(Image courtesy of Washington State Library)
In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’re kicking off the May edition of our “State Library jewels” blog series by featuring an item from the library’s Rare Publications Collection with an Asian subject matter: a collection of books about Ranald MacDonald (no Big Mac jokes, please), the son of Hudson’s Bay Company Chief Trader Archibald MacDonald and Koale’zoa, the daughter of Chinook Chief Concomly. As a boy, Ranald encountered three Japanese sailors who were shipwrecked at Cape Alava and were brought to John McLoughlin. Through their stories, the young MacDonald developed a lifetime fascination with Japan.
Ranald worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company and later was employed by a Pacific whaling fishery. A renowned adventurer, MacDonald concocted a daring plan to live in then-isolationist Japan for a period of time, eventually becoming the first man to teach the English language in that country. One of his students was Einosuke Moriyama, one of the chief interpreters to handle the negotiations that reversed Japan’s “closed door” policy to the Western world.
Look for the other two State Library jewels later this week. Once all three are featured, you’ll have a chance to vote on your favorite.