How did a Japanese book come to be reprinted in Philadelphia in 1855? Before answering this question, I shall first explore the movement of Japanese books outside Japan during the Edo period, which has a surprisingly long history and dates from the 1620s if not earlier. The first Japanese books to reach the United States were probably those bought by participants in Perry’s expedition to Japan: where did they buy them and what did they buy? The partial copy of Ehon ōshukubai printed in 1855 with a guide to the Japanese language probably has its origins in the Perry expedition, and in this lecture I will show some of its remarkable features.
Peter Kornicki is the 2018-19 Jansen Lecturer at Princeton University. He retired in 2014 as Professor of Japanese after 30 years at the University of Cambridge. Most of his work has been on the cultural history of Japan, but since 2005 he has also been working on Korea and Vietnam and in 2018 completed a major study of the impact of Chinese textual culture on East Asia. He was awarded the Japan Foundation Special Prize in 1992 and the Yamagata Banto Prize in 2013; he is an elected member of the British Academy, the Accademia Ambrosiana (Milan), and Academia Europaea. He was President of the European Association for Japanese Studies in 1997-2000. Currently he is editor in chief of the journal East Asian Publishing and Society. He continues his research and lecturing activities relating to Japan and East Asia.