Stock ID #157024
Late Edo manuscript copy of the long preface and the first two volumes of Kankai ibun 環海異聞. 87 folded leaves. Some worming particularly first leaves, plain blue paper Japanese stab binding insect damaged with a little loss. 27.3 x 20cm. The famous Japanese castaway story of Kankai ibun 環海異聞, written by Otsuki Gentaku 大槻玄澤 and completed in 1807 falls into the interesting category of Edo "underground literature". At that time as the repressive authorities blocked, at least in theory, all intelligence from the outside world there was inevidently a great fascination for any information that found its way into the country. Throughout the 19th century manuscript copies were made of Kankai ibun as it circulated through the educated Japanese population. The original 15 volumes (sometimes found as 15 volumes in 16) was also circulated in abridged copies of 6 volumes, from it seems the middle of the 19th century on, although Kankai ibun was not published until the very end of the century.
Kankai ibun is based on the interviews Otsuki Gentaku 大槻玄澤 conducted with the three castaways who were eventually repatriated to their home of Sendai after 12 years away. Otsuki Gentaku (1757-1827) was an official doctor and a scholar of Dutch studies in the Sendai Domain.
Kankai ibun tells the story of the crew of 16 sailors whose ship, the Wakamiya-maru, encountered a storm off Iwaki (Fukushima Prefecture) while undertaking a routine voyage transporting timber and rice from Sendai to Edo in November 1793. The storm blew the Wakamiya-maru off course and she drifted for months before arriving at Ulanaska in the Aleutian Islands where the crew were rescued by locals who handed them over to the Russian colonists of the islands. Thus began the long period of 12 years away from their homeland for those of the crew who survived and, when the choice was offered, made the decision to return.
The manuscript volume offered here comprises the preface and the first two volumes of Kankai ibun 環海異聞. The first volume reports the events from Wakamiya-maru’s departure from Ishinomaki on 27th November in 1793 and the subsequent drifting to and landing on Unalaska on 10th May 1794 in the Aleutian Islands, followed by the sailors life on Atka Island where they were for about a year. The second volume reports the second part of their life in Atka and their journey to Okhotsk (where they arrived on 28th June 1795) and their life in Yakutsk.
Kankai ibun is not only interesting for its account of the Japanese castaways from Sendai, but it also provides vivid anthropological information on the indigenous people and their life in the Aleutian Islands and Siberia with some illustrations. The first volume includes three illustrations: 1. a sea animal called “Kōshiki” whose skin was used for clothes; a bird called “Okucho”, whose feathers were also used for clothes in Unalaska; underground houses in Unalaska. The second volume has 15 illustrations which includes icebergs [This illustration was based on a Dutch painting. The Japanese castaways saw icebergs on the way to Okhotsk.]; a dog-sled loaded with logs; an indigenous man and woman and a girl in the Aleutian Islands; two men hunting in a canoe; a walrus; a local house [on the way to Yakutsk] with ice plates used as windows; a Russian residence on Atka Island; and the cross of the Russian Orthodox Church erected wherever the Russians lived in their territory. The illustrations are those of Gentaku's painter disciple who illustrated the exotic animals, objects, etc. from the castaways description. (When referring to this item please quote stockid 157024).