Japan on a Glass Plate

The Adventure of Photography in Yokohama and Beyond, 1853–1912



ISBN: 9789493039995 Category:

Sebastian Dobson


Drawing from an extensive private collection assembled over many years, this book presents a unique selection of nineteenth-century photographs of Japan, many of which are published here for the first time.

Between the twilight years of the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1867) and the end of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) that followed it, photography offered a unique insight into the rapid transformation of Japan from an isolated, feudal society to a modern, industrialised state. In the four decades that followed the opening of the country in 1853, the camera evolved from an imported novelty to a familiar witness of Japanese daily life.

Operating from the Treaty Ports of Yokohama and elsewhere, early practitioners of photography plied an often precarious trade in images of Japan and laid the foundations of what would soon become a highly competitive industry with a global reach. Whether cherished as souvenirs of an exotic land of fond imagination or curated as visual documents of a fast-changing society, these images by foreign and Japanese photographers, often packaged in exquisitely produced albums, enjoyed a wide circulation abroad and played an important role in influencing perceptions of Japan in the West well into the early twentieth century.

Additional information

Weight 1457 g
Dimensions 26.2 x 27.5 cm
Publisher name Ludion
Publication date 20 December 2023
Number of pages 192
Format Hardback
Contributors Introduction by Christoph Ruys
Dimensions 26.2 x 27.5 cm
Weight 1457 g


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A UK-based independent scholar, Sebastian Dobson graduated in Modern History from Durham University and pursued his postgraduate study at Cambridge University before being awarded a Monbusho Research Scholarship in 1989 to study in Japan. He has written extensively on the history of photography and other aspects of visual culture in Japan during the Bakumatsu and Meiji eras, and his works include the monograph Under Eagle Eyes: Lithographs, Drawings and Photographs from the Prussian Expedition to Japan, 1860-61 (2012, co-authored with Sven Saaler), articles, reviews, and contributions to The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (2005) and The Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography (2007). Dobson has also collaborated on exhibitions held at institutions in the UK, the US and Japan. His most recent publications are A Carte Album attributed to Shimooka Renjo and Japan 1900: A Portrait in Color, both of which were published in 2021.