The Japanese writing system, c 1690.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving showing ancient, standard, semi-cursive, and cursive styles of writing characters, and the hiragana and katakana syllabaries. Characters were introduced from China, but the Japanese also developed their own syllabaries from cursive characters. From 'The History of Japan' (1727) by Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716). Kaempfer was a German physician working at the Dutch trading post in Japan from 1690-1692, where he asembled a large collection. On his return to Europe he wrote 'The History of Japan', which records many aspects of the country in the Genroku period (1688-1704).