A lacquered half-inch refracting pasteboard telescope decorated with VOC monograms
Japan, Edo Period, late 18th century
L. 81 cm (fully extended)
In four sections, the three inner sections black lacquered, impressed with bands of gold, European style, patterns. The outermost section is red lacquered with three broad decorative bands, the central one incorporating rain-dragons, the outer bands with repeated VOC monograms, and in between four square motifs incorporating VOC monograms and geometric designs. With two covers for both ends and a Japanese cotton sleeve for storage.
The VOC monograms do not mean that the Japanese made telescopes for the Dutch, but rather that the Japanese used the monogram as a decorative element on an item that was initially introduced into Japan by the VOC.
Telescopes were introduced in Japan by Dutch/European seamen and soon were ordered by the Shõgun and by important samurai from the VOC, the Dutch East India Company. At the end of the 17th century, the Japanese started making telescopes themselves, mainly in Nagasaki, the only harbour where Western/Dutch ships were allowed to trade during the period of the Sakoku Policy of the ‘closed country’(1641-1854). The best-known opticians during the Edo Period were Mori Nizaemon (1673-1754) of Nagasaki and Iwahashi Zenbei (1756-1811) of Osaka. The present telescope, with all the VOC monograms, most likely was made in Nagasaki where the VOC had its trade post on the small artificial island of Deshima. For similar Japanese telescopes, but without VOC monograms see Uit Verre Streken, December 2020, no. 66, and Uit Verre Streken, October 2016, no. 61.