An exceptional Japanese carved red chõshitsu lacquer telescope
Edo period, late 18th century
L. 17.9 cm
L. 37 cm (fully extended)
In Japan, unlike in China, carved lacquer ware was rare. It involves carving patterns through layers of lacquer. This small telescope, with a chrysanthemum design, extending parts black lacquered paper-maché with wooden eye-piece, is reminiscent of the Chinese carved lacquer technique much admired, but only occasionally imitated in Japan. Spectacles arrived in Japan in the mid-16th century mainly through Jesuits from China. The first telescopes in Japan probably were presented to Shogũn Ieyasu, given by the British East India Company in 1613, and in 1632, after the Taiwan Incident, the Shogũn asked the Dutch to help suppress the (Christian) Shimbara uprising by providing cannons and telescopes, which the Dutch did. At the end of the seventeenth century, telescopes started to be made in Japan, mainly in Nagasaki where the Japanese had seen the Dutch using telescopes. In 18th and 19th century watercolours and woodblock prints, Dutchmen are often depicted looking through a telescope, possibly as a phallic symbol. The best-known opticians during the Edo period were Mori Nizaemon (1673-1754) of Nagasaki and Iwahashi Zenbei (1756-1811) of Osaka.
For examples of late eighteenth-early nineteenth-century black and gold lacquered leather and paper-maché Japanese telescopes see: Uit Verre Streken, October 2016, no. 61, and December 2020, no. 66, and
for two Japanese glass tube telescopes see Uit Verre Streken March, 2015, no. 59 and 60.
An extremely rare Japanese glass telescope with lacquered leather case
Edo period, late 18th/early 19th century
The telescope is decorated in various colours and gilt with flowers, foliage and geometric designs over and beneath the glass that is finely wheel-engraved, the glass sections separated by silverwork and copper rims, the cylindrical case of lacquered leather and paper is impressed with European style ornaments and applied with gold and lacquer.
Length of telescope: 56.7 cm
Length of case: 68.3 cm
Suntory Museum of Art, exhibition catalogue Japanese glass: Stylish vessels, playful shapes, Tokyo, 2010, no. 18 (ill.)
Suntory Museum of Art, Japanese glass: Stylish vessels, playful shapes, 27 March - 23 May 2010
It is believed that the telescope was first imported to Japan as a gift from King James I (1566-1625) in 1613 to the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) who made well use of his telescope during his battles. Since then many of the country rulers asked the representatives of the Dutch East India Company on Dechima for telescopes as tributes. Sometime after the seclusion policy was executed in 1641, the making of telescopes started in Japan, mainly in Nagasaki where the Dutch had their factory on the island of Deshima. The best-known opticians during the Edo Period were Mori Nizaemon (1673-1754) of Nagasaki and Iwahashi Zenbei (1756-1811) of Osaka.
An extremely rare Japanese glass telescope with lacquered stand
Edo Period, late 18th/early 19th century
The telescope decorated in various colours with birds and sprays of flowers painted over glass that is finely wheel-cut engraved, the glass sections and copper rims separated by lacquered wood, the stand lacquered wood, with original wood box with inscription Otoomegane (telescope) and the name of the previous owner Mr. Nakata.
Length of telescope: 15.3 cm
Length of stand: 16.2 cm
A similar, larger, telescope, previously in the collection of Ikenaga Hajime, is now housed in the Kobe Museum.
A rare large Japanese lacquered leather telescope
Edo Period, late 18th century
In four sections, the smaller innermost end fitted with a cow horn disc pierced with a central hole to maximise the use of the centre of the lens and the largest, outermost section finished with a copper disk with a central hole, all four sections of lacquered leather embossed and applied with gold lacquer on a black ground with bands of European style patterns including flowers, scrolling foliage and geometric designs, two covers for both ends.
L. 32 cm (retracted with the two end covers)
L, 87 cm (fully extended)
The first telescope to arrive in Japan was a gift from King James I (1566-1625) to the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) in 1613. The Shogun made good use of his telescope during his battles and since then the Shogun and many of the country rulers asked the VOC, the Dutch East India Company based on the island of Deshima in the bay of Nagasaki, for telescopes as a tribute. At the end of the seventeenth century making of telescopes started in Japan, mainly in Nagasaki. The best known opticians during the Edo Period were Mori Nizaemon (1673-1754) of Nagasaki and Iwahashi Zenbei (1756-1811) of Osaka. The important role played by telescopes, of both European and Japanese manufacture, in the visual culture of the Edo Period is discussed in detail in Timon Screech, The Western Scientific Gaze and Popular Imagery in Later Edo Japan, (Cambridge, 1996).
For a similar example see NHK Service Centre and Siebold Council, Chikuzo 350-shunen Nagasaki Dejima ten (Exhibition commemorating the 350th anniversary of Deshima in Nagasaki, Tokyo and Osaka, 1986, cat. no. 134) for another example see Doris Croissant and Lothar Ledderose (eds.), Japan and Europe, 1543-1929 (pl. 61 in the exhibition catalogue: Berlin, Argon Verlag, 1993) there is an example in the Kobe Museum collection and two further examples of glass tube telescopes are in: Uit Verre Streken, Maastricht March 2015, cat. no. 59 and 60.
A Japanese lacquered leather telescope
Edo period, late 18th century
In four sections, the smallest innermost end fitted with a black lacquer wooden disk with a hole in the middle to look through, both ends finished with copper bands and one end with a copper cap. All four sections made of lacquered leather impressed and applied with gold on a black ground with bands of European style floral and geometric patterns.
L. 37 cm (when retracted) / L. 87 cm (when fully extended)
In 1613 the Shogun Tokagawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) received a telescope as a gift from King James I (1566-1625). He made good use of his telescope during his battles, and therefore Shogun’s and many Samurai asked the VOC, the Dutch East India Company based on the small island of Deshima in the bay
of Nagasaki, for telescopes as a tribute. At the end of the 17th-century making of telescopes had started in Japan, mainly in Nagasaki. The best-known opticians during the Edo period were Mori Nizaemon (1673-1754) of Nagasaki and Iwahashi Zenbei (1756-1811) of Osaka. In the 18th century Japanese watercolours and woodblock prints, Dutchmen are often depicted looking through a telescope.