Collection History

Photographic albums, photographically illustrated books, and archival photographs have been in the Library's collections and predecessor collections since the mid- to late-19th century. They therefore came to their present location in the Photography Collection of the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs through various means, including purchase, gift, and transfer from other divisions. Important early albums of photographs of East Asia are still entering the Library's collections, and their contents will eventually be added to this digital presentation.


The technology of photography was introduced into Asian countries soon after its invention in various forms in Europe. The first daguerreotype camera was imported into Japan in 1848 (the patent dates to 1839). Wet and dry plate photographic processes were introduced into Japan by Dutch photographers stationed on the island of Dejima, in Nagasaki Bay, beginning in the 1850s. Felice Beato accompanied the British expeditionary army into China in 1860, and photographed the first military campaign. Beato set up his photographic studio with Charles Wirgman in Yokohama in 1863. The peripatetic Beato opened a photography studio and curio shop in Mandalay, Burma (now Myanmar) in 1885. English photographers such as John MacCosh and Captain Linnaeus Tripe were photographing in Burma from the 1850s. These two photographers were also active in British India, and the introduction of photography into India follows the same patterns as for the other Asian countries. As was the case in Japan, Indian photographers were active at a very early stage, and made major contributions to the genre.

A major Japanese photographer whose work is represented in these digital images is Kimbei (Kusakabe Kimbei), thought to have been a pupil of Beato. He assisted Beato in the hand-coloring of photographs until 1863. He set up his own large and flourishing studio in Yokohama in 1881.

The digital images in this presentation provide a rich resource for the understanding of the political, social, economic, and artistic history of Asia from the 1870s to the early 20th century. Japan was first opened to foreigners following the entry of Admiral Perry into Tokyo Bay in 1853 (a daguerreotype photographer accompanied Perry's expedition). We thus have an extensive photographic documentation of Japan, and of interaction between the Japanese and foreigners, from this period on. In the broadest sense, photography entered Asia from Europe and America as part of the process of colonialism, but soon took root in those regions with local photographers, who learned the craft from European and American photographers, along with travelers, military people, and merchants.

Related Resources

Advent of Photography in Japan = Shashin torai no koro (1997).

Harris, David. Of Battle and Beauty: Felice Beato's Photographs of China (1999).

Imperial China: Photographs 1850-1912, historical texts by Clark Worswick and Jonathan Spence, with a foreword by Harrison Salisbury (1978).

India: Pioneering Photographers:1850-1900 (2001).

India Through the Lens:Photography 1840-1911 (2000).

Japanische Photographie 1860-1929 (1993).

Nihon shashin zenshu = The Complete History of Japanese Photography. 12 volumes (1985-).

Singer, Noel F., Burmah: A Photographic Journey, 1855-1925 (1993).

Winkel, Margarita. Souvenirs from Japan: Japanese Photography at the Turn of the Century (1991).

Collection Data

Kimbei, Kusakabe (Photographer)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1880 - 1890
Library locations
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection
Shelf locator: MFY+ 93-6333
Ownership : Children's Room transfer, 1982.

Content : Attribution of album to Kusakabe based on comparison with album titled "Views of Japan," (8-BEW+) which contains images identical to images in this album, and has an image that has been identified in Worswick (p. 49) as a Kusakabe Kimbei image.

Content : Gilt-edge leaves are tabbed into album with lacquer boards and leather spine. Front cover has hand-painted and inlaid scene of 3 children playing instruments and dancing, one holding mask. Inlays are of mother-of-pearl, ivory and wood. Back cover is painted view of vase, leaves and flowers, and a butterfly. End papers and doublure of imitation moire.

Content : Spine title.

Content : Views are numbered with Arabic numerals in negative.

Content : Views of Japan: Osaka: Ten Noji Temple, moat and castle, people outside theater; Kyoto: general view, Chionin Temple, including view of sculpture in Great Gate, bronze bell, archer at Sanjiu Sangendo in 33,333 Images; Gion-machi, a street in Kyoto, Mikado's garden; Japanese graves at Kurodani, Kyoto; pavilion on a lake, Kinkakuji Garden; spectacle bridge of Otani, lotuses in foreground; Kiyomidzu Temple; Nishi Honganji; boat on river, small buildings alongside, and rocky rapids near Kyoto; Tokyo: Temple at Shiba, Temple Haiden; bronze gate; Iyetsugu's tomb; Mikado's Garden (Fukiage); lotuses in moat in front of Tokyo Castle; Ginza; Shinobadzu (pond) Uyeno Tokyo showing homes on island; restaurant, gardens and bronze Buddha, Uyeno; Asakusa Temple; passenger on boat on Sumida River, Mokojima;l rickshaws on cherry-lined street, Mukojima; Prince Hotta's garden; wisteria in bloom over a pond, Kameido; Horikiri, iris flower garden; Oj tea house; Nikko: huge trees lining Nikko Road, Imaichi; sacred bridge at Nikko; Iyeyasu Temple; storehouse for treasure; Yomei Mon (Great Gate) with ornate carvings; stone steps in front of Iyeyasu Tomb; Iyeyasu's tomb and bronze sculpture; Dainichido Garden, with mountains beyond; Chiusenji Lake, village along side; The Kegon (waterfall); 100 stone images, sculpture along river; village and river at Tonosawa; Udaki (waterfall) near Yumoto, field and village at Yumoto; buildings above creek at Oyama.

Content : Views of Japan: Yokohama: English Hatoba, numerous small boats in foreground; Bund from the water; Grand Hotel, harbor beyond; general and street views; beach and boats at Tomioka; torii, street and hillside stair in Yenoshima; Shinto shrine, bronze Buddha, at Kamakura; lake and village of Kanasawa; mountainous road near Ashio; Watarase River, Omama; boat bridge over river near Maitabasai; (Hot water river) Yusawa at Ikao, street in Ikao; Miyanoshita; thatched roof buildings in Dogashima; Hakone: Gongen Road, Fujiyama from across the lake, village on lake shore; parlor at Hafuya Hotel; Fujiyama from Umetoge; Surgura Tagonura Bridge to Fujiyama, mountain beyond; Asamayama (Fire Mountain) venting above fields and village, from Karuisawa; Nakasendo: street and tea house, Shimono Suwa (tea house and fire bell, Suwa Lake from Shiwojiri Pass, Kakehashi, Kisogawa River at Nakasendo; Nagoya Castle; Biwa Lake from Ishiyama, Biwa Lake from Miidera, village in foregound; general view of Hakodate; Kobe: general view, Suwayam hill, Metaki (waterfall), Mayason (Mon Temple) at Kobe; Tonomine at Yamato; torii and road, Nara; village and rocky shore along Awaji-shima; Arima, set in narrow valley; Ainu in village, Island of Yezo; Onomichi Bingo, Inland Sea, general view of inlets, islands, mountains beyond; Kintai Bashi Bridge, Iwakumi; Nagasaki: inlets and islands, bridge over creek and houses, Nakashima at Nagasaki, Bronze horse Temple, sculpture of horse at right.

Statement of Responsibility: Kimbei Kusakabe.
Physical Description
Extent: 1 album (100 photographic prints) : albumen, col. ; approx. 21 x 26.5 cm or smaller on leaves 30 x 38 cm.
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number) : b11818700
UUID: c4383170-c6cd-012f-6e4d-58d385a7bc34
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