Basic Sources on Commodore Perry and the Opening of Japan
followed by Staff, Credits, and Acknowledgements

Basic Primary Sources

Perry, Matthew Calbraith. Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan, performed in the years 1852, 1853, and 1854, under the Command of Commodore M. C. Perry, United States Navy, by Order of the Government of the United States. Compiled from the Original Notes and Journals of Commodore Perry and his Officers, at his request, and under his supervision, by Francis L. Hawks, D.D., L.L.D. (Washington, D.C.: Published by Order of the Congress of the United States, 1856–1858). Three quarto volumes.
This now rare publication is the lavish basic official account of the Perry mission. Volume 1, published in 1856 and of greatest general interest, is extensively illustrated with fine lithographs and woodcuts, many of which are reproduced in the Essay. Volume 2 contains the colored plates of birds and marine life that are reproduced here. Volume 3, of virtually no interest today, consists entirely of astronomical charts prepared during the voyages. An abridged one-volume commercial trade edition of the Narrative was also published in 1856. This includes many of the same graphics, but the quality of reproduction is inferior to the original.

Perry, Matthew C. The Japan Expedition, 1852–1854: The Personal Journal of Commodore Matthew C. Perry. Edited by Roger Pineau, with an introduction by Samuel Eliot Morison. (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1968).
Throughout his mission to Japan, Perry dictated his observations and thoughts to an aide who wrote them down. This voluminous account was a major source for the official Narrative written by Francis Hawks. This printed version of the Perry journal includes numerous illustrations in both color and black and white—including lithographs that did not appear in the official Narrative and a small selection of Japanese graphics.

“Commodore Perry’s Expedition to Japan,” Harper’s Magazine, vol. 12, no. 70 (March 1856), pp. 441–466, and vol. 12, no. 72 (May 1856), pp. 733–756.
This journalistic account of the mission coincided with the publication of the first volume of the official Narrative and took its text, and a few illustrations, from that source. It captures how the expedition was presented to the general public.

Preble, George Henry. The Opening of Japan: A Diary of Discovery in the Far East, 1853–1856. Edited by Boleslaw Szczesniak. (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962).
A sample of Preble’s lively first-hand observations appears in the text of the Essay, describing the inebriated exchanges that took place at the formal banquet Perry held for Japanese commissioners on his flagship Powhatan.

Williams, Samuel Wells. “A Journal of the Perry Expedition to Japan (1853–1854),” Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, vol. 37 (1910), pp. 1-261.
Williams, an American missionary based in China, accompanied Perry as “first interpreter of the expedition.” This lengthy published version of his journal was edited by his son.

Heine, William. Graphic Scenes of the Japan Expedition. (New York: G. P. Putnam & Company, 1856).

Heine, William. With Perry to Japan: A Memoir by William Heine. Translated by Frederick Trautmann. (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990).
Heine, in his mid-twenties and born and educated in Germany, was the major artist who accompanied the Perry expedition. Most of the illustrations in the official Narrative are based on his paintings and sketches.

Morrow, James. A Scientist with Perry in Japan: The Diary of Dr. James Morrow (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1947).
Morrow accompanied the Perry expedition to collect, record, and illustrate botanical specimens. Unfortunately, his illustrations were never published and most of them have been lost.

Spaulding, J. W. The Japan Expedition: Japan and Around the World, An Account of Three Visits to the Japanese Empire (New York: Redfield, 1855).

Sewall, John S. “With Perry in Japan: Personal Recollections of the Expedition of 1853–54,” Century Magazine, vol. 70, no. 3 (July 1905), pp. 349–360.

Watts, Talbot (M.D.). Japan and the Japanese (New York: J. P. Neagle, 1852).
A concise (184 pages), illustrated account of Japan, based on existing literature in English and published on the very eve of Perry’s arrival in Japan in 1853. This is an excellent primary source for pre-Perry European and American images of Japan and the Japanese.

Kaempfer, Englebert. The History of Japan (Glasgow: James MacLehose & Sons, 1906).
This three-volume illustrated text is a translation from the German of the most famous Tokugawa-period foreign account of Japan, written by a German physician and scholar who resided in the Dutch enclave at Dejima from 1690 to 1692. It remained one of the best-known foreign sources about Japan into the 19th century.

Drifting Toward the Southeast: The Story of Five Japanese Castaways, Told in 1852 by John Manjiro. Translated by Junya Nagakuni and Junji Kitadai. (New Bedford: Spinner Publications, 2003.
This is a complete translation of Hyoson Kiryaku, the account told to Japanese officials by John Manjiro, a shipwrecked young man who was rescued by an American whaler and lived in the United States for many years before returning to Japan in 1851. Manjiro’s account, issued in a very few copies, included colored illustrations by himself and Kawada Shoryo, the scholar who transcribed Manjiro’s account for Japanese officials.

“Diary of an Official of the Bakufu,” Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, Second series, vol. 7 (1930), pp. 98–119.
A rare view (in translation) of the Perry mission as seen by Japanese officials. The author of this account, which focuses on official interactions during the 1854 visit, is unidentified. Many exchanges between Perry and the Japanese side are given in the form of direct quotations.

Basic Secondary Sources

Morison, Samuel Eliot. “Old Bruin”: The Life of Commodore Matthew C. Perry, 1794–1858 (Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1967).
This basic biography of Perry, by one of America’s most distinguished naval historians, covers the Japan mission in detail and includes interesting illustrations from the Japanese side.

Wiley, Peter Booth (with Ichiro Korogi). Yankees in the Land of the Gods: Commodore Perry and the Opening of Japan (New York: Viking, 1990).
A solid account of the Perry expedition.

Dulles, Foster Rhea. Yankees and Samurai: America’s Role in the Emergence of Modern Japan (New York: Harper & Row, 1965).
Chapters one through five present an unusually lively and engaging account of the Perry mission and its background.

Barr, Pat. The Coming of the Barbarians: The Opening of Japan to the West, 1853–1870 (New York: Dutton, 1967).
A short, popular overview.

Walworth, Arthur Clarence. Black Ships Off Japan (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1946).

Griffis, William Elliot. Matthew Calbraith Perry: A Typical American Naval Officer (Boston: Cupples and Hurd, 1887).

Kaneko, Kokichi. Manjiro, The Man Who Discovered America (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1956).

Sakamaki, Shunzo. “Japan and the United States, 1790–1853,” Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, Second series, vol. 18 (1939), pp. 1–204.
A useful, lengthy account of Japanese contacts with and views of the United States prior to the Perry expedition.

Catalogs & Other Illustrated Sources

Reynolds, Robert. Commodore Perry in Japan (New York: American Heritage “Junior Library,” 1963).
Although included in a “junior library” series, this volume contains an unusually broad and interesting selection of illustrations from the Japanese as well as American side.

Statler, Oliver. The Black Ship Scroll: An Account of the Perry Expedition at Shimoda in 1854 and the Lively Beginnings of People-to-People Relations Between Japan & America (Tokyo: John Weatherhill, Inc., 1963).
This little book offers a composite version of the “Black Ship Scroll” that is reconstructed in this unit. This scroll exists in several full or partial variations. The version reproduced in its entirety here is owned by the Honolulu Academy of Art. Statler’s book alternates scenes from this Honolulu scroll with almost identical scenes from an incomplete (and cut up) version in the possession of the Japan Society of San Francisco. The value of the book is enhanced by useful translations of the Japanese texts on the scroll by Richard Lane.

Ryosenji Treasure Museum. The Kurofune Art Collection (Shimoda: Ryosenji Temple).
This small catalog (entirely in Japanese) reproduces some of the holdings of this important collection of “Black Ship” (kurofune) artwork held by the Ryosenji Temple in Shimoda. Shimoda was one of the two treaty ports opened to foreigners by Japan in 1854, and a famous lithograph depicts American troops on parade in front of Ryosenji Temple. Many of the Japanese graphics included in this unit were provided by this source.

Worlds Revealed: The Dawn of Japanese and American Exchange (Salem: Peabody-Essex Museum, 1999).
This is the bilingual catalog of a joint U.S.-Japanese exhibition at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. It includes several excellent artworks on the Perry mission from the Peabody-Essex collection—most of which have been included here.

Houchins, Chang-su. Artifacts of Diplomacy: Smithsonian Collections from Commodore Matthew Perry’s Japan Expedition (1853–1854). (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1995).
This catalog contains many black-and-while photographs of gifts received from the Japanese by the Perry mission and now stored in the Smithsonian, along with itemized lists of gifts exchanged.

Tokio Koete Kataru Mono [“Voices from the Past: Historical Sources and Art Treasures”]. (Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku Shiryo Hensanjo, 2001].
This catalog, published by the Historiographical Institute of the University of Tokyo, accompanied an exhibition held at the Tokyo National Museum in December 2001 and January 2002. Of particular interest is the eight-panel folding screen titled “Assembled Pictures of Commodore Perry’s Visit,” which is reproduced in great detail in the Essay. The catalog includes an appendix of English captions for all illustrations.

Hibata, Ohsuke. A Picture Scroll of Commodore Perry’s Arrival at Yokohama in 1854: A Posthumous Work (1930).
This rare, short, illustrated text (a copy is held at Harvard University’s Yenching Library) is largely in Japanese but includes a brief English introduction. It was issued by Hibata Sekko, the son of Hibata Ohsuke, who prepared detailed illustrations at the time of Perry’s 1854 visit. The black-and-white illustrations are fascinating, and many later emerged in colored versions by different Japanese artists—including some of the paintings pasted onto the outstanding “Assembled Pictures of Commodore Perry’s Visit” folding screen at the Historiographical Institute at Tokyo University.

Yokohama Kaiko Shiryokan [Yokohama Archives of History].
This Japanese archive holds many materials pertaining to the opening of treaty ports in the years following the Perry mission. Illustrated publications pertaining to Perry include Perry Raiko kankei Shiryo Zuroku [The Japan Expedition of Commodore Perry, 1982] and Shiryo ga Kataru Yokohama no Hyakunen [A Century of Yokohama As Told in Documentary Materials, 1991].

Perry-Related Websites
This is an exceptionally detailed website compiled by George C. Baxley, stamp and book seller, and constantly updated: “These web pages are devoted to books, literature and lithographs pertaining to the 1852 to 1854 US Expedition to Japan and the China Seas by Commodore Matthew C. Perry. Here you will find material on early Japan, Lew Chew (Okinawa), China, Hong Kong and Macau."
Under the title “Perry Visits Japan: a visual history,” this site reproduces an unusual and little known Perry scroll in the collection of the John Hay Library at Brown University. The scroll is anonymous, and it is not clear when it was painted. It offers perspectives not seen in better known depictions of the mission.
Paul Mellon’s Personal Library at the University of Virginia includes five large-scale, colored illustrations by William Heine, including “Passing the Rubicon” and “Excercising the Troops” in Shimoda.
“Drifting Toward the Southeast: The Story of Five Japanese Castaways.” This site is based on the 2003 translation of Hyoson Kiryaku, John Manjiro's account of his experiences in the United States as told to the officials of the Shogunate in 1852.
Narrative of the expedition of an American squadron to the China Seas and Japan. Performed in the years 1852, 1853, and 1854, under the command of Commodore M.C. Perry, United States Navy, by order of the Government of the United States (1856).



“Black Ships & Samurai” was developed by Visualizing Cultures at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and presented on MIT OpenCourseWare.

MIT Visualizing Cultures:
John W. Dower
Project Director
Emeritus Professor of History

Shigeru Miyagawa
Project Director
Professor of Linguistics
Kochi Prefecture-John Manjiro Professor of Japanese Language and Culture

Ellen Sebring
Creative Director

Scott Shunk
Program Director

Andrew Burstein
Media designer
Anne Margulies Executive Director
Research Assistance:
Junko Kimura
Mikiko Nishimura
Christopher Field


Most of the graphics pertaining to the Perry mission are in the public domain. The following U.S. and Japanese institutions, individuals, and private collections have generously allowed Visualizing Cultures to reproduce their holdings (specific credit is acknowledged in the captions accompanying each graphic in the Essay). In a very few cases, attempts to locate the present holders of graphics have thus far proven unsuccessful. Please contact Visualizing Cultures with any questions or information about these matters.
Chicago Historical Society
Chrysler Museum of Art (including gift of Mr. and Mrs. Victor Spark as a
spacememorial to their son, Donald W. Spark, USMCR, 1923–1944)
George Eastman House
Harvard University
Honolulu Academy of Arts (notably the “Black Ship Scroll,” a gift of
spaceMrs. Walter F. Dillingham, in memory of Alice Perry Grew, 1960)
Honolulu Bishop Museum
Kobe City Museum
Library of Congress
Nagasaki Municipal Museum
Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum
New Bedford Whaling Museum
Peabody Essex Museum
Ryosenji Treasure Museum
Shimura Toyoshiro collection
Shiryo Hensanjo, University of Tokyo
Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution Division of Photographic Resources
Tokyo National Museum
US Naval Academy Museum
US Naval Historical Center
White House Historical Association
Yokohama Archives of History
Yokohama Museum of Art

[Permissions are still being sought for graphics from the collections of Carl Boehringer, DeWolf Perry, and Paul Blum.]


Critical funding for this unit was provided by The d’Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in MIT Education.

We are particularly indebted to Daiei Matsui, the abbot of Ryosenji Temple in Shimoda, who made the holdings of his temple’s exceptional “Kurofune Art Collection” available at a formative moment in the conceptualization and design of this website.

Shigekazu Kondo of the Shiryo Hensanjo (Histriographical Institute) at the University of Tokyo kindly arranged access to the institute’s collection, which includes the important “Assembled Pictures of Commodore Perry’s Visit” folding screen.

Dr. Stephen Little at the Honolulu Academy of Art facilitated access to the “Black Ship Scroll” featured in both the Essay and interactive digitally-reconstructed scroll.

The traveling “Black Ships & Samurai” exhibition, which premiered at Newport, Rhode Island in July 2003, was made possible by generous and time-consuming support from the Consulate General of Japan in Boston. We are particularly grateful to:
Masuo Nishibayashi, Consul General
Takahiko Watabe
Motoyo Koyata
Susan Gill
Karen Quinn

MIT Visualizing Cultures

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