This resource presents a digital edition of the papers of Edward Sylvester Morse, which were donated to the Peabody Essex Museum by his family in 1926. Morse's papers were conserved and processed in 1986, funded by a grant from Skogakukan of Tokyo, Japan.
An American scientist and polymath, Morse worked and travelled in Japan during the Meiji Restoration, and was captivated by the country. His extensive papers are broad in their scope, covering a wide range of intellectual pursuits and include not only his correspondence, but also his translations of Japanese works, his notes, sketches and drawings, his meticulous diaries, and the various materials which he collected. Japan was rapidly transistioning from being a feudal society into an industrialised one at this time, and Morse wished to record the former before it was lost, becoming one of the United States' pre-eminent experts on its culture and its pottery.
Morse's papers provide a valuable English-language source for the study of Meiji-era Japan and cultural exchange between the United States and East Asia during the late nineteenth century, enabling insights into life in late nineteenth century Japan through the eyes of a foreign national who was deeply interested in the country. Morse often recorded his personal opinions, varying from his praise for many aspects of Japanese society to his prejudices towards the Chinese. Where content expressing views which would now be considered offensive has been identified, a warning has been added; however, further such content may be found within other documents included in the collection. To find out more about Morse's life, beliefs and career, see Professor Robert Rosenstone's essay, Edward Sylvester Morse: Scientist and Japanologist.
The majority of the collection has been reproduced here.
Materials deemed too fragile for capture or not directly related to Morse's experiences of Japan and the wider Pacific world have not been included. Morse's papers are arranged into seventeen series, and content from fifteen of these are available in this digital resource. Of those fifteen series, all but Series VIII (Lectures), XIV (Biographical and Personal), and XV (Miscellanea) are available in full. This resource does not contain content from Series XVI, which pertains to the administration of the Peabody Essex Museum, and Series XVII, which is comprised of portrait photographs.
For more information on the individual series, see the Nature and Scope page.