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An analysis of Amerika shinwa : manuscript circulation and epistemological background in early modern Japan Escalona Echániz, José Manuel


This thesis examines the manuscript Amerika shinwa (New Stories about America, 1844) by Maekawa Bunzō, which reports the experience of the Japanese sailor Hatsutarō (1823–1889) in Baja California following a shipwreck. This study offers two primary analyses of the text. Firstly, I examine the scholarly network of the manuscript in the second half of the Edo period (1603–1868). I present examples of manuscript circulation and consider the importance of this medium for the transmission of secret information in the late Edo period. I also provide biographical context for the authors Maekawa Shūkō (1801–1854) and Sakai Sadateru (dates unknown), including their social and scholarly connections with other Confucian scholars. Secondly, I describe some of the paradigms through which foreign knowledge was organized and classified. I discuss the influence of honzōgaku (materia medica) on Amerika shinwa in particular and on early modern study of the natural world more broadly. I contrast the book’s concepts and illustrations of plants and animals with those of influential encyclopedias of the Edo period, such as the Bencao gangmu (Compendium of Materia Medica, 1596), the Kinmōzui (Illustrated Dictionary for Beginners, 1666), and the Wakan sansai zue (Illustrated Dictionary of the Three Realms in Japanese and Chinese, 1712). This comparison sheds light on the categorization and organization of plants and animals in the text. The primary goal of this study is to provide a close reading and contextual analysis of Amerika shinwa, focusing on the circulation of foreign knowledge as well as the tools that enabled comprehension of plants, animals, and utensils from Mexico.

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