Joel of Far Outliers has been reading American Missionaries, Christian Oyatoi, and Japan 1859–73, by Hamish Ion, and as usual he shares with the rest of us particularly appetizing snippets; I was particularly interested in Legacies of Hepburn’s First Dictionary of Japanese, 1867:
Although Hepburn was discounting the early work of his friend Brown in claiming his was the first dictionary, it was an immense achievement, far surpassing any nineteenth-century rival. … Even though Hepburn’s dictionary might have been more suited for those using colloquial speech than wanting to acquire the written language, it remains Hepburn’s greatest contribution to opening Japan, not only to missionaries but also to the English-speaking world. … In September 1872, the Japan Weekly Mail noted that the second edition of the dictionary “is a fresh encouragement to foreigners in this country to pursue the study of the Japanese language, and to the Japanese it will afford invaluable assistance in the study of ours.” The newspaper predicted that its print run of three thousand would be quickly sold out. It was close to a century later – in the early 1960s with the publication of the Nelson dictionary – before another American missionary produced a dictionary that would have a similar profound impact on those learning Japanese. The Hepburn system of romanization of Japanese, which the earlier dictionary first introduced and the Nelson dictionary used, remains the standard system of romanization.
I wish all of my readers a happy new year, and I personally hope it’s considerably better than the one now ending.