The Perry mission was intent on more than just opening relations with
Japan, and its artists and technical specialists devoted themselves
to more than just depicting the people, customs, and landscapes of
a hitherto secluded country. They also set themselves the task of
compiling a graphic record of the natural world.
Due to unfortunate personal wrangles, the hundreds of botanical samples
collected by Dr. James Morrow were never included among the plates
that graced the official Narrative, and Morrow’s illustrations
were subsequently lost. The second volume did, however, include sumptuous
lithographs of marine life, together with a small selection of birds.
Works of art in and of themselves, these illustrations represent an
obvious counterpart to the great Audubon folios of birds and mammals
that constituted one of the most elegant of Perry’s gifts to
Japanese officials. These renderings, presented below, remind us that
the Western adventurers and expansionists of these days were intent
on “mapping” virtually every aspect of the little known