There is a wonderful new book out titled Japanese Automata - Karkuri Zui: An Eighteenth Century Japanese Manual of Automatic Mechanical Devices. This book by Kazuo Murakami translates into English the unique book Karakuri Zui, originally published in 1796. The book starts with an introduction which explains the history of karakuri. What follows is a complete translation of Karakuri Zui which explained the mechanisms and methods of construction for several Japanese clocks and mechanical toys of the Edo period in Japan (1603-1867).
Murakami-San wrote to tell me about the Tumbling Acrobot automaton shown in the video above, which I've posted about in the past. He explains that the tumbling doll seems to have already been invented by the beginning of 18th century. Like many of the fine automata of the past, the Tumbling Acrobat was a toy for wealthy people. There is some evidence that the the doll was brought to Europe by the Dutch, where it was then imitated, westernized, improved, and manufactured by German toy makers to look more like this.
The great magician and automaton-maker, Robert-Houdin, bought a tumbling doll from a French toy maker. This story is recounted in the book Two Odd Volumes on Magic and Automata.
All of this information and more is covered in detail in Kazuo Murakami's new book, Japanese Automata. This soft cover book has a total of 257 pages with 104 original diagrams and drawings of the mechanical devices made during the Edo period. It has been published in a limited run of 500 copies.
Here is where you can see sample pages, reviews, and order the book Japanese Autoamta.