(JAPAN). KANSHU TEI. ~ Seiyo-Ji Kitei Koku-han. [n.p., but Japan, c. 1850s].
Narrow 12mo (140 × 76 mm), pp. , plus two additional pages in manuscript. 13 woodblock illustrations of clock-faces with decorative borders. Stitched in original pale blue wrapper, label to upper cover, complete with the original printed wrapper.
‘How to read a western clock’. This rare and ephemeral booklet comprises one printed page of text followed by 13 full-page diagrams of cherub decorated Western clock faces with Japanese zodiac symbol notations. Each clock face is left blank besides the numerals, presumably for completion in manuscript by the student. It wasn’t until 1872 that the Japanese government officially adopted Western style timekeeping practices, including equal hours that do not vary with the seasons, (and, also the Gregorian calendar). Previously the Japanese had used an (unequal) temporal hour system that varied with the seasons; the daylight hours being longer in summer and shorter in winter. This system was abolished at the start of the, 1868, The Meiji Restoration, an event that restored practical imperial rule to Japan under Emperor Meiji. The Meiji Emperor announced in his 1868 Charter Oath that “Knowledge shall be sought all over the world, and thereby the foundations of imperial rule shall be strengthened.” This modernisation led to the emergence of a western-style clock industry replacing the typical Japanese clock which only had six numbered hours, from 9 to 4, which counted backwards from noon until midnight; (the hour numbers 1 through 3 were not used for religious reasons, being the numbers of strokes that were used by Buddhists to call to prayer). The count ran backwards because the earliest Japanese artificial timekeepers used the burning of incense to count down the time.