Meiji Japan: Edward Sylvester Morse collection from the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum

Edward S Morse (1838-1925) was a great polymath – notable for his work in natural history, ethnography and art history – but, perhaps most famous for his work in bringing Japan and the West closer together. He was one of the first Americans to live in Japan – teaching science at the Imperial University of Tokyo – and he devoted much of his life to the task of documenting life in Japan before it was transformed by Western modernization. In addition to preserving the household records of a samurai family and many accounts of the tea ceremony, Morse made notes on subjects as diverse as shop signs, fireworks, hairpins, agricultural tools, artists’ studios, music, games, printing, carpentry, the Ainu, gardens, household construction, art and architecture.

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