From the archive
Michael Neill notes that mummy or mumia was used ‘throughout the Christian West’ well into the early modern period (LRB, 1 December 2011). In fact, its use was much wider, since mummy was a commodity of the Dutch East India Company. It was readily available in Japan in the 18th century, and was mentioned in almost every Japanese book dealing with European medicine or with the West more generally. The shogun’s own physician, Katsuragawa Hoshû, discussed it in the 1780s, although it is unclear whether he administered it. One would think mummy easily substituted with fraudulent alternatives, but tests on extant samples in Japan reveal them to be the genuine article.
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London