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Book by the inventor of the first Japanese air rifle

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Book by the inventor of the first Japanese air rifle (pub 1819) 

With thanks to Citizen K for the heads up.

See also this post.


This book sold by Jonathan Hill, bookseller.

His blurb: "The Japanese Airgun

KUNITOMO, Tobe (or Ikkansai).

Kihoki [trans.: Airgun Design].

One woodcut illus. of the length of the entire airgun depicted on six pp., another woodcut illus. on two pages, & 7 full-page woodcut illus. 14 folding leaves. 8vo, orig. wrappers (backed in paper, minor marginal worming). Shiga Prefecture (“Goshu”): [Privately Printed by the Author], Preface dated 1819.

First edition of a very rare book; WorldCat lists only the 1982 reprint. Kunitomo (1778-1840), a native of the gun-making town of Kunitomo in Shiga Prefecture, was an inventor and scientist of great interest. Having lived in Edo for a period of time, he became familiar with Dutch scientific instruments including telescopes. He constructed Japan’s first reflecting telescope in 1831 which had a magnification of 60 and was superior to any brought in by the Dutch traders. This allowed Kunitomo to engage in sunspot observations and the study of the topography of the moon.

In 1814, following his town’s tradition of gun smithing, Kunitomo began to develop the first Japanese airgun, knowledge of which came from the Dutch in Dejima. In 1818, he was lent to make repairs to a European airgun (made by Scheiffel) which the Dutch traders had given the shogun. In the following year, Kunitomo began to manufacture his own airguns (several of which still exist). The gun was able to fire twenty rounds in a relatively short period of time.

The text provides an account of the Dutch airgun (“windroer” transliterated to “wuindoruuru”). Kunimoto describes the theory behind the gun, its parts, how to create air pressure by a pumping action, etc. The gun was lubricated with the oil from camellia seeds.

The woodcut which extends over six pages depicts the entire length of the gun. The seven full-page woodcuts show various parts of the gun, and the final two-page woodcut depicts a rifleman showing how to hold, pump, and fire the gun.

❧ Nakayama, A History of Japanese Astronomy, p. 197–(for Kunimoto’s astronomical achievements).

Price: $7,500.00"