Home > Publications > NDL Newsletter > No. 215, December 2017

National Diet Library Newsletter

No. 215, December 2017

Tracing authenticity: Mukoyama Seisai’s notebooks and Katsu Kaishu

Masumi Kawamura
Modern Japanese Political Documents Division
Reader Services and Collections Department

This article is a partial translation of the article in Japanese of the same title
in NDL Monthly Bulletin No. 677/678 (September/October 2017).

Kaishu zassan 5; NDL Call No. 勝海舟関係文書16-5 (Katsu Kaishu documents 16-5);
Left: internal text; Right: original cover1

* Held in the Modern Japanese Political History Materials Room
of the Tokyo Main Library of the National Diet Library

KATSU Kaishu (1823-1899) is a prominent figure in Japanese history and is well-known as the captain of the Kanrin Maru, who was responsible for transporting the first Japanese Embassy to the United States across the Pacific Ocean. He was also a key figure in the consultations with SAIGO Takamori that achieved the bloodless surrender of Edo Castle and ushered in the Meiji Restoration. A significant collection of books and historical documentation related to Katsu Kaishu are preserved in the Modern Japanese Political History Materials Room at the NDL.

The Kaishu zassan, (Kaishu’s Calculations) is part of the Katsu Kaishu documents and comprises six volumes, bound Japanese style, containing financial documents compiled by Kaishu himself as reference material. The fifth volume contains mainly statistical data on the copper trade at the Port of Nagasaki. The handwritten characters on the cover (See image on the right.) are thought to be Kaishu’s own calligraphy, which differs from the neat handwriting of the table of contents (See image on the left.). Moreover, in the bottom right corner of the table of contents is an imprint of a seal with the name Seisai. In fact, the text of this fifth volume was not written by Kaishu himself, but is part of another resource book entitled Seisai zakki (Seisai’s Miscellany), which was compiled by a bureaucrat of the Edo government, named MUKOYAMA Seisai. Presumably, it was included in Kaishu zassan by Kaishu himself.

Mukoyama Seisai (1801–1856) was a bureaucrat who held several different posts in the Edo government, including oku yuhitsu (private secretary) and kanjo kumigashira (chief treasurer). Seisai became oku yuhitsu around 1838, at which time he was engaged in the transcription and collection of documents and books related to state affairs. By the time of his death in 1856, he had comprised over two hundred volumes of reference materials, which were given the title Seisai zakki.2

However, as shown in the chart below, the original manuscript volumes of Seisai zakki were split up and came into the possession of several different institutes during the Meiji period. A total of 164 volumes were inherited by the predecessor of today’s Historiographical Institute of the University of Tokyo, which now holds the largest portion. The second largest collection was owned by the Imperial Library, which purchased 53 manuscripts in 1903. These volumes can now be found in the Rare Books and Old Materials Room of the National Diet Library. And there are other volumes whose whereabouts remain unknown.

However, as shown in the chart below, the original manuscript volumes of Seisai zakki were split up and came into the possession of several different institutes during the Meiji period. A total of 164 volumes were inherited by the predecessor of today’s Historiographical Institute of the University of Tokyo, which now holds the largest portion.3 The second largest collection was owned by the Imperial Library, which purchased 53 manuscripts in 1903. These volumes can now be found in the Rare Books and Old Materials Room of the National Diet Library.4 And there are other volumes whose whereabouts remain unknown.


<<Outline of the route by which Seisai zakki was passed along>>

The aforementioned fifth volume of Kaishu zassan is unusual, in that it is a missing portion of Seisai zakki, discovered embedded in a different reference work.

By the end of the Edo period, Katsu Kaishu had collected and edited much material related to the administration of the Shogunate, particularly in the financial and economical fields. Kaishu himself had no official duties related to the administration of the Shogunate’s finances, so his access to this material generally came through his connections with those who were retainers of the Shogunate. Mukoyama Seisai’s son, Koson, was an acquaintance of Kaishu, who, just like his father, had held important posts in the Shogunate. Thus, it is likely that Kaishu received portions of Seisai zakki from Koson. Sometime around in 1884, Kaishu began compiling his collection on financial affairs under the title Kaishu zassan and incorporated Seisai zakki into this material.

Looking through the library catalog of Katsu Kaishu documents, it appears that Kaishu also owned other volumes from Seisai zakki. In fact, there are five other volumes that were likely from Seisai zakki, as shown in the photo and chart below. Some of them have been rebound and are no longer in their original form. But they are likely to be some of the missing volumes of the Seisai zakki.


<<Some materials from the Katsu Kaishu documents>>

<<Table: List of documents included in Katsu Kaishu documents which are
thought to have originally been a part of Seisai zakki>>
Katsu Kaishu Documents Call number Title Presence of the Imprint of Seisai’s seal Description on the edge of the book Note
16-5 Kaishu zassan 5 Yes Koshin 13
19 Keizai zassan Kaishu o kohon No Itsushi 28
(lower half of the description is cut off)
Includes Seisai’s original manuscript of population statistics.
96 Kiyo binran
Mukoyama Seisai original manuscript
No Itsushi 23 (lower half of the description is cut off There is a rubric that it might be part of Seisai’s work, Toyoittoku.
97 Teibi zakki (Shinryo ruihen) No Teibi 13 Uses writing paper with a sign that indicates that it was owned by Gudo (another pseudonym of Seisai). There is a rubric on the cover which says "Mukoyama."
100 Tokaido binran Yes Koshin 21 There is a rubric that it might be part of Seisai’s, work, Toyoittoku.
109 Jikataokanjocho Yes Heigo 38
  • *Toyoittoku is one of Mukoyama Seisai’s works. It came down to the Cabinet Library (Naikaku Bunko) in the National Archives of Japan. However, the description of the book edge of Toyoittoku owned by the National Archives of Japan is different from the one of Kiyo binran (Call number: 96).
  • *There are many other fragments of documents of Mukoyama Seisai’s original manuscripts in the Katsu Kaishu documents.

<<Other Seisai zakki in Katsu Kaishu Documents>>

These documents share the same features as the other Seisai zakki, such as that they are written in Seisai’s handwriting, have the imprint of Seisai’s seal, or use the same kind of writing paper with the sign which indicates that it was owned by Gudo (another pseudonym of Seisai). Moreover, there are traces of ink in the edge of the books which seem to be the numbers of volumes of Seisai zakki.


<<The book edge of Seisai zakki. Some of them are cut off, since they were partly bound.>>

Incidentally, Seisai also incorporated other authors’ works into his reference books. For example, the manuscript of Sekii dosei by HONDA Toshiaki (1743–1820), a prominent statesman known as the author of works such as Keisei hisaku and for promoting mercantilist policies, is included in the fifth volume of Seisai zakki, created in 1843.5 While it might seem strange to modern readers to find Seisai’s work incorporated into Kaishu’s reference materials, these and other valuable documents have come to light today thanks to this unconventional approach to collecting and preserving documents.

(Translated by Rie Watanabe and Shihoko Yokota)

Reference (in Japanese):

  • HARIGAYA Takeshi, "Kaisetsu", Mukoyama Seisai zakki. Tenpo koka hen dai 26 kan, written and edited by Mukoyama Seisai; supervised by OOKUCHI Yujiro; edited with comments by Harigaya Takeshi. Yumani Shobo, 2004. NDL Call No. GB391-H67
  • Ookuchi Yujiro, "Kaidai", Katsu kaishu zenshu. 6 (Suijinroku 1), edited by KATSUBE Mitake, MATSUMOTO Sannosuke, Ookuchi Yujiro. Keiso Shobo, 1974. NDL Call No. US21-18
  • MATSUURA Rei, "Kaidai", Katsu kaishu zenshu 3. (Suijinroku 1), Kodansha, 1976. NDL Call No. US21-39

Related articles from the National Diet Library Newsletter:


  1. In addition to the original cover which was likely to have been put on by Katsu Kaishu, there is another reddish-brown cover which was put on afterwards.
  2. Though each document has its own title such as Koshin zakki and Kiyu zattetsu, these miscellanies compiled by Mukoyama Seisai are at times collectively referred to as Seisai zakki. Following this custom, the title Seisai zakki is used in this article.
  3. The route taken by the original documents owned by the Historiographical Institute of the University of Tokyo has been revealed by the ownership stamps. They were at first presented by Seisai’s son, Koson, to the Daijokan Seiin Rekishika (History Division, Central State Council, Grand Council of State), and after being transferred to the Shushikyoku (Bureau of Historiography) and other institutions, were inherited by the Historiographical Institute. A portion of Seisai’s documents dedicated to the Department of History was also inherited by the Cabinet Library.
  4. Aside from the 53 original manuscripts of Seisai, the NDL inherits 164 handwritten copies (bound in 65 volumes) purchased by the Imperial Library from 1899 to 1902. Though it remains unknown around when the copies were created, they nearly overlap those owned by the Historiographical Institute. Both the original manuscripts and the handwritten copies are held in the Rare Books and Old Materials Room: Seisai zakki oyobi zattesu, NDL Call No. 237-36.
  5. Kibo zakki 13, owned by the Historiographical Institute of the University of Tokyo