A plan of the imperial city of Kyoto

This plan of the imperial city of Kyoto shows the Emperor’s palace in the centre of a coloured town plan. A German national, Kaempfer (1661-1716) took up a post as a doctor at the Dutch trading post at Nagasaki in 1690. 17th century Japan was almost completely closed to the outside world save for the small Dutch colony comprising about two dozen merchants and their families on the outskirts of Nagasaki, a space they shared with two thousand Chinese merchants and artisans, the only foreigners permitted to live in Japan, and only in Nagasaki at Japan’s westernmost extremity.

Kaempfer learned the language and travelled widely with a Japanese chaperone, collecting material on Japanese culture, society and geography for a book that was not published during his lifetime. After his death the manuscripts were acquired by Sir Hans Sloane, the wealthy London merchant and philanthropist after whom Sloane Square is named, who had them translated into English and published as The History of Japan in 1727. The Dutch translation of this volume is in the Fagel Library.

There are six coloured Kaempfer maps relating to Japan in the Fagel Atlas that are similar to the maps published in History of Japan but are slightly larger and appear to have been a special, oversize edition of the maps engraved as an undertaking separate to the publication of the general volume. Kaempfer’s history was ultimately translated into Japanese, completing the journey of a work that had been originally intended to inform Europeans about Japan.

Ichonographica Urbis Miaco
Ichnographica Urbis Miaco – Englebert Kaempfer, 1692, 42x27cm