The late 19th century was a pivotal time for the island of Taiwan. China was weakened by the Opium Wars. Colonial powers such as Britain, France, the United States, and Russia were eying new territory for trade and conquest. Japan, newly emboldened by the Meiji Restoration, was flexing its muscles in the East China Sea. Now this fascinating era is illuminated by a fascinating character, Charles W. Le Gendre, a Civil-War veteran who served as American Consul in Amoy and later as an adviser to the Meiji government. His epic Notes of Travel in Formosa have finally been published, thanks to editors Prof. Douglas Fix, Elizabeth C. Ducey Professor of Asian Studies
& Humanities at Reed, and John Shufelt of National Tunghai University.
Hailed as a “monumental work” by the Taipei Times, the book provides “a much-needed insight into the life of Charles W. Le Gendre and the larger mosaic of Taiwan history being shaped in the mid to late 19th century.”
Unearthed from the Library of Congress, Le Gendre’s “Notes” are presented with 120 photographs, illustrative paintings Le Gendre commissioned by Japanese artist Kobayashi Eitaku, and maps that LeGendre collected or composed from his travels.
With observations on geology, natural history, and indigenous languages, customs, languages, and diplomatic intrigue, the “Notes” provide key insights into this turbulent time. The edition also includes a biography of Le Gendre (a naturalized Belgian American and Civil War veteran), and an essay by Fix about the agenda of paintings and photographs.
Many Reedies were involved in the early phases of the project, including Teresa Freeman ’01, Ben Murphy ’01, and Tim Spivey ’01, who transcribed the handwritten manuscript copy. (Ben also checked the manuscript against Le Gendre’s reports to locate potential overlap in content.) Kyle Steinke ’00 photographed the illustrations in the original manuscript used for the publication. Trina Marmarelli, director of instructional technology services, and her student staff helped stitch together digital scans of several of Le Gendre’s maps. Two librarians, Sally Loomis, former interlibrary loan assistant, and Cynthia Hoff, electronic resources specialist, helped the editors obtain hundreds of books and articles from libraries in the U.S., the U.K., and Japan. The Chinese edition (Li Xiande Taiwan jixing, 'چ٪P١o؛OئW،ە&ن), was translated by Profs. Fix and Charlotte Hsiao-teh Lo [Chinese 2003–09] and released in October 2013.