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[Manuscript]: An American Doctor in Japan during the 1868 Boshin War: The

[Manuscript]: An American Doctor in Japan during the 1868 Boshin War: The "Journal of A.M. Vedder, M.D., Physician to His Highness the Prince of Choshui, Mitagiri, Province of Nagato, Japan

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[Manuscript]: An American Doctor in Japan during the 1868 Boshin War: The "Journal of A.M. Vedder, M.D., Physician to His Highness the Prince of Choshui, Mitagiri, Province of Nagato, Japan

by VEDDER, Alexander Madison

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About This Item

(Nagato; Shimonoseki; Nagasaki), 1868. Hardcover. Very Good. Manuscript Journal. Octavo. Measuring 5.5" x 8". About 180 pages in manuscript: pp. [4] 1-21 [22-170], followed by several blank leaves, and seven pages of memoranda at the back. Bound in half calf and marbled paper over boards, gilt spine. Approximately 30,000 words, written from 12 January - 30 October, 1868. Boards are a bit warped with partial splitting to front joint, marbled paper is worn, some staining to the text pages, good or better. With a printed "Weekly Union Calendar for 1868" affixed on the verso of front free endpaper. A densely written journal of Alexander Vedder's nearly daily entries (with a four-week gap in September), documenting his experiences as the physician and school master for the Prince of Ch sh during the year of 1868, a scant 15 years after Commodore Matthew Perry and his fleet entered Tokyo harbor and forced a trade relationship with Japan. Vedder knew that he was one of the few foreigners present in one of the most politically important parts of the country at a pivotal time in Japanese history: the Boshin War had just broken out, pitting Japan's two most powerful samurai, the Princes of Ch sh and Satsuma in support of the Emperor Meiji, against the ruling Tokugawa Shogunate. He thus deliberately records much information about the country, and about Japanese customs, along with his personal reactions to the culture. In a June, 1868 letter to his brother Elihu Vedder, he had written: "I have enjoyed about as good an opportunity of observing and studying the characteristics of these people as has been afforded perhaps to anybody since the opening of the country and during a great part of the time have preserved notes of anything worth jotting down (which may someday or other be given to the world)." Alexander Vedder was the older brother of the well-known artist and illustrator Elihu Vedder. After an unsuccessful attempt to establish a medical practice in New York City in 1856 at the age of 25, he accepted a medical officer's commission in the U.S. Navy, eventually serving as a surgeon. Six years later, during the Civil War he was assigned to the sloop-of-war U.S.S. *Jamestown*, which was under orders to sail for Japan. The *Jamestown* arrived at Yokohama in July 1863, where Vedder was put in charge of a small naval hospital. Enchanted by the country, and well aware of the financial rewards available to a well-trained Westerner, Vedder resigned his commission in 1865 in order to expand his practice at Yokohama. In January, 1868 he began his service as household physician to the Prince of Ch sh at Shimonoseki and Mitagiri (a town on the southern coast of the main island near Nagoto), and in October of that year he accepted an offer from the Emperor to serve as head of the Imperial Hospital and lecturer at Niogo (present day Kobe) near Osaka. His remarkable ascent was cut short by a paralytic attack in 1869 which, in turn, led to his death in 1870. When Vedder arrived at Shimonoseki in January, 1868 (the sixth year of his residence in Japan), and at Mitagiri in February, he was the only foreigner residing at either place. Being attached to the Prince, he was attended by an English-speaking interpreter, and he frequently met with the Governor and other high officials. He often mentions his interpreter "Ito" and Ito's companion "Kido." These most likely are It Hirobumi (one of the Ch sh Five who travelled to England in 1863 to study at University College in London, and Japan's first Prime Minister), and Kido Takayoshi, another important statesman from the Ch sh Domain. Here for example is an early entry from Jan. 15th: "Took a long walk this morning and in the PM dined with Kido and Ito at a tea house ... The repast, in my honor, was to have been in foreign style, but the pretty waiter girls made such a mess of it, that I begged the party to abandon chairs and table and take to the mats, assuring them of my preference for Japanese style. May heaven forgive me!" Also of historical importance was Vedder's close friendship with the English merchant Thomas Blake Glover. Based in Nagasaki, Glover had convinced Harry Parkes, the British minister, that Britain should resist attempts by the Tokugawa Shogunate to control foreign trade in Japan, and to support instead the Ch sh and Satsuma leaders, whom Glover was supplying with foreign arms and warships to fight the Shogunate. Vedder describes several encounters with Glover and his associates, including a long visit of several days at Glover's house ("Ipponmatsu") at Nagasaki, and also to coal mines in which both Glover and the Prince of Ch sh had controlling financial interests. Here is an excerpt from Vedder's description of his visit to Japan's first coal pits: April 31st [near Nagasaki]: "Visited ... the coal mines belonging to the Prince of Hizen on the island of 'Matz-sima'. There are no perpendicular shafts, but the galleries simply follow the coal seams, descending at an angle generally of about 30°. The one I entered was fully half a mile long, low, with a muddy bottom, and the supports in many places rotten and ready to give way. The ventilation is not good and the mine but imperfectly freed from water by a series of ninety foot wheels each trodden by one man, and kept constantly at work. The seam being worked was four feet in thickness and of good quality, but not got out systematically, only hammered and chipped away ... I never was so glad to get out of a place in my life ... The labor of extraction is arduous in the extreme, and many of those employed are young girls, all nearly nude, who have to pant and toil through that half mile of incline sinking at every step into the mud and water, and loaded with two baskets containing nearly a picul of coal. It really seemed to me that life under such circumstances must be something whose termination would be looked forward to as the only consolation connected with it, yet the swarms of blackened, filthy ragged children did not certainly bear out the idea. The hovels were the worst and filthiest things I have ever seen in Japan. The miners are said to be principally composed of criminals." Over the course of his employment under the Prince, Vedder describes his interactions with various Japanese students and patients, Ch sh Domain officials and visits of the Prince his son ("the Younger") to Mitagiri, political events, and his many excursions hiking and visiting towns. Here are but a few brief excerpts: Jan. 16th [Shimonoseki]: "Hundreds of Junks ... come here annually and a great trade is carried on in sea-weed, salt fish, salt, etc., while what may be called Junk chandlery flourishes to an unlimited extent. Two steamers came in today and anchored in front of my residence, one belongs to the Prince of Satsuma, the other to Chikuzen. I think they came here for coal." This is the first of several references to Prince Satsuma, and the Satsuma-Ch sh Alliance. Jan. 17th [Shimonoseki]: "Many steamers of various princes are daily arriving and departing and Ito informed me today that more troops were to go to Kioto, where I fear there will be trouble. / Ascended a hill to day by 285 steps, on its summit is a little Miya [Shinto shrine] to the memory of those who fell in the late war with the Taikun [the Tycoon or Shogun]." Feb. 2d [Shimonoseki] "News came to day that hostilities had actually commenced at Kioto and that the Taikun in person was leading his forces against the Daimios who have possession of his Highness the Mikado. Of course there is a great stir here in official quarters, and Ito suddenly embarked in the 'Whampoa' [Thomas Glover's Steamer] for Niogo, leaving not a soul here with whom I can converse in English. / Doubtless the Daimios will be whipped, for the Taikun is a resolute man ... ." April 4th [Mitagiri]: "Yesterday went to see a merchant near here, whose thigh I was told was enormously swollen. Ascertained it to be a fracture, altho' in their ignorance, they carefully concealed the fact of the man having fallen. He had been treated for fourteen days by a Japanese physician with pitch plasters to the limb! I have had a bedstead made, and shall extend by the weight and pulley." April 14th [Shimonoseki]: "Start for Nagasaki on certain business matters ... / Arrive at Shimono Seki ... The whole place making a gala day of it, to view the grand procession of Prostitutes, who to the number of perhaps a hundred, clad in gorgeously embroidered and manifold robes, mounted on wooden clogs 15 inches high, their heads loaded with silver ornaments and shell hair pins, parade the streets supported by female attendants on either side. They are followed by men holding huge umbrellas over their heads, and form certainly one of the strangest and most perplexing exhibitions that is often beheld. I saw something like this at Yokohama, years ago, but on a much smaller scale. / What it all means I cannot say, unless it be to hold up a brilliant example for emulation to the adolescent female population. The entire population were out to witness it, arrayed in their Sunday best ... ." He also describes the Japanese diet, Japanese and Chinese medicinal plants, etc., and several encounters with Japanese physicians. A few months after taking up is new post for the Emperor in Niago in 1869, Vedder suffered a paralytic attack which incapacitated him for a number of months. He sailed for home in the spring of 1870, and died not long after his arrival in San Francisco. An article that Vedder was working on: *Remarks on the Actual State of Medical Science in Japan* was published in the January 1869 issue of *American Journal of Medical Sciences*. He refers to his experiences treating fractures, constructing crutches, and dispensing medications, all subjects treated much more elaborately in his manuscript journal. A few of Vedder's letters to his brother and father also have been published in *Archives of American Art Journal* (January 1966). To this published record, Vedder's remarkable journal, rich in content, will add much detail about Japanese culture at this historically important moment. A fascinating and informative highly detailed account. A list of longer extracts from the journal is available.


Between the Covers- Rare Books, Inc. ABAA US (US)
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[Manuscript]: An American Doctor in Japan during the 1868 Boshin War: The "Journal of A.M. Vedder, M.D., Physician to His Highness the Prince of Choshui, Mitagiri, Province of Nagato, Japan
VEDDER, Alexander Madison
Book condition
Used - Very Good
Quantity available
Place of Publication
(Nagato; Shimonoseki; Nagasaki)
Date published
Archive, Manuscript, Science, Medicine, Travel/GeographicNon-fiction, Americana, AsianInterest, Nautical
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Some terminology that may be used in this description includes:

The decorative application of gold or gold coloring to a portion of a book on the spine, edges of the text block, or an inlay in...[more]
Another of the terms referring to page or book size, octavo refers to a standard printer's sheet folded four times, producing...[more]
The outer portion of a book which covers the actual binding. The spine usually faces outward when a book is placed on a shelf....[more]
A new book is a book previously not circulated to a buyer. Although a new book is typically free of any faults or defects,...[more]
marbled paper
Decorative colored paper that imitates marble with a veined, mottled, or swirling pattern. Commonly used as the end papers or...[more]
Calf or calf hide is a common form of leather binding.  Calf binding is naturally a light brown but there are ways to treat...[more]
Very generally, "leaves" refers to the pages of a book, as in the common phrase, "loose-leaf pages." A leaf is a single sheet...[more]
The page bound on the left side of a book, opposite to the recto page.

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