Book annotations as witness to the Dutch influence in Japan during the Edo period



The rare illustrated work, Geka shuko zushiki (Surgical Bandaging Illustrated, 1813), accompanies the Japanese abridged translation of Lorenz Heister’s Heelkundige Onderwijzingen.



During the Edo period, from the mid-17th to the mid-19th century, Japan adopted an isolationist policy. At this time, the only Westerners allowed access to the country were the Dutch, who were permitted to trade from their outpost on the manmade island of Dejima, in Nagasaki Bay. Along with the trade of goods came the exchange of knowledge.


Among the books recently purchased for the Osler Library is one that provides a compelling visual representation of the influence of Dutch learned medicine in Japan. Together with the two-volume Japanese translation of Lorenz

Dutch annotations within the Japanese text.

Heister’s work on surgical bandaging (Geka shuko, 1814) is a third but earlier volume, Geka shuko zushiki (Surgical Bandaging Illustrated, 1813). It is this third volume that features here.


The illustrated edition contains fine woodcuts depicting various types of and techniques for bandaging. What is particularly remarkable is that this work contains annotations in both Dutch and Japanese, demonstrating the communication of surgical knowledge that took place in Dejima. The contents are practical, for instance depicting different types of bandage that can be employed to treat different wounds. The techniques for bandaging that are displayed include those for the face, the head, the limbs. Thus, the text demonstrates not only the sharing of knowledge between the Dutch and the Japanese, but also provides detailed information about surgical bandaging, much of which remains relevant today.


Detail of descriptions written in Dutch, accompanying the Japanese text.

Manuscript notes relating to facial bandaging.



Further reading

  • Hiki, Sumiko. 2001. “Surgeons Who Contributed to the Enlightenment of Japanese Medicine.” World Journal of Surgery 25 (11): 1383–87.
  • Mishima, Yoshio. 2006. “The Dawn of Surgery in Japan, with Special Reference to the German Society for Surgery.” Surgery Today: The Japanese Journal of Surgery 36 (5): 395–402.
  • Van Gulik, Thomas M, and Yuji Nimura. 2005. “Dutch Surgery in Japan.” World Journal of Surgery 29 (1): 10–17.

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