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PRIDEAUX, Humphrey; TADASU, Hayashi, translator.

[The Life of Muhammad.] "Mahometto Den" [馬哈黙伝]

Tokyo, Higashi Kan'ichi Meiji 9 [1876]. Stock Code: 138760

The first book introducing Islam to Japan

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First edition in Japanese, being the first Japanese book on the life of the prophet Muhammad, drawn from Prideaux's The True Nature of Imposture Fully Display'd in the Life of Mahomet (1697) and translated into Japanese by Hayashi Tadasu, later Japan's Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Tadasu (1850-1913) studied in Britain from 1866 to 1868. On his return to Japan he joined with Tokugawa loyalists in the Boshin War, and was captured by Imperial forces, but was released in 1871 and recruited to work for the Meiji government due to his overseas experience and language skills, accompanying the Iwakura Mission to the United States and Europe from 1871 to 1873. He later served as ambassador to Britain, and as foreign secretary. Through his travels and intercourse with western literature he came across Prideaux's biography of Muhammad, and undertook the translation. Its publication in 1876 coincided with a surge of interest in western texts as Japan opened itself to the world.
Prideaux's biography of Muhammad was not the best material to introduce the life of the Prophet to Japan, long outdated even by the 19th century. Prideaux's portrayal of Muhammad as a fraud had a purpose in its time, as the churchman author used his biography to draw parallels with deism, and consequently undermine the then-ascendant theology. Even so, its publication still marks a significant moment in knowledge of Islam in Japan. In the period there were various Japanese studies of Islamic countries, but the focus was generally on European management of their colonies with an eye to treaty revisions and analyzing world politics, rather than interest in the religion and culture itself. Tadasu's translation marks the first time Islamic theology was presented to a Japanese audience in detail.

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2 volumes, octavo (222 x 150 mm), 88 and 47 leaves respectively. Original Japanese Fukuro-Toji bindings, printed labels to spines and front covers.


Spine label split and peeling a little to one volume, wrappers very slightly soiled, but otherwise in excellent condition.


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