Article 1-5
[ Home ] [ Up ] [ Article 1-1 ] [ Article 1-2 ] [ Article 1-3 ] [ Article 1-4 ] [ Article 1-5 ] [ Article 1-6 ] [ Article 1-7 ] [ Article 2 ]

Article 5

I found Siebold's house in downtown Leiden. It was a 3 storey building facing a canal, located not far from the Hortus Botanicus. A gold plate was mounted on the building, by which I was able to recognize the building as Siebold's. On it was written, "Here lived Dr. Philippe F. B. von Siebold from 1836 to 1847." I was pleased to find the inscription in Japanese as well. One hundred and fifty years ago, Siebold lived in this house and walked with dignity on the stone road on his way to the Rijksherbarium. One can easily envision such a scene in this old, established city. 

Returning from my mental wanderings, it occurred to me that people seemed to be passing in and out of the building in a fairly steady stream. So, without further ado, I opened the heavy door of the house. I noticed something that appeared to be a waiting room on the right side of a passage that led through the garden in back. I stopped a person coming down the stairs and asked, "Is this the house in which Siebold lived?" The woman called to another man who replied, "Yes, this is where he lived, however, nothing of Siebold's remains here. If you wish to find materials about Siebold, you should go to the National Museum of Ethnology or to the Rijksherbarium." "Thank you," I responded, "I have already been there. By the way, what is this building used for now?" "It is a facility related to the Court," he kindly informed me, and after shaking hands we parted company.

In December of 1829, Siebold was expelled from Japan. A ship on which he had placed contraband books and maps ran ashore in a typhoon. When the items were discovered, the case became known as the "Siebold incident" and resulted in his deportation. The following year, he returned to Holland by way of Batavia. However, his enormous collection was housed in various locations, including Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent. In order to avoid riots arising from the Belgian independence movement, Siebold fortunately had the collection moved to Leiden. Great pains were taken there to preserve the specimens from insect infestation and to properly box them since it was considered to be a valuable collection. 

Siebold published the first volume of his compendium entitled, Nippon, an Archive for the Description of Japan in 1832. The following year saw the publication of the Fauna Japonica. In addition, he planned the publication of a Flora Japonica. Given the grand scale of these projects, Siebold set out on a tour of the courts of Europe and various wealthy merchants in order to raise money.

In 1835, with the collaboation of Zuccarini, he co-authored Flora Japonica in which 10 illustrations are printed. Dr. Siebold, having moved to the house in Leiden, was surely in high spirits. The French language publication of Flora Japonica makes full use of Siebold's raw data collected during his stay in Japan, reports Prof. Hideaki Oba of Tokyo University in a book entitled, Siebold's Japanese Plants (a translation of Flora Japonica into Japanese) (Yasaka Publishers, 1996). The manner in which plants were used by ordinary persons and knowledge of them is a form of folk botany which cannot be substituted for. In botanical history, this knowledge is invaluable, although limited to the Bunsei Period of the Edo Era." he explains.

Siebold's specimens and plant drawings were most useful in making the beautiful illustrations for Flora Japonica. Unfortunately, there are less than 150 of them and regretfully, Kiryu's primula, kakko-so, is not included among them.


Copyright (C) 2000 by Akiko Minosakii , Barbara Kamiayama
& Orijin Studio Miyamae
Kiryu Gunma 376-0046 Japan