Mary Camper-Titsingh, born a citizen of the Netherlands, escaped from Nazi Germany with her parents in 1939 at the start of World War II. As the last person to carry the Titsingh name, she long dreamed of writing the story of Isaac Titsingh, the Dutch family member who was the only European to be welcomed in audiences by all three of the major rulers in the Far East – Japan, China, and India – during the eighteenth century, the tumultuous era in which the world shrank through international trade.
Praise for The Man Who Kow-Towed (2010)
During travels in Asia, and while she worked as an Investment Research Librarian at the Ford Foundation in New York City, Ms. Camper-Titsingh studied late eighteenth-century trade relations between Europe and Asia in which Isaac Titsingh's vital role was relatively unknown. Only the Dutch were permitted to trade in Japan and Isaac Titsingh visited Japan's shogun twice. In China, he had been preceded in 1793 by Lord George Macartney, England's ambassador who had refused to kow-tow or kneel and bow deeply before the Chinese emperor, considering it beneath his dignity. Isaac Titsingh, the consummate diplomat not only did as the Romans do, he wrote books about Asian culture and customs to educate his contemporaries about the far corners of the world. Mary Camper-Titsingh hopes this book will introduce Isaac Titsingh and, like him, inform today's readers about the origins of globalization.
Ms. Camper-Titsingh lives at Palomar Ranch, a family compound in southern California with her three sons and their families.
"I read Ms. Camper-Titsingh's manuscript with great pleasure. I have many questions. How did she obtain the extensive information about all the places that are mentioned, their inhabitants and customs at the end of the eighteenth century? Surely this could not have been mentioned with such detail in his letters. Hence she appears to have done research in many archives, not only of the Dutch East Indies Company, but also of Japanese, Chinese and English sources. Her writing is outstanding and conjures an atmosphere à la Hella Haase [a leading Dutch author] . ... I am also curious about her parentage with respect to Petrus Camper and of 'her' Titsingh? ... I read the book in one breath and learned a lot."
— A. M. van Leeuwen, M.D., Ph.D., Amsterdam
"Ik heb het manuscript van mevr. Camper-Titsingh met groot plezier gelezen. Ik heb wel vele vragen. Hoe is zij aan die uitgebreide informatie gekomen over al de genoemde plaatsen, hun bewoners en gebruiken ten tijde van het eind van de 18e eeuw? Dat heeft zo gedetailleerd zeker niet in zijn brieven gestaan en ze moet daarom uitgebreid onderzoek hebben gedaan in allerlei archieven. Niet alleen vande VOC maar ook in Japanse, Chinese en Engelse bronnen. Ze heeft een voortreflijke pen en weet op haast Hella Haase achtige wijze sfeer op te roepen. ... Ik ben ook benieuwd naar haar parenteel wat betreft Petrus Camper en die van 'haar' Titsingh? ... Ik heb het boek bijna in een adem uitgelezen en tegelijk veel geleerd."
— Prof. Dr. A. M. van Leeuwen, Amsterdam