MCLEOD, Norman. ~ Epitome of the History of Japan... with Illustrations of the principal historical Personages, taken from ancient Pictures. Nagasaki: ‘Printed for the Author at the Rising Sun Office, Nagasaki, and Engraved at Osaka, Japan’, 1879.
Small 8vo (137 × 92 mm), pp. , 153 plus 15 engraved portraits. Minor waterstain to foremargins of first three plates, lightly browned throughout. Original decorated silk brocade covered wrappers. Spine worn, with silk cords frayed. Inscription to front free endpaper: ‘To C.H. Cundall Esq. With the Author’s compts. Yokohama 16/6/68’.
Presentation copy of one of the odder contributions to Far Eastern ethnography: a self-published thesis on the origins of the Japanese people among the lost tribes of Israel. The opening of Japan in the later nineteenth century after centuries of isolation encouraged numerous Western attempts to account for the specific features of Japanese race and culture. Among these was a notable desire to explain their origins in familiar terms. ‘Residing for several years in Japan, McLeod ventured to offer a full theory on the common ancestry of Japanese and Jews. Like his predecessors, he was astonished to find “many Jewish faces similar to those I saw on the continent”, and even the Emperor much resembled, he discovered, “the noble Jewish family of von Epstein”. Facial resemblance led to further analogies. Japanese shrines are built of cedar, he remarked, as was the Jewish Temple, and Jews carried the Ark of God as the Japanese do with their mikoshi (portable shrine). McLeod believed the Jews crossed Asia, conquered China, Korea, and later, headed by a Jewish–Korean leader known as Emperor Jimmu, they crossed the sea and took over the Japanese archipelago’. (’Lighter than yellow, but not enough’: Western Discourse on the Japanese Race’, 1854-1904)’, Rotem Kowner in The Historical Journal, 43, 1, 2000.
The author, a Scots-born businessman-turned-missionary, self-published this work in Japan, with a first edition of 1878 and several later editions with modifications. This 1879 edition with 153 pages has its last page printed in differing type and its final sentence left incomplete (the verso is blank) in common with other examples. The plates common to both editions are evidently etched or engraved: a most unusual example of Japanese-printed copper plates at this period. McLeod had also produced a larger collection of plates: Illustrations to the Epitome of the ancient history of Japan: including illustrations to guide book (1877).