Japan and the Illustrated London News: Complete Record of Reported Events, 1853-1899

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Terry Bennett
Global Oriental, 2006 - Literary Criticism - 411 pages
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The Illustrated London News, launched in 1842, was the world’s first illustrated newspaper and an immediate success. Its first report on Japan, however, was not until eleven years later when as a result of Commodore Perry’s much discussed plan to ‘open’ Japan it published a substantial piece entitled ‘The United States Expedition to Japan’ in the issue of 7 May 1853, opening with the portentous words: ‘The presence of a large and powerful American fleet in the Eastern Seas possesses an unexpected interest at the present moment…’ Various reports by unnamed correspondents continued for the next eight years, until August 1861 when Charles Wirgman’s first report with illustrations appeared. Described as ‘Our Special Artist and Correspondent’, Wirgman was to be the ILN’s principal source for reporting on Japan for many years, and famously reported the attack on the British Legation in July 1861 and the British bombardment of Shimonoseki in 1864. After the mid-1870s Wirgman’s input declined and the work of other artists and reporters appeared instead. The ILN’s own obituary on Wirgman was published on 28 March 1891. By the late 1880s new photogravure printing technology was in place and the appearance of the paper changed significantly. Furthermore, the reporting from Japan diminished noticeably; indeed, there were a number of years in the period featured in this volume when not a single item on Japan appeared. But in the mid-1890s the ILN carried in-depth reporting on the Sino-Japanese War (1894-5), to the virtual exclusion of any other stories, and then reported nothing for the following two years. This volume concludes in 1899, the year of ratification of the ending of the Unequal Treaties between Japan and the Great Powers, which had major implications for Japan and its nascent empire; yet the ILN failed to make any reference to it. Instead, its one report for the final year of the nineteenth century was on the launch of the British-built battleship Asahi, which was to play a major role in the Imperial Japanese Navy during the forthcoming Russo-Japanese War (1904-5) – a war which once again was to preoccupy the ILN pages. Thus, Japan and The Illustrated London News provides readers and researchers for the first time with a ‘one-stop’ access point to the complete record of reported events relating to Japan in the critical half century following its opening to the West.

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About the author (2006)

Terry Bennett is a specialist in early photography of the Far East, with expert knowledge of the photographic pioneers who first explored the world in the late nineteenth century. He is the co-author of Japan: Caught in Time (1995) and author of Early Japanese Images (1996), Korea:Caught in Time (1997), Photography in Japan 1853-1912 (2006), Old Japanese Photographs: Collector's Data Guide (2006) and has lectured and published many articles on related topics.
Sir Hugh Cortazzi was British Ambassador to Japan, 1980-84, and Chairman of the Japan Society, 1985-95. His many books include Isles of Gold: Antique Maps of Japan (1983), The Japanese Achievement (1990), his memoir Japan and Back and Places Elsewhere (1998), and most recently The Thames and I (as translator, 2005). He is also the editor of several volumes of Britain and Japan: Biographical Portraits and British Envoys in Japan, 1859-1972.J.E. Hoare completed a long career in the British diplomatic service as chargé d'affaires in Pyongyang (2001-2) and has published widely on Korea and Japan, including Japan's Treaty Ports and Foreign Settlements (1994), Embassies in the East (1999) most recently (with Susan Pares) North Korea in the 21st Century (2005) and A Political and Economic Dictionary of East Asia (2005).

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