Basic Sources on Commodore Perry and the Opening of Japan
followed by Staff, Credits, and Acknowledgements
Basic Primary Sources
Perry, Matthew Calbraith. Narrative of the Expedition of an American
Squadron to the China Seas and Japan, performed in the years 1852,
1853, and 1854, under the Command of Commodore M. C. Perry, United
States Navy, by Order of the Government of the United States.
Compiled from the Original Notes and Journals of Commodore Perry and
his Officers, at his request, and under his supervision, by Francis
L. Hawks, D.D., L.L.D. (Washington, D.C.: Published by Order of the
Congress of the United States, 1856–1858). Three quarto volumes.
This now rare publication is the lavish basic official
account of the Perry mission. Volume 1, published in 1856 and of
greatest general interest, is extensively illustrated with fine
lithographs and woodcuts, many of which are reproduced in the Essay. Volume 2 contains the colored plates
of birds and marine life that are reproduced here. Volume 3, of
virtually no interest today, consists entirely of astronomical charts
prepared during the voyages. An abridged one-volume commercial trade
edition of the Narrative was also published in 1856. This includes
many of the same graphics, but the quality of reproduction is inferior
to the original.
Perry, Matthew C. The Japan Expedition, 1852–1854: The Personal
Journal of Commodore Matthew C. Perry. Edited by Roger Pineau,
with an introduction by Samuel Eliot Morison. (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian
Institution Press, 1968).
Throughout his mission
to Japan, Perry dictated his observations and thoughts to an aide
who wrote them down. This voluminous account was a major source
for the official Narrative written by Francis Hawks. This printed
version of the Perry journal includes numerous illustrations in
both color and black and white—including lithographs that
did not appear in the official Narrative and a small selection of
“Commodore Perry’s Expedition to Japan,” Harper’s
Magazine, vol. 12, no. 70 (March 1856), pp. 441–466, and vol.
12, no. 72 (May 1856), pp. 733–756.
account of the mission coincided with the publication of the first
volume of the official Narrative and took its text, and a few illustrations,
from that source. It captures how the expedition was presented to
the general public.
Preble, George Henry. The Opening of Japan: A Diary of Discovery
in the Far East, 1853–1856. Edited by Boleslaw Szczesniak. (Norman,
OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962).
of Preble’s lively first-hand observations appears in the
text of the Essay, describing the inebriated
exchanges that took place at the formal banquet Perry held for Japanese
commissioners on his flagship Powhatan.
Williams, Samuel Wells. “A Journal of the Perry Expedition to
Japan (1853–1854),” Transactions of the Asiatic Society
of Japan, vol. 37 (1910), pp. 1-261.
an American missionary based in China, accompanied Perry as “first
interpreter of the expedition.” This lengthy published version
of his journal was edited by his son.
Heine, William. Graphic Scenes of the Japan Expedition. (New
York: G. P. Putnam & Company, 1856).
Heine, William. With Perry to Japan: A Memoir by William Heine.
Translated by Frederick Trautmann. (Honolulu: University of Hawaii
Heine, in his mid-twenties and born
and educated in Germany, was the major artist who accompanied the
Perry expedition. Most of the illustrations in the official Narrative
are based on his paintings and sketches.
Morrow, James. A Scientist with Perry in Japan: The Diary of Dr.
James Morrow (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press,
Morrow accompanied the Perry expedition to
collect, record, and illustrate botanical specimens. Unfortunately,
his illustrations were never published and most of them have been
Spaulding, J. W. The Japan Expedition: Japan and Around the World,
An Account of Three Visits to the Japanese Empire (New York:
Sewall, John S. “With Perry in Japan: Personal Recollections
of the Expedition of 1853–54,” Century Magazine, vol.
70, no. 3 (July 1905), pp. 349–360.
Watts, Talbot (M.D.). Japan and the Japanese (New York: J.
P. Neagle, 1852).
A concise (184 pages), illustrated
account of Japan, based on existing literature in English and published
on the very eve of Perry’s arrival in Japan in 1853. This
is an excellent primary source for pre-Perry European and American
images of Japan and the Japanese.
Kaempfer, Englebert. The History of Japan (Glasgow: James
MacLehose & Sons, 1906).
This three-volume illustrated
text is a translation from the German of the most famous Tokugawa-period
foreign account of Japan, written by a German physician and scholar
who resided in the Dutch enclave at Dejima from 1690 to 1692. It remained
one of the best-known foreign sources about Japan into the 19th
Drifting Toward the Southeast: The Story of Five Japanese
Castaways, Told in 1852 by John Manjiro. Translated by Junya
Nagakuni and Junji Kitadai. (New Bedford: Spinner Publications, 2003.
This is a complete translation of Hyoson Kiryaku,
the account told to Japanese officials by John Manjiro, a shipwrecked
young man who was rescued by an American whaler and lived in the
United States for many years before returning to Japan in 1851.
Manjiro’s account, issued in a very few copies, included colored
illustrations by himself and Kawada Shoryo, the scholar who transcribed
Manjiro’s account for Japanese officials.
“Diary of an Official of the Bakufu,” Transactions
of the Asiatic Society of Japan, Second series, vol. 7 (1930),
A rare view (in translation) of the Perry
mission as seen by Japanese officials. The author of this account,
which focuses on official interactions during the 1854 visit, is
unidentified. Many exchanges between Perry and the Japanese side
are given in the form of direct quotations.
Basic Secondary Sources
Morison, Samuel Eliot. “Old Bruin”: The Life of Commodore
Matthew C. Perry, 1794–1858 (Boston: Little, Brown & Company,
This basic biography of Perry, by one of America’s
most distinguished naval historians, covers the Japan mission in
detail and includes interesting illustrations from the Japanese
Wiley, Peter Booth (with Ichiro Korogi). Yankees in the Land of
the Gods: Commodore Perry and the Opening of Japan (New York:
A solid account of the Perry expedition.
Dulles, Foster Rhea. Yankees and Samurai: America’s Role
in the Emergence of Modern Japan (New York: Harper & Row,
Chapters one through five present an unusually lively
and engaging account of the Perry mission and its background.
Barr, Pat. The Coming of the Barbarians: The Opening of Japan
to the West, 1853–1870 (New York: Dutton, 1967).
A short, popular overview.
Walworth, Arthur Clarence. Black Ships Off Japan (New York:
Alfred Knopf, 1946).
Griffis, William Elliot. Matthew Calbraith Perry: A Typical American
Naval Officer (Boston: Cupples and Hurd, 1887).
Kaneko, Kokichi. Manjiro, The Man Who Discovered America
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1956).
Sakamaki, Shunzo. “Japan and the United States, 1790–1853,”
Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, Second series,
vol. 18 (1939), pp. 1–204.
A useful, lengthy account
of Japanese contacts with and views of the United States prior to
the Perry expedition.
Catalogs & Other Illustrated Sources
Reynolds, Robert. Commodore Perry in Japan (New York: American
Heritage “Junior Library,” 1963).
Although included in a “junior library” series,
this volume contains an unusually broad and interesting selection
of illustrations from the Japanese as well as American side.
Statler, Oliver. The Black Ship Scroll: An Account of the Perry
Expedition at Shimoda in 1854 and the Lively Beginnings of People-to-People
Relations Between Japan & America (Tokyo: John Weatherhill,
This little book offers a composite version
of the “Black Ship Scroll” that is reconstructed in
this unit. This scroll exists in several full or partial variations.
The version reproduced in its entirety here is owned by the Honolulu
Academy of Art. Statler’s book alternates scenes from this
Honolulu scroll with almost identical scenes from an incomplete
(and cut up) version in the possession of the Japan Society of San
Francisco. The value of the book is enhanced by useful translations
of the Japanese texts on the scroll by Richard Lane.
Ryosenji Treasure Museum. The Kurofune Art Collection (Shimoda:
This small catalog (entirely in Japanese)
reproduces some of the holdings of this important collection of
“Black Ship” (kurofune) artwork held by the Ryosenji
Temple in Shimoda. Shimoda was one of the two treaty ports opened
to foreigners by Japan in 1854, and a famous lithograph depicts
American troops on parade in front of Ryosenji Temple. Many of the
Japanese graphics included in this unit were provided
by this source.
Worlds Revealed: The Dawn of Japanese and American Exchange
(Salem: Peabody-Essex Museum, 1999).
This is the bilingual
catalog of a joint U.S.-Japanese exhibition at the Peabody Essex
Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. It includes several excellent artworks
on the Perry mission from the Peabody-Essex collection—most
of which have been included here.
Houchins, Chang-su. Artifacts of Diplomacy: Smithsonian Collections
from Commodore Matthew Perry’s Japan Expedition (1853–1854).
(Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1995).
catalog contains many black-and-while photographs of gifts received
from the Japanese by the Perry mission and now stored in the Smithsonian,
along with itemized lists of gifts exchanged.
Tokio Koete Kataru Mono [“Voices from the Past:
Historical Sources and Art Treasures”]. (Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku
Shiryo Hensanjo, 2001].
This catalog, published by the
Historiographical Institute of the University of Tokyo, accompanied
an exhibition held at the Tokyo National Museum in December 2001
and January 2002. Of particular interest is the eight-panel folding
screen titled “Assembled Pictures of Commodore Perry’s
Visit,” which is reproduced in great detail in the Essay. The catalog includes an appendix of English captions for all
Hibata, Ohsuke. A Picture Scroll of Commodore Perry’s Arrival
at Yokohama in 1854: A Posthumous Work (1930).
rare, short, illustrated text (a copy is held at Harvard University’s
Yenching Library) is largely in Japanese but includes a brief English
introduction. It was issued by Hibata Sekko, the son of Hibata Ohsuke,
who prepared detailed illustrations at the time of Perry’s
1854 visit. The black-and-white illustrations are fascinating, and
many later emerged in colored versions by different Japanese artists—including
some of the paintings pasted onto the outstanding “Assembled
Pictures of Commodore Perry’s Visit” folding screen
at the Historiographical Institute at Tokyo University.
Yokohama Kaiko Shiryokan [Yokohama Archives of History].
This Japanese archive holds many materials pertaining
to the opening of treaty ports in the years following the Perry
mission. Illustrated publications pertaining to Perry include Perry
Raiko kankei Shiryo Zuroku [The Japan Expedition of Commodore
Perry, 1982] and Shiryo ga Kataru Yokohama no Hyakunen [A
Century of Yokohama As Told in Documentary Materials, 1991].
This is an exceptionally detailed website compiled
by George C. Baxley, stamp and book seller, and constantly updated:
“These web pages are devoted to books, literature and lithographs
pertaining to the 1852 to 1854 US Expedition to Japan and the China Seas
by Commodore Matthew C. Perry. Here you will find material on early
Japan, Lew Chew (Okinawa), China, Hong Kong and Macau."
Under the title “Perry Visits Japan: a visual history,”
this site reproduces an unusual and little known Perry scroll in
the collection of the John Hay Library at Brown University. The
scroll is anonymous, and it is not clear when it was painted. It
offers perspectives not seen in better known depictions of the mission.
Paul Mellon’s Personal Library at the University
of Virginia includes five large-scale, colored illustrations by
William Heine, including “Passing the Rubicon” and “Excercising
the Troops” in Shimoda.
“Drifting Toward the Southeast: The Story of Five
Japanese Castaways.” This site is based on the 2003 translation
of Hyoson Kiryaku, John Manjiro's account of his experiences
in the United States as told to the officials of the Shogunate in
Narrative of the expedition of an American squadron to the China Seas
and Japan. Performed in the years 1852, 1853, and 1854, under the command of
Commodore M.C. Perry, United States Navy, by order of the Government of the United
“Black Ships & Samurai” was developed by Visualizing Cultures at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and presented on MIT OpenCourseWare.
MIT Visualizing Cultures:
Emeritus Professor of History
Professor of Linguistics
Kochi Prefecture-John Manjiro Professor of Japanese Language and
CREDITS AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Most of the graphics pertaining to the Perry mission are in the public
domain. The following U.S. and Japanese institutions, individuals,
and private collections have generously allowed Visualizing Cultures
to reproduce their holdings (specific credit is acknowledged
in the captions accompanying each graphic in the Essay). In
a very few cases, attempts to locate the present holders of graphics
have thus far proven unsuccessful. Please contact Visualizing
Cultures with any questions or information about these matters.
Chicago Historical Society
Chrysler Museum of Art (including gift of Mr. and Mrs. Victor Spark
to their son, Donald W. Spark, USMCR, 1923–1944)
George Eastman House
Honolulu Academy of Arts (notably the “Black Ship Scroll,”
a gift of
Walter F. Dillingham, in memory of Alice Perry Grew, 1960)
Honolulu Bishop Museum
Kobe City Museum
Library of Congress
Nagasaki Municipal Museum
Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum
New Bedford Whaling Museum
Peabody Essex Museum
Ryosenji Treasure Museum
Shimura Toyoshiro collection
Shiryo Hensanjo, University of Tokyo
Smithsonian Institution Division of Photographic Resources
Tokyo National Museum
US Naval Academy Museum
US Naval Historical Center
White House Historical Association
Yokohama Archives of History
Yokohama Museum of Art
[Permissions are still being sought for graphics from the collections
of Carl Boehringer, DeWolf Perry, and Paul Blum.]
Critical funding for this unit was provided by The d’Arbeloff
Fund for Excellence in MIT Education.
We are particularly indebted to Daiei Matsui, the abbot of Ryosenji
Temple in Shimoda, who made the holdings of his temple’s exceptional
“Kurofune Art Collection” available at a formative moment
in the conceptualization and design of this website.
Shigekazu Kondo of the Shiryo Hensanjo (Histriographical Institute)
at the University of Tokyo kindly arranged access to the institute’s
collection, which includes the important “Assembled Pictures
of Commodore Perry’s Visit” folding screen.
Dr. Stephen Little at the Honolulu Academy of Art facilitated access
to the “Black Ship Scroll” featured in both the Essay
and interactive digitally-reconstructed scroll.
The traveling “Black Ships & Samurai” exhibition, which
premiered at Newport, Rhode Island in July 2003, was made possible by generous
and time-consuming support from the Consulate General of Japan in
Boston. We are particularly grateful to:
Masuo Nishibayashi, Consul General