Album of photographs of Japan

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

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1890 - 1899 (Questionable)
Library locations
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection
Shelf locator: MFY+ 93-6336
Photograph albums
Ownership: Gift of Jane (Mrs. Irving) Sadosky, 1979.
Content: Portraits and genre scenes: studio portrait of farmer with radishes hanging on hoe; two young women sleeping; young nurse with umbrella carrying baby on her back; studio view with a painted backdrop of older man and woman "eating by the roadside;" people working in tea-yard at Uzi, Yamshiro; farmer and bullock cart carrying rice bales to market; women planting rice; men and women threshing rice; people bathing in waterfall, Yumoto; priest and attendant in front of Daibutsu, Hiogo; woman in kago in front of Hafuya Hotel; women preparing meal; woman dishing up food, man eating; "sacred car" and procession; rope dancing: children standing on hands, man with drum; fire brigade balancing on ladders; a view of chrysanthemums.
Content: Views of Japan: signs lining theatre street, Yokohama; Nagasaki: boats pulled up on beach, island beyond; Takaboko: women by horse statue, Bronze Horse Temple; torii and stairs; Nikko: Yomeimon Gate at shrine; waterfall of Riuzu; Kyoto: group of people with umbrellas on Spectacle Bridge; idols in Sanjusangendo; rickshaw in bamboo grove; Kobe: Mayasan Temple; woman on balcany looking at Nunobiki Waterfall; Tokyo: sepulchre at Shiba, showing gate to shrine and tomb; rickshaws under cherry trees in bloom, Akasaka; people on porch in tea house garden; Fuji from Yoshiwara; Shiraitono-Taki, a waterfall near Fuji; hanging bridge, Fuji beyond; large building, Fujiya Miyanoshit[a]; Matsushima (Inland sea), three views showing rock formations, islands, boats; lanterns and torii at Miyajima Inland Sea at Aki; boat on Miyajima Aki.
Content: Hand-colored albumen prints mounted recto and verso on gilt-edged mounts which are tabbed in binding with lacquered board and leather spine. Lacks back cover.
Content: Images are numbered and captioned in negative.
Content: Title devised by cataloger.
Content: Views are numbered: 59, 97, 137, 262, 761, A129, A144, A213, A275, A282, A336, A434, B2, B74, B84, B86, B90, B96, B1046, B1100, B1196, E9, G80, H9, [H192], I23, L84, M15, M92, N12, O2, O24, P81, P99, Q11, Q77, R98.
Content: A view on the beach at Kowloon City, China of men standing over the beheaded Namoa Priates, May 11, 1891.
Physical Description
Albumen prints
Color prints
Extent: 1 album (42 photographic prints) ; albumen, col. ; 19 x 25.2 or smaller in album approx. 27 x 37 cm.
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b11818701
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 851a7e00-c6ce-012f-379b-58d385a7bc34
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