TAKADACHI 高館, 1625

Artist: unknown

Title: Takadachi 高館

Date: 1625

Medium: Monochrome moveable type and woodblock printing; ink and color on paper

Publisher: unknown

Gift of: Arthur Tress Collection. Box 69, Item 13, https://franklin.library.upenn.edu/catalog/FRANKLIN_9977502838303681

This original copy of Takadachi, a medieval ballad-drama, is a bound, illustrated, woodblock printed text on paper and belongs to an early genre of printed book known as a tanrokubon.[1] The play itself was first published in Kyoto in 1625 and was entitled Takadachi godan or Takadachi in Five Acts and concerned the Battle of Takadachi which took place in 1187.[2] It concerns the conflict between the twelfth-century samurai commander Minamoto no Yoshitsune and and his younger brother Shōgun Minamoto no Yoritomo, as well as the end of Yoshitsune’s life, the final battle between the brothers, and ultimately, Yoshitsune’s death at Takadachi castle. Many of the events mirror those of the siege of Osaka, which occurred shortly before the play was produced in 1615.

This title features eleven woodblock printed images in black with orange-red paint applied by hand. It is bound in blue paper with a title slip in the upper left corner of the front cover and bears an early owner’s stamp in the upper right corner of its first folio. The stamp, or ex-libris, appears to be applied with a similar orange-red ink used to paint the illustrations in the edition. This edition is also unique for its calligraphic script printed into the edition using moveable type.

The edition is in fair condition with worm holes throughout. Its folia are bound using the furkuro-toji, or pouch-binding technique. There has been significant conservation work done with regard to the paper, as the double-pages are backed with modern paper similar in quality to the original paper in between them. This copy also has water damage throughout.

The sparsely colored, full page images are similar to works produced in the Nara-ehon, or Nara picture, style. Between the years 1620 and 1650, it was most common for publishers to “use brightly colored titles to attract attention to their books”; however, as demand for popular books outstripped the publishers’ ability to produce them, books gradually feature more monochromatic line-cut illustrations with hand-tipped color using a far more narrow palette.[3] The most prominent colors for these editions were tan, the bright red-orange featured in this volume, and roku, a “deep-mineral green,” hence the name tanrokuban, or “green-red editions.”[4] The largest market for these books was in the Kanei era (1624-1644), but eventually, tanrokuban went out of print altogether as a preference for cheaper black and white editions increased with the growing market for popular books.[5] As hybrid books, or books which feature both printing and painting done by hand, Tanrokuban are important in the history of the book in Japan because they help to bridge the gap “between hand painted manuscripts,” like the Nara-ehon … and” later books fully printed in color.[6]

Selected Reading:

Hillier, Jack Ronald. The Art of the Japanese Book. London: Sotheby’s Publications , 1987.

Markus, Andrew L. “Review 28 — no Title.” The Journal of Asian Studies (pre-1986) 45.1 (1985): 158.

Monumenta Nipponica Vol. 40, No. 1 (Spring, 1985), pp. 110-113.

[1] Takadachi cataloguing notes.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Markus, Andrew L. “Review 28 — no Title.” The Journal of Asian Studies (pre-1986) 45.1 (1985): p. 158.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., Monumenta Nipponica, p. 111.

[6] Monumenta Nipponica Vol. 40, No. 1 (Spring, 1985), p. 114.

Posted by Judith Weston