A Visit to India, China and
Japan in the Year 1853

By Bayard Taylor, 1855

Taylor, Bayard:
A Visit to India, China and Japan In The Year 1853, 1855, New York - G.P. Putnam & Co., London - Sampson Low, Son & Co., 1855, with a black and white frontispiece (steel engraving), illustrated (steel engraving) short title page, 8vo (5 x 7 3/4 in), green, brown, black or blue cloth with gilt lettering on the spine (some books have gilt decoration also) and blindstamped covers with ornate repeating oval design and "GPP&Co." in central oval frame, 539 pp. An atlas folio - over 23" - 25" tall - may also have been issued to accompany the book.

The frontispiece is an Okinawan scene, the "The Valley of Unna in Lew Chew" drawn by Taylor. Two minor variations in the frontispiece in the first edition have been recorded. Type A has the lettering immediately under the image with the artist's name (B. Taylor) (positioned on the left) and the engraver's name (positioned to the right). Type B does not have this lettering.

The book is a narrative of Taylor's two and 1/3 year world travels of over 50,000 miles. The journey spanned most of the European countries, the Nile to Central Africa, Palestine, Asia Minor, India, China (twice), Okinawa and Japan. Taylor tied up with the Perry Expedition to Japan in Shanghai by actually joining the Navy as an "officer of very moderate rank" (p 361). During the expedition, Taylor traveled on board the Susquehanna as the personal clerk to Captain Buchanan. Taylor, America's most popular literary journalist of that period, accompanied the expedition and recorded the military and diplomatic maneuvers by which Perry gained access to Japanese officials. He was not on the entire expedition but was on the expedition to Japan during May to September, 1853 time period which included a visit to Okinawa, the delivery of the President's letter and the return to Hong Kong and Macau. After smoking a little opium in Canton, Taylor terminated his brief career as a Naval Officer in September of 1853 and headed home on commercial vessels. The Perry Expedition portion of the book spans approximately one-fourth of the book (ca 140 pages).

Taylor's account of the visit to Okinawa is perhaps one of the most informative (outside the original Narrative of the Expedition) account of life in Okinawa in the mid-19th century. His first observation, on viewing the Island from sea on May 27, 1853 was:

When the next morning dawned, bright and clear, I though I had never seen a more lovely landscape than the island presented. (page 366)
The Loo-Choo account (pages 364-388) given by Taylor touches on many different aspects from geography, cultural properties, government, local customs, structures and living conditions, commerce, diet and agricultural practices, to name just a few.

The Valley of Unna in Lew Chew - Frontispiece
Type A (Lettering Under Image at Bottom Right and Left)

Steel Engraving from a Drawing by B. Taylor

The Valley of Unna in Lew Chew - Frontispiece
Type B (No Lettering Under Image)

Steel Engraving from a Drawing by B. Taylor

The book was published in several editions between 1855 and 1892. Quite often it was incorporated into sets of Taylor's travel writings published by Putman. I have seen two books which carry the copyright date of 1855. Both are pictured at the top of this page. The first appears to be the original stand-alone edition. The second carries "Bayard Taylor's Travels, Volume 5, India, China & Japan" on the spine. The title pages make no reference to the book being a volume in the Taylor travel series. This appears to be the first time that the book was published as volume of Taylor's works. The spine of the stand-alone version has an illustration. The travel volume 5 book does not have an illustration on the spine. Both books have the same blindstamped design on the front and back covers.

Collation. Full Title: A Visit to India, China and Japan In The Year 1853, New York, G.P. Putnam, 1855, Frontispiece (engraving - Valley of Ulnna in Loo Choo) with tissue guard, Short Title Page with (engraving - Taj Mahal), Title Page (2 pages -"Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1855"), Dedication Page, Preface (4 pages), Contents (9 pages + 1 blank page - ix-xvii), Text (numbered pages 13-539).

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