D. Sources of Influence and Transmission

1. French histories and Japan. 1729~1834.

    Engelbert Kaempfer’s History of Japan, in English, French, Dutch, German, Russian, and Latin editions, was for 150 years the major source of European information of Japan. Ezra Pound has been shown to have worked from Pierre Desmaizeaux’s 1729 French translation of J. G. Scheuchzer’s 1727 English translation, as well as from other early French works. Images: title page of the first edition of Kaempfer’s History, University Library, Kyoto University of Foreign Studies: ; title page of Histoire gènèrale de la Chine, ou annales de cet empire, vol. 1, Università degli Studi di Firenze: ).  

Ezra Pound has been demonstrated to have relied on three early French works for material about Japanese history that finds its way into The Cantos.

a. Kaempfer, Engelbert. Histoire naturelle, civile, et ecclesiastique de l’empire du Japon. 2 vols. The Hague: Grosse & Neaulme, 1729. According to Nolde (BK166), Pound’s notebooks reveal that while he was composing the ‘Chinese History Cantos’ (BK52) he consulted a French translation of Kaempfer’s History of Japan, which would be this work. Though Nolde goes on to demonstrate that the major sources for Japanese material in these Cantos are de Mailla and Klaptroth’s edition of Titsingh (see below), and no study has been made of the degree to which Pound relies on Kaempfer, the work includes material that might be linked to treatments in the Chinese History Cantos and others. The Histoire was translated from J. G. Scheuchzer’s 1727 History of Japan, itself a translation from Kaempfer’s manuscript in German, first published two years after Scheuchzer’s English version. A 1758 edition of Histoire identifies the French translator as Pierre Desmaizeaux.

b. Mailla, Joseph Anne Marie Moyriac de, trans. Histoire gènèrale de la Chine, ou annales de cet empire. 13 vols. Paris: Pierres, 1777-85. This translation of a Manchu version of the T’ung-chien kang-mu (Outline and digest of the comprehensive mirror), a history of China compiled by Confucian scholars in the twelfth century, is the primary source for Pound’s Chinese History Cantos, including their references to Mongol expeditions to Japan of 1274 and 1281, Japanese pirate attacks against the Ming empire in the sixteenth century, the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592, the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and the subsequent persecution of Christians in Japan. See Nolde (BK166) for careful analysis of Pound’s use of the work.

c. Titsingh, Izaak, trans. Nipon o dai itsi ran [Nippon odai ichiran], ou, annales des empereurs du Japon. Edited by Julius Heinrich Klaproth. Paris: n.p., 1834. Pound wrote to Kitasono (Ap, D29) in 1939 (BK82b4) that he had a copy of this work, but that ‘as far as [he had] time to read’ it seemed a ‘mere chronicle’. Several critics have noted, however, that he relied on it for a long passage about the Japanese emperors in Canto LVIII (BK52c), and Kimpel and Eaves (BK162) demonstrate as well that it is a source for Canto LVI (BK52a).





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