The von Siebold Collection from Tokugawa Japan: 1. Dr Philipp Franz von Siebold's career in the Orient
BY 1867 the collection of Japanese printed books and manuscripts in the British Museum numbered barely three hundred items whereas, for example, that of printed books alone in Hebrew ran to well over ten thousand. This relatively small collection of Japanese materials in what were then two sections of the British Museum (but today form part of the British Library) is some measure of just how little was yet known about this ancient, exotic, and populous civilization. However, this deficiency was shortly to be remedied to quite an extent by the purchase from Alexander von Siebold in July 1868 of 1,088 distinct Japanese works in 3,441 volumes (printed books, manuscripts, charts, and maps). At the time the vendor was serving as a Japanese interpreter to the British Legation at Edo (present-day Tokyo).