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SOLD - Unbeaten Tracks in Japan - Isabella L. Bird

1881 - G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York - First American Edition
I venture to present it to the public in the hope that, in spite of its demerits, it may be accepted as an honest attempt to describe things as I saw them in Japan, on land journeys of more than 1400 miles.

A fine and scarce two volume account of the indomitable and observant Isabella Bird-Bishop’s solo travels through Japan in the late nineteenth century, illustrated with two engraved frontispieces, forty in-text engravings, and a large fold-out map to the rear of volume I. Later English and American editions where published as a single volume.

“The legendary Isabella Bird's ‘
Unbeaten Tracks in Japan’ recounts her travels in the Far East, begun four years earlier. Bird was recommended an open-air life from an early age as a cure for her physical and nervous difficulties, which based upon her extensive traveling and writing seem to have been completely misdiagnosed - it would not be surprising to discover that the phrase ‘a tough old bird’ refers her.

Created out of the letters Bird wrote home, primarily to her sister, Volume 1 recounts her experiences as a solo woman traveller living among the Japanese in Yokohama and Niigata. It includes descriptions of clothing, food and drink, education, housing, theatre, women's lifestyles, religion, plant life, medicine, shopping and other day-to-day activities, as well as the vicissitudes and excitement of the conditions and process of travelling, including by boat and pack-horse.

Volume 2 covers her journeys to Yeso, Tokyo, Kyoto, and the Ise Shrines, and includes her experiences of staying with the Hairy Ainu, the indigenous inhabitants of northern Japan. As with the first volume, it includes much detail of the lifestyles, customs, and habits of the people she encountered, as well as a chapter on Japanese public affairs.” [Cambridge University Press]

Isabella Lucy Bird (1831-1904) began her travelling career quite late in life. Occupied with caring for her parents until she was forty, by which time Bird herself had succumbed to a debilitating spinal complaint, depression, and insomnia, travel was prescribed as an antidote – the remedy to which she became addicted. She visited and wrote about countless countries, her vast experiences awarding her the honour of becoming the first women to be elected into the elite Royal Geographical Society. Frailty she did not tolerate, and at the age of 68, rode a thousand miles in Morocco and the Atlas Mountains.
 
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