which had an uncommonly large print run of 1500 copies; this second edition was even larger, with 2000 copies) by about six weeks, with minor revisions and corrections. Fielding's social and magisterial conscience made him a strenuous pamphleteer and this was his most important and influential foray into social and legal reform. The gin craze and other pernicious 'luxuries' rampant among the lowest classes; the civic 'lethargy' of government; the incoherent and helpless systems of policing and prosecution all fall under Fielding's inspection. Credit has been given, and is in some measure due, to this work for the Gin Law of 1751 and the inception of the modern police force.
It is also a vivid picture of the degredation of London's poor or 'commonalty'. The three page notice 'To the Public' at the end advertises the establishment of a registry of servants in order to obviate the scourge of rudeness and insolence of servants hired without any good character.


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VINCENT, William [ie Thomas HOLCROFT]. A Plain and Succinct Narrative of the Late Riots and Disturbances in the Cities of London and Westminster ... particulars of the burning of Newgate, the King's Bench, the Fleet ... with an account of the commitment of Lord George Gordon to the Tower, and anecdotes of his life ... by William Vincent, of Gray's Inn. London, printed for Fielding and Walker 1780. Octavo later cloth (spine tips worn); [2],62pp. A little browned at each end, quite a good copy. Au$600

First edition of Thomas Holcroft's pseudonymous account of the Gordon riots, rushed into print within days of the end of the riots and a document central to all students of the riots. Modern scholars seem agreed it was work for hire, no forecast of his later radicalism, and for the most part it does reflect the indignant eye of conservative authority. It was after all written by a supposed lawyer rather than an autodidact shoemaker's son newly making his name as a novelist - but touches of skepticism surface here and there and a few figures get a brief sarcastic tongue-lashing. It also seems agreed that the anecdotes of Gordon pinned on to the end aren't Holcroft's and that he was unhappy with them.
It was succesful enough, three editions appeared before the end of the year, and it's known that Dickens owned an annotated copy and used it in Barnaby Rudge but then, anybody interested in the riots has to use it. The text has been reprinted and reproduced often enough but this first edition does appear to be a truly scarce little book.


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Slavery. [Gilbert Francklyn?]. A Very New Pamphlet Indeed! Being the Truth addressed to the people at large. Containing some strictures on the English Jacobins ... respecting the Slave Trade. London, printed in the year 1792. Octavo, disbound; 16pp. Au$495

The very model of a modern refutation, our writer has used all the methods still used to condemn reformers; in this case the abolitionists. By the second sentence the witnesses brought forward by the abolitionists have been "committed to take their trial for perjury." Before the end of the first page the abolitionists - Wilberforce, Clarkson et al - are attached to radical fanatics and Jacobins set on destroying Britain - no small charge in 1792. By page two the secret society of "Old Jewry" - a Presbyterian meeting house - has been unearthed and we learn that the testimony offered by these radicals comes from "discarded servants, starving surgeons, sailors taken drunk from the stews, or parsons convicted of adultery."
There are several points of coincidence between this and the anti-abolitionist writings of slave trader Gilbert Francklyn - and "Mr Francklyn" gets one brief mention, for being magnificently humane - but it may be that our author simply mined Francklyn for material. Certainly Francklyn's known pamphlets were never so thoroughly anonymous as this.
Whoever the author, this received a snappish note in the Monthly Magazine. The Critical Review was also hostile and that hostility extended to a reply to this pamphlet, 'Old Truths & Established Facts' which has been ascribed to Thomas Paine. This second work, Paine or not, was condemned for its lack of originality; our pamphlet for its "scarcely defensible" stratagem of joining the abolitionist with latterday levellers.


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BUXTON, Thomas Fowell. An Inquiry, Whether Crime and Misery are Produced or Prevented, by Our Present System of Prison Discipline. Illustrated by descriptions ... sixth edition. London, for John & Arthur Arch &c. 1818. 12mo, uncut in original boards (spine chipped); viii,184pp, 4pp publisher's adverts. A little browning, a few spots; quite a good copy with the bookplate of Robert Dundas, Viscount Melville, administrator, politician, statesman &c who gave his name to several spots around the world including two in Australia. Au$350

Six editions of this inflammatory little book appeared in 1818, this being the last of course. Much of its power comes from the fact that the descriptions of all prisons (with the exception of Philadelphia) are first hand - dates and names are specified - and that, despite some repugnance, he has not suppressed 'scenes which may be considered as reflecting discredit on those who ought to have prevented them'. The immediate result of this was the Society for the Reformation of Prison Discipline and more indirect influences can be followed through translations into European languages over the next few years.
Buxton was born, bred and then married into the heart of British philanthropy - his mother was a Quaker do-gooder and he married Hannah Gurney, Elizabeth Fry's sister - and his life was devoted to reform: this is his first book and his last (1839) is on slavery.


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BUXTON, Thomas Fowell. An Inquiry, Whether Crime and Misery are Produced or Prevented, by Our Present System of Prison Discipline. Illustrated by descriptions ... sixth edition. London, for John & Arthur Arch &c. 1818. 12mo, uncut in modern boards; viii,184pp; some spotting or browning but a very acceptable copy. Au$300

Six editions of this inflammatory little book appeared in 1818; all and any are uncommon. Much of its power must be attributed to the fact that the descriptions of all prisons (with the exception of Philadelphia) are first hand, dates and names are specified and that, despite some repugnance, he has not suppressed 'scenes which may be considered as reflecting discredit on those who ought to have prevented them'. The immediate result of this was the Society for the Reformation of Prison Discipline and more indirect influences can be followed through translations into French and Italian over the next few years.
Buxton was born, bred and then married into the heart of British philanthropy - his mother was a Quaker do-gooder and he married Hannah Gurney, Elizabeth Fry's sister - and his life was devoted to reform: his first book (this) is on prison reform and his last (1839) on slavery.


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Otsuki Genkan. [Seion Hatsubi]. n.p. [182-?] 26x18cm original wrapper; 3;31;7 double folded leaves (ie 82pp). Some worming, only of moment on a couple of leaves where a couple of characters are obliterated. In a modern chitzu. Au$275

An extraordinarily exact manuscript copy of this pioneering study of western pronunciation by one of the more eminent scholars of Dutch studies. The Seion Hatsubi was published somewhere around 1826 and this is obviously contemporary. Our copyist has skipped the publisher's advertisements at the ends but has otherwise done a job that needs more than a cursory glance to discern from the printed book, even to the extent of reproducing the seals at the beginning and end of the preface. There is a fine tradition of manuscript copies of rare or supressed books in Japan but this is the most exact facsimile I've seen. There is an inscription and small seal inside the back cover that may well identify the transcriber but I can't read it.


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[Johannes van den Bosch]. de KEVERBERG, [Charles Joseph], Baron. De la Colonie de Frederiks-Oord, et des Moyns ... traduction d'un manuscript u General-Major van den Bosch ... avec une preface. Gand, Houdin 1821. Octavo, uncut and unopened in the remains of original plain wrappers (stitching loose); lxxii,110pp and two plates. Au$950

It has been argued that van den Bosch's Benevolent Society and this first paupers' agricultural colony at Frederiksoord - begun in 1818 - are less an experiment in utopian idealism than the model for the modern prison farm. Certainly from the two plates (one is a plan and view of a colonist's house, the other a birds-eye view of part of the colony) it looks, from this distance, less than utopian. Bleak is the word I'd use. Still, being a Lowlands pauper just after the Napoleonic wars can't have been much of a picnic.
Federiksoord was, to be fair, less punitive than the younger colonies at Veenhuizen where inmates were walled in to prevent escape but, looking at the dreary wastelands of Drente sretching out in every direction, it is hard to imagine where to escape to other than the bottle.
Van den Bosch's record in introducing forced agriculture to the Dutch East Indies has won him few accolades from post-colonial historians but there is no doubt that his intentions here, while hardly charitable, do share some attributes of social reform with contemporaries like Robert Owen.
Baron de Keverberg (Charles Louis Joseph I believe - his younger brother, also Baron, seems to have been named Charles Frederick Joseph; they were both government administrators and active social reformers at the same time but our Baron has the more distinguished history) has added a lengthy preface and notes to his translation of Bosch's manuscript, roughly doubling the work.


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SPURZHEIM, J.G. A View of the Elementary Principles of Education, founded on the study of the nature of man. Edinburgh, for Constable 1821. Octavo slightly later half calf (rubbed); 360pp. Scattered spots or browning. Au$750

Abram Combe's copy inscribed with his name and address; the writing of his name looks like George Combe's hand. His brothers George (who revised and had published this book) and Andrew, were the most ardent disciples and prominent expositers of Spurzheim's doctrines but Abram (who seems the most interesting of them) is best known as a disciple of Robert Owen. He ruined himself building an Owenite community in Lanarkshire and died in 1827. There are probably as many phrenologists as quakers among the social reformers of the 19th century and many of them, despite modern views of phrenology, can still be regarded as progressives in the best sense. Spurzheim himself though has a mixed record. Many of his ideas of reform will now be viewed with abhorrence as the foundation of social engineering in the worst sense. And he will be considered no friend of women - here he responds sternly to Mary Wollstonecraft, points out her fundamental error in regarding herself as emblematic of women, and outlines an approach to education that accounts for both the individual and irreconcilable differences between the sexes.


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[BERTOLDI, Giuseppe ? or Jakob Bartholdy?] Memoirs of the Secret Societies of the South of Italy, particularly the Carbonari. London, John Murray 1821. Octavo contemporary calf (front hinge neatly repaired); xvi,235pp and 12 lithographs by Hullmandel, seven folding including a charming large folding view of a meeting shrouded in smoke or mist. A few spots, a nice fresh copy with half title. Au$600

First edition; it was written in French, a second language for the author, with the view of being translated and published in London. The attribution to Giuseppe Bertoldi is unlikely as far as I can see; the Risorgimento poet was barely born when this appeared. German librarians confidently ascribe the book to Jakob Ludwig Salomon Bartholdy - the Prussian Consul-General in Rome - and other librarians have attributed it to a Bertoldi without forename.


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Corn. [CLAYE, Rev William]. A Supplementary Letter to the Right Honorable Lord William Bentinck. Corn Importation, &c. Newark, printed by S. & J. Ridge 1826. Broadside 375x235mm, printed with manuscript notes. Folded with a manuscript docket title on the back: "Mr Claye's Letter to Ld. W. Bentinck - sent to me ^by him^ Nov 24 1826". The letter is dated in print Nov 4, 1826 from Westhorpe, Notts. Au$90

The Rev William Claye of Westhorpe, Chaplain to the Duke of Grafton, is noted as being an owner of extensive tracts of land in Shilton's 1818 history of the area - which makes somewhat disingenuous his adding the clergy to the "humble classes of life," to whose lives the measure of May 1826 added "Distress and Misery". Unlocated in Copac and OCLC.


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HINGSTON, John. To the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in Parliament assembled, The humble Petition of the Labouring Poor of Great Britain, sheweth, ... Exeter, printed by Featherstone 1827. Two integral foolscap leaves, 4pp with gap left for an address. Folded and addressed, with post marks, to Viscount Milton with the added notation, "Petition of the Labouring Poor from Exeter". A small hole from opening the wax seal. Au$400

A radical, near utopian, demand for the Labouring Poor to have half what they pay in indirect taxes spent for their benefit. The first radical part is in the method of collecting the money: it is to come from what goes to the army and navy and by whacking taxes on the nobility, gentry and landed proprietors. Then we step up a notch. The ten million pounds raised would be handed over to associations of a thousand persons and eventually lead to universal property ownership, the abolition of Negro Slavery and a "revolution ... such as few ever contemplated ... which elevates the mind above all the previous actions of mankind". We finish with a scarely veiled threat about the madness of opposing the masses - "all power flows from them, they are now confident of that power".
Milton, later Earl Fitzwilliam, was long time MP for Yorkshire having been thrust by his father into Parliament when still underage. By 1827 his reputation of obstinancy and impractibility was well established and he and his family were described by Creevey as "
the ugliest and most dismal race I ever beheld". Unlocated in Copac and OCLC.


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ALCOTT, William A. Essay on the Construction of School-Houses, to which was awarded the prize offered by the American Institute of Instruction, August, 1831. Boston, Hilliard Gray &c 1832. Octavo disbound; 66pp, two full page plans. Some spotting or browning but a pretty good copy. Au$300

The first American work devoted to school buildings and their design. Alcott is not celebrated in architectural history, after all he was no architect but an educator, reformer and pamphleteer. But "the characteristic form of schoolhouses was established with the 1832 publication of William A. Alcott's 'Essay on the Construction of School-Houses'. Alcott stressed the importance of light, fresh air, and space in his designs." (Doggett and Wilson). Alcock was not dogmatic about the style of the building but he was about everything else, the site and landscaping, the timber for the floorboards and blackboards, the size and placing of each student's book box, the placing of coat pegs. All was to be healthy, rational, beneficial and beneficent.
The American Institute of Instruction was itself new; this was the beginning of a new movement for universal education. Over the next few years these ideas spread, often in the briefest form: Alcock's plan and key. In 1839 the superintendent of schools in Michigan submitted Alcock's plan with few modifications to the legislature and this was in turn reprinted in a Connecticut journal.


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KOCH, Mathias. Vorschlage zur Erzielung grosserer Sicherung vor Feuersgefahr vorzuglich auf dem Lande durch umfassende Benutzung von chemischen, technischen und anderen zweckdienlichen Hulfsmitteln. Vienna, Hirschfeld 1836. Octavo, later but not recent cloth and boards with the title panel of the wrapper mounted; 78pp and folding frontispiece. An appealing copy with the bookplate and impressive stamp - this on the back of the title - of Franz, Count (later Prince) of Thun and Hohenstein. Au$400

Only edition of this rare critical - often very critical - review of current practice in fire protection and firefighting and proposals for improvements. Koch covers a lot in a fairly short space: building materials; protective gear; insurance. He describes and illustrates a new and cheap pump and promotes an 'artificial water' which seems to be based on lye.


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Giichi Akita. [The entry used by Worldcat names him Hodo Akita]. [Sanpo Jikata Taisei]. Tokyo, Kitajima Junshiro &c 1837 (Tenpo 8). Five volumes (25x18cm) publisher's wrappers; 4,156 double folded leaves, numerous woodcut illustrations. A spot of worming in the first cover and a touch in another volume, a rather good set. Au$350

First edition of this manual of land management and surveying, published at a troublesome time in Japanese history: the 1830s brought a movement, fiercely resisted by the authorities, towards the adoption of western science and technology and, relevant to this book in particular, a period of horrendous drought, famine and unrest in rural Japan. Land surveying was primarily concerned with taxation and, before the Meiji reforms, accurate measurement was not only unimportant but unwanted. The extent and value of land was a matter for negotiation.
The intricacies of Japanese land surveying in the early modern period demand long learned essays - and after reading a couple I'm none the wiser - but what is clear is that this book is a major work in the history of rural engineering, survey and management. It was also problematic for the authorities: "problems in surveyor education were aggravated by government censorship. Bakufu officials did not want administrative uses of survey techniques discussed in public. Under the guise of 'respect authority; despise the people (kanson minpi),' the mysteries of official practice were not to be released to the public domain." (Brown: A Case of Failed Technology Transfer - Land Survey Technology in Early Modern Japan; 1998).
The authorities did suppress or attempt to suppress the Sanpo Jikata Taisei; Brown refers us to the preface of the 1976 reprint of this book for details and I came across another reference that claimed the woodblocks were destroyed. This seems fairly scarce outside Japan; the title is well represented in western libraries but once we discard the 1976 reprint I found only two libraries with originals through Worldcat.


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[Education]. Copy of Minutes of the Committee of Council on Education. (1841-42). [London] Ordered to be printed .. July 1842. Foolscap folio half calf; 303pp. Au$100

The appointment of the committe in 1839 was the first direct step towards public responsibility for education - and pretty well failed. Here, after the correspondence with various educational societies (and some letters from the Sub-Committee on Singing) are a series of reports on the state of schools in several counties.


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CHEVALLIER, Edgecumbe. The Shipwrecked Mariners; a poem. London, In Aid of the Shipwrecked Fishermen and Mariners' Benevolent Society [1843]. Octavo printed wrapper (chipped and detached); [20]pp, wood engraved illustrations throughout. Stained; a somewhat shipwrecked copy but complete and worth saving. With the inscription of Capt. F. Stephens of 226 Cumberland Street, Sydney. Au$100

Rare and captivating. Both lachrymose and thunderous, the dramatic verse illustrates the perils and tragedies of the sea, with some explanatory notes about specific wrecks, and exhorts British hearts - those hearts be praised - to subscribe a trifling annual sum to the Benevolent Society. The wood engravings are particularly apposite.


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Prisons - Tasmania. Correspondence on the Subject of Convict Discipline and Transportation ... presented to both houses of Parliament ... May 1848. London, William Cowes 1848. Foolscap publisher's printed wrapper (spine chipped); 144pp and seven folding plans (six with added colouring). A very good copy. Au$450

Much of this is, naturally, concerned with the concerted push by the colonies to end transportation which, in concert with a fair amount of practical detail about the state of the system and planned reforms and reductions, is not without interest. Added are items like the specifications for a new female penitentiary. The real appeal here, though, is the detailed report on the Prisoners' Barracks at Hobart and plans for improvements by its superintendent James Boyd. Described and illustrated in plan and section are the present, and the proposed and improved cells and 'dormitories'; the appalling cells underneath the chapel; and the tread-wheel.
The tread-wheel, punishment for refractory prisoners, was some 50 feet long in a room 68 feet long. Up to 150 prisoners at a time were in this room, "totally inadequate" as Boyd said. Of greater concern was that there was no separation of prisoners either on or off the wheel ("distressing evils") and Boyd proposes (illustrated in three of the plans) dividing the whole - the wheel and the room - into series of stalls and boxes, isolating the prisoners on and off the wheel. This is less stable-like than you may think, the meanest stable is airy and commodious in comparison.
The wheel seems to have been introduced into British prisons in the 1820s and lasted well into the 20th century despite the agitations of reformers throughout that whole time. Photographs of prison wheels at the end of the century show prisoners in stalls so, while I can't claim that Boyd originated the idea, there is no doubt that such plans were put into being throughout the prison system.


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GRAY, Francis C. [Calley]. Prison Discipline in America. London, Murray 1848. Octavo half morocco; 203pp. Ex parliamentary library with their gilt crest on the front board and incorporated into the spine, old manuscript shelf ticket, no other markings; some spotting of outer few pages but quite a good copy. Au$105

English edition using the Boston sheets with a new title inserted. One of the first handful of American prison reformers, Gray focussed on the instances of insanity, particularly caused by solitary confinement, based largely on two of the most progressive of American prisons - Philadelphia and Charlestown. He also canvassed European and English opinion, experience and reform. Gray was an example of the ideal Boston gentleman; lawyer by profession, humanitarian by leaning, he was also a pioneer photographer, art collector and member of just about every cultured and learned association there was.


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Florence. Documenti del Processo di Lesa Maesta Istruito nel Tribunale di Prima Istanza di Firenze nelli anni 1849 - 1850. [with] Atti dell' Autorita Giudiciale nel Processo di Lesa Maesta ... Firenze. Firenze, Carcere 1850; 1851. Quarto, together in half calf (worn but solid enough); 998; 197pp. Quite fresh inside. Au$100

A formidable compilation of documents regarding Florentine doings during the brief republican interruption and restoration of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1849. I dragged this off the shelf this afternoon to see what it was and found tucked inside a sheet of notes including NUC locations. This means that I started and never finished cataloguing this book more than twenty years ago, back in the days when I would trudge across to Sydney University to use their reference library. I can't make sense of my notes now and I'm even less interested than I was then.


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Kurofune Kawaraban. Perry and the Black Ships in Japan. [Jokisen no Zu]. n.p. [1853 - 54?]. Woodcut 24x31cm. Folds, minor signs of use, a pretty good copy. Au$750

These illicit illustrated news sheets - kawaraban - for the streets were produced by the million for a couple of hundred years so of course few survive. They were produced for anything more interesting than the drop of a hat and the arrival of the Black Ships, the American squadron commanded by Perry, in 1853 and 54 eclipsed any and all tiresome earthquakes, fires, plagues, famines, murders and scandals. For most Japanese this was the same as a squadron of alien space ships arriving on earth now. These prints are the kurofune kawaraban.
This print, though this copy is maybe under-inked, is notable for its convincing detail - convincing, not realistic. I get the sense that someone actually saw a steamship not too far back in the process to finished print. Many of these kawaraban were copied from other kawaraban which in turn were run up cobbling together bits of old 'Dutch' prints and anything with a foreigner in it based on reports of what was going on in Tokyo harbour.
There is another 1853 kawaraban with the same title as this which at first glance is very similar but it is obvious that a Dutch ship two centuries old has had a wheel slapped on the side. Part of the problem in tracing the origins of these prints is that no matter what the ship is and where the ship is, it was long established that a three quarter view from the stern and a couple of small boats in the foreground is the best way to see them. The figure in the corner is still more samurai than US marine.


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Russian ship. Putyatin. A Bunkindo woodcut of a supposedly Russian ship. Nagasaki, Bunkindo 1853? Coloured (by stencil or hand?) woodcut on brown paper, 25x37cm. Minor rumpling. Au$475

This presumably is one of Putyatin's ships that arrived in Nagasaki in August 1853 in attempt to match any treaty Perry managed to force on Japan. Like most of these hurried prints produced to capitalise on such dramatic occurrences old, sometimes ancient, woodcuts were dusted off and reworked. In this case it's clear that a Dutch ship has been rebranded Russian. Russian enough: there are still Dutch flags flying. This saved a lot of mucking about, sending an artist down to draw each ship. Few customers would ever see the actual boat. The British Museum has a more expected Nagasaki print which I swear is from the same block, with text and a crudely added vignette. That text labels it a Dutch ship - "Hollandsche Schip" even though flags have been made Russian. I'd guess the block cutter couldn't read that bit and left it alone. I'm yet to find the original - still all Dutch - print and I'm not sure it matters. It was likely adapted from another print anyway. The grandfather of this print, as far as I'm aware, is the print of the Dutch ship Shellach from 1782 and Bunkindo published 'Hollandsche Schip' prints galore drawn from that Shellach print. There is no text but Bunkindo's seal, lower left. Bunkindo were prolific publishers of Nagasaki prints of things foreign from the late 18th century into the 1850s. I wonder whether the band on deck playing large twirling horns was an improvement introduced for Koops' arrival in 1844 when Bunkindo went to town with prints showing the visiting band's French horns. I also wonder if the paper here as been dyed with persimmon juice, it's certainly persimmon colour. Books expected to be used a lot - like a lending library - were often dipped in persimmon juice to strengthen the edges of the paper but I've never seen another c19th print on brown paper like this. My guess is that Bunkindo were looking for ways to brighten up a well thrashed image. This is not a beautiful print. It's no triumph of Japanese craftsmanship but it is an intriguing example of the souvenir industry that thrived in Nagasaki on visiting Japanese tourists.


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Kawaraban. Perry and the black ships. [with] [Kitaamerika Gasshukoku Teio Yori Kenjo Mitsugimono Shinajina] with [Amerika Yori Dainihon e Kenjo Mitsugimono Shinajina]. [np 1854] (Kaei 7). Two woodcuts joined 62x24cm. Rather good. Au$1500

These illicit illustrated news sheets - kawaraban - for the streets were produced by the million for a couple of hundred years so of course few survive. They were produced for anything more interesting than the drop of a hat and the arrival of the Black Ships, the American squadron commanded by Perry, in 1853 and 54 eclipsed any and all tiresome earthquakes, fires, plagues, famines, murders and scandals. For most Japanese this was the same as a squadron of alien space ships arriving on earth now.
These prints are the kurofune kawaraban. This pair illustrates the gifts Perry presented to the emperor in March 1854. Like most (or all?) kawaraban it's obvious the artist was nowhere near their subjects and ran up drawings from reports, copies of copies and imagination. This is why these things are so much better than official renderings and photographs.
I have found copies of the right hand print - the train - in a few Japanese collections but Waseda and the Kyoiku Library in Yokohama are the only ones I've found with both.


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Kurofune Kawaraban. Perry and the Black Ships in Japan. Kawaraban or illustrated news sheet titled [Amerika sengo jinbutsu seimei-roku - Details of the people from the American ships]. n.p. n.d. [1854]. Woodblock printed broadside 17x24cm. Some insect holes in the margins repaired. Au$1050

These illicit illustrated news sheets for the streets were produced by the million for a couple of hundred years so of course few survive. They were produced for anything more interesting than the drop of a hat and the arrival of the Black Ships, the American squadron commanded by Perry, in 1854 eclipsed any and all tiresome earthquakes, fires, plagues, famines, murders and scandals. For most Japanese this was the same as a squadron of alien space ships arriving on earth now. These prints are the kurofune kawaraban.
The columns of detail about the members of the ships - and it may well be fact - give this the authority of documentary evidence but what is immediately clear is that the artist drew this view of the procession carrying gifts from description. He certainly had never seen an American and had no authentic picture to copy from, so things unfamiliar have become things somewhat familiar: the Americans' odd hats are like those of the mongol Chinese, Americans carry swords so naturally they would be carried on their back. What must also have been described and is beautifully caught is that Americans are a shambling, undisciplined bunch but they seem cheery enough.
So, why not use pictures of the Dutch as models? Was this issued in some provincial city where even images of the Dutch were unfamiliar? Did the differences as described overwhelm the similarities? Or, as I suspect, was it a canny commercial decision that a new alien race that looked much like the Dutch would sell no papers?
The Ryosenji - the Black Ship Museum in Japan, which boasts the largest collection of Black Ship material - does have a copy of this among the fewer than twenty kawaraban they hold. I can't find one anywhere else.


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Kurofune Kawaraban. Perry and the Black Ships in Japan. Kawaraban or illustrated news sheet of a sumo wrestler defeating three American sailors while American and Japanese onlookers laugh and clap. n.p. n.d. [1854]. Woodblock printed broadside 17x24cm. Some insect holes in the margins repaired. Au$1150

These illicit illustrated news sheets for the streets were produced by the million for a couple of hundred years so of course few survive. They were produced for anything more interesting than the drop of a hat and the arrival of the Black Ships, the American squadron commanded by Perry, in 1854 eclipsed any and all tiresome earthquakes, fires, plagues, famines, murders and scandals. For most Japanese this was the same as a squadron of alien space ships arriving on earth now. These prints are the kurofune kawaraban.
A joyous depiction of perhaps the first international wrestling match in Japan? The text explains that first one, then two, then three foreigners took on the Sumo wrestler. Our artist captures the moment one hits the ground and the other two are about to follow him. The Americans are laughing hard enough to cry while two of the Japanese spectators take their role as critics or judges seriously. Are they a summation of Japanese reactions to the westerners: disapproval, delight and a clinical determination to do the job right?
There exists a kawaraban perhaps by the same artist showing Sumo wrestlers delivering a gift of rice for the Americans to the beach close to their ships. Three wrestlers pirouhette and juggle hefty bales of rice like toys. There was quite a bit of fun in these meetings despite the arrogant aggression of Perry himself. The Ryosenji - the Black Ship Museum in Japan, which boasts the largest collection of Black Ship material - doesn't have a copy of this in their catalogue and I can't find one anywhere else.


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Kurofune Kawaraban. Perry and the Black Ships in Japan. [Kairiku Okatame Tsuke]. [Tokyo? 1854]. Woodcut broadside 40x61cm on two sheets joined in the middle. Somewhat shabby with some stains and holes, a couple repaired. Not too bad for a kawaraban. Au$850

These illicit illustrated news sheets - kawaraban - for the streets were produced by the million for a couple of hundred years so of course few survive. They were produced for anything more interesting than the drop of a hat and the arrival of the Black Ships, the American squadron commanded by Perry, in 1854 eclipsed any and all tiresome earthquakes, fires, plagues, famines, murders and scandals. For most Japanese this was the same as a squadron of alien space ships arriving on earth now. These prints are the kurofune kawaraban.
Perry's ships in the bay and the defensive array of clans with tens or hundreds of thousands of troops along the shorelines was a popular kawaraban subject; this and one similar are the largest and busiest I've seen. The other large version I've seen of this - titled Shinkoku Taihei Take Mori Mata Akira - is the same size, looks similar and features the American sailor/soldier in the corner, but is printed from different blocks with the ships in a different spot.


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