Artists: Mishima Yonosuke, Arai Shujiro

Title: Japanische Dichtungen, Weissaster: Ein romantisches Epos nebst anderen Gedichten

Date: 1894

Medium: Woodblock print on crepe paper

Publisher: Takejiro Hasegawa

Gift of Arthur Tress, Arthur Tress Collection Box 39 Item 6 (https://franklin.library.upenn.edu/catalog/FRANKLIN_9977502718403681)


After an introductory text from the translator Karl Florenz, this book includes a German language translation of Kōjo Shiragiku no Uta, a Japanese epic poem published in 1889 by the author Ochiai Naobumi. Naobumi’s epic tells the tale of the titular Weissaster (White Aster), a young girl from a remote village who sets off on a quest to find her father after he fails to return from a hunting expedition. Following the seventy-two-page epic poem, eight shorter poems are included. The entire book is lavishly illustrated with multi-color woodblock prints by Japanese artists. Mishima Yonosuke illustrated most of the book, including the tale of Weissaster, while Arai Shujiro provided illustrations for the poems. Perhaps the most curious feature of the book is its paper. The book is printed on crepe paper, a wrinkly and seemingly dainty variety that became especially popular in the Meiji Period. Crepe paper was formed by inserting paper into molds after printing and illustration was complete, both reducing size and, surprisingly, increasing durability of the book.

Japanische Dichtungen is the result of a collaborative effort between two countries, two continents, and two publishers: printing, illustration, and paper were provided by the publishing firm of Takejiro Hasegawa in Tokyo, while C.F. Amelang Verlag in Leipzig ostensibly provided financial capital as well as arranging translation by Florenz. While the illustrators Yonosuke and Shujiro remain enigmatic, Hasegawa and Florenz are well-known as antiquarians and publishers in the Meiji Period. Takejiro Hasegawa extensively published English, French, and German language translations of popular Japanese folk tales that satisfied Western desires for Japanese literature while providing students in the modernizing Japan with abundant material for learning western languages. The translator, Karl Florenz, was a pioneer of German-language Japanology for his publication and translation of Japanese literature, becoming the first professor of Japanology in Germany at The University of Hamburg.

Other copies of this book are at the German National Library (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek) and the Library of the University of Regensburg (Universitätsbibliothek Regensburg)

Selected Reading

Guth, Christine M. E. “Hasegawa’s Fairy Tales: Toying with Japan.” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, no. 53/54 (2008): 266-81.

Hayashida, Yukari. “Wrinkles in Time: Crepe-Paper Books in Watson Library | The Metropolitan Museum of Art.” Accessed March 21, 2020. https://www.metmuseum.org/blogs/in-circulation/2016/crepe-paper.


Sharf, Frederic A. “Selected Bibliography of the Publications of Takejiro Hasegawa.” Peabody Essex Museum Collections 130, no. 4 (Oct 01, 1994).


Posted by Nick Purgett

May 10th, 2020



Artist: Mori Tetsuzan 森徹山 (Japanese, 1775-1841) et al.
Author: Kagetsukanō Kirei
Date: 1836
Medium: Woodblock print, 27.7 cm x 15.8 cm
Publisher: Unknown
Gift of Arthur Tress, Box 17, Item 9

Kagetsujō, which literally translates to “Album of Flowers and Moon,” would be more correctly understood as “Kagetsu’s Album,” since Kagetsu (besides meaning flowers and moon) is also the name of the editor who compiled the volume. Kagetsujō comprises approximately fifteen illustrations created with sumi ink of various gradations, rendered into woodblock, which are composed by a number of artists and interspersed with occasional pages of text. Those illustrations, broadly speaking, fit under the genre of the shunga (“spring pictures”), or erotic art. According to the British Museum, Kireiken Toen, who went by the pen-name of Kagetsukano, was acquainted with many Japanese artists of the time and compiled the volume as a gift for a trip to Edo.

In certain early editions of Kagetsujō, a list of artist names appears at the end of the volume, revealing the true identities of those who signed their seals with pseudonyms. That list is not included in our edition. Many of the contributing artists follow the Shijō school, while other leaders of Kyoto schools are also represented. They include Kano Eigaku (Kanō school), Maruyama Ōshin (Maruyama/Shijō school), Mori Tetsuzan (Maruyama/Shijō school), and many more. Interestingly, this eclectic group converges in this volume in style, depicting erotic scenes in a slightly abstract, highly evocative style, a departure from the more detailed and colorful shunga illustrations by artists such as Hokusai. Printed with black sumi ink that fades in and out of focus, as well as an astute use of negative space to create form in the absence of color, the illustrations are rather emotionally charged. In fact, some of the illustrations are not explicitly or implicitly sexual, such as the image above.

It is understood that many of the artworks are based on previous shunga and scrolls. As scholar Jack Hillier points out, the print above, for instance, is reminiscent of seventeenth-century artwork by Moroshige. There are many other editions of this work around the world, such as in the British Museum, in the collection of Nakano Mitsutoshi, and in the Ebi Collection, Leeds (with a list of artists at the end of the volume).

Selected Readings

Jack Hillier, The Art of the Japanese Book (London: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd., 1987).

Nakano Mitsutoshi, “Kirei wakudeki,” in Edo kyōsha den (Tokyo, 2007), 439–493, 478–484.

Richard Lane, “Kagetsu-jō — A Shijō shunga album,” Ukiyo-e 65 (Spring 1976), 88–125.

Posted by Kelly Liu, Fall semester, 2019



Artist: Nakajima Tanjirō 中嶋丹次郎

Title: Hinagata yado no ume  雛形宿之梅(Pattern Book: The Plum Trees of Our Home)

Date: 1730

Medium: Woodblock print, black ink on paper.

Gift of Arthur Tress, Arthur Tress Collection Box 55 Item 9 (https://franklin.library.upenn.edu/catalog/FRANKLIN_9977502848103681)


After two pages of introductory text, this volume features thirty-six kimono designs. The designs range from simple black and white foliate patterns to elaborate imaginary landscapes replete with animals and dense vegetation. These designs continually reiterate motifs of the plum tree and plum blossom, an event associated with early spring. Accompanying the kimono designs are one to two lines of text. This text was rather flexible. It could describe the pattern, be used for an evocative excerpt of poetry, and in some cases dictate to the clothier certain techniques and tools that could best be used to render an elaborate design. Kimono pattern books, or Hinagata-bon, were working documents heavily used by both clothier and customer as cheap and quick reference material for the latest designs. However, the books could also be collected for sheer pleasure; certainly, there was something to be gained by simply perusing the newest styles for the year, ruminating on the elaborate patterns and staying current in the fast-moving world of Tokugawa period fashion.

Although Nakajima Tanjirō is listed as the primary artist of this work, the pages in this volume contain the signatures of three additional artists: Tagagi Kōsuke, Banryuken, and Himekiya Magobei. Additionally, it should be noted that the current edition is merely one volume of the collection; additional volumes could still further complicate an assumption of Nakajima Tanjirō’s authorship. Thus, it may be more appropriate to see these kimono pattern books as piecemeal assemblages that reflect, overall, the haute couture of the era, rather than single authoritative works.

Another copy of this book is at the Ryerson Library in the Art Institute of Chicago


Selected Reading

Hillier, Jack. The Art of the Japanese Book. Vol. 1. 2 vols. London: Sotheby’s, 1987.


Siffert, Betty Y. “‘Hinagata Bon’: The Art Institute of Chicago Collection of Kimono Pattern Books.” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 18, no. 1 (1992): 86–103.


Simmons, Pauline. “Artist Designers of the Tokugawa Period.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 14, no. 6 (1956): 133–48.


Posted by Nick Purgett

May 10th, 2020


Author: Nakamura Tekisai 中村 惕斎 (Japanese, 1629-1702)

Illustrator: Shimokōbe Shūsui 下河辺 拾水 (Japanese, ?- 1798)

Date: [1789]

Medium: Black-white woodblock printed book; ink on paper

Description: volume 4; 23 cm; fukurotoji (pouch binding)

Publisher: [Kyōto皇都(京都): Kyūkōdō 九皐堂]

Call Number: Arthur Tress Collection. Box 69, Item 14.

Gift of Arthur Tress

This item is from the revised and enlarged edition of the very first Japanese illustrated encyclopedia originally published in 1666 (Kanbun 6).  In this edition published in 1789, there are over 1500 entries grouped in 21 categories including astronomy, architecture, geography, occupations, insects, animals and plants, and each entry is written in both kanji and kana.  This particular item is volume 4 of the 21-volume set, and the subject of this volume is “people,” mostly categorized by their occupations.  What is curious about the entries is it mixes the other-worldly figures in with the humans.  It is also notable that foreigners are closely grouped with mythical figures such as the “long legs” and “giants.”


Nakamura Tekisai 中村 惕斎 (1629-1702) was a self-taught Neo-Confucian scholar who was sometimes described as a hermit, as he devoted himself to studying a wide range of subjects. As Tekisai writes in the preface of the original edition, he compiled the encyclopedia in hopes to educate and enlighten his own children. His other works include Hime kagami, a women’s didactic book written in Kana, which he also wrote for his young daughter.

Shimokōbe Shūsui 下河辺 拾水 (?-1798) is thought to be Nishikawa Sukenobu’s pupil, and he has illustrated various books in his career, including didactic books, kokkeibon, and illustrated guides.


Other impressions

Asian Art Collection, Brooklyn Museum

Japanese Rare Book Collection, National Diet Library, Tōkyō, Japan

Melikian Collection, Arizona State University Library

Waseda University Library

Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard Art Museums


Selected reading/bibliography

Armstrong, R, C. (1974). Nakamura Tekisai, Light from the East: Studies in Japanese Confucianism (pp. 78-83).

Ishigami, Aki. (2017). 「訓蒙図彙」考序論―絵入百科事典データベース構築とともに. Proceedings of the Overseas Symposium in Otago: Japanese Studies Down Under: History, Politics, Literature and Art. (pp. 69-78). Kyoto, Japan: International Research Center for Japanese Studies.


Posted by Eri Mizukane

February 19, 2020


Artist: Ōtsuki Gentaku 大槻玄沢, Banzui, Shigetada.

Title:  Kankai Ibun 環海異聞

Date: ca. 1807

Medium: Handwritten manuscript with hand-painted illustrations; Chinese ink and watercolor paint.

Location: Kislak Center for Special Collections – Arthur Tress Collection. Box 8, Item 9. See link.

See digital images here

Gift of Arthur Tress

Ōtsuki Gentaku’s Kankai Ibun (1807), also referred to as Strange Tales of a Circumnavigation, tells the adventurous story of sixteen Japanese sailors who were shipwrecked on the coast of Russia in 1793. The four surviving sailors stayed in Russia for more than ten years as tutors in the Japanese language and returned to Japan in 1804. Together with Shimura Kōkyō, Gentaku compiled the text for the illustrated travel account based on oral evidence, reporting on the experiences of the Japanese men in the Western world[1]. Originally the manuscript consists of 15 (or occasionally 16) volumes and was produced throughout nineteenth-century Japan[2].

The edition offered here includes 5 double-page and 2 single-page hand-colored illustrations. The same number of illustrations exist in volume 9 and 10 of similar copies[3]. Both volumes depict scenes of the sailors’ stay in St. Petersburg. The existence of stains and water damage that can only be found on one-half of the manuscript, suggests that our edition has been recomposed. Based on visual comparison of the individual illustrations with other existing copies, it can be observed that every illustration has its own individual characteristics in terms of color and specific details. It seems therefore unlikely that the maker has made any use of printing techniques[4].

The manuscript includes among others, illustrations of the launch of a hot air balloon and the sailor’s visit to the giant Globe of Gottorf in the Ethnographical Museum at the Academy of Sciences on Vasiliev Island[5]. In addition, two portraits of Catherine the Great and Tsar Alexander I are included[6]. The colorful illustrations give us a glimpse into the Japanese representations of the East-West encounters, during a persistent period of isolation. More specific, at the end of the Edo period the Japanese perceived the Russians as violent ‘red barbarians’ and enemies[7], which explains the Japanese interest in this particular kind of manuscript that allowed them to learn more about their rivals.

As an influential scholar in the field of both medical as well as Dutch studies (rangaku), the Japanese physician Ōtsuki Gentaku (1757-1827), also known as Banzui or Shigetada, is mainly rewarded for his role in the expansion of Western knowledge in Japan. He is not only recognized for his influential writings on Western science, but also as the founding father of academy in Dutch studies, the Shirandō Academy, opened in 1786[8].

Another impression of this manuscript is in the SOAS Library in London. Other volumes of Gentaku’s Kankai Ibun originating from the beginning until the end of the nineteenth-century can be found in the USC Libraries East Asian Library (Los Angeles), the Alaska State Library & Historical Collections (Juneau), The Melikian Collection in the ASU library (Tempe, Arizona), the Doshisha University (Kyoto) and the Kyoto University Library.

Selected Readings

  • Ikuta Michiko, ‘Changing Japanese–Russian Images in the Edo Period’ in Japan and Russia: Three Centuries of Mutual Images, Yulia Mikhailova and M. William Steele (eds.) (Folkestone: Global Oriental, 2008), pp. 11–31.
  • Margarita Winkel, Discovering different dimensions. Explorations of culture and history in early modern Japan (Leiden: Leiden University, 2004).
  • Martin Ramming. “A description of the Gottorp globe in a Japanese manuscript book.” Imago Mundi, Vol. 9 (1952), pp. 103-105.
  • Terrence Jackson, ‘Ōtsuki Gentaku: Network Facilitator’ in Network of Knowledge: Western Science and the Tokugawa Information Revolution (University of Hawai’i Press, 2016), pp. 24-40.
  • Tsuneharu Gonnami. Images of Foreigners in Edo Period Maps and Prints. Diss. University of British Columbia, 1998.

Posted by Hilda Groen

October 28, 2019

[1] Launch of a hot-air balloon in St Petersburg and portraits of the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia, Alexander I and Elizabeth in SOAS Library, London. http://digital.soas.ac.uk/LOAA005806/00001, accessed on 23 October, 2019.

[2] Japanese castaway manuscripts volume, Kankai Ibun, Exotic Tales Around the Oceans Stock ID #157024, Asia Bookroom. https://www.asiabookroom.com/pages/books/157024/japanese-castaway-manuscript-volume/kankai-ibun-exotic-tales-around-the-oceans, accessed on 23 October, 2019.

[3] The same 5 double-page and 2 single-page hand-colored illustrations appear in volume 9 and 10 out of the 15 volumes in total of the kankai ibun (1807) that is now in the Alaska State Library (see https://vilda.alaska.edu/digital/collection/cdmg21/id/15404/) and the Rare Books Collection of Doshisha University (see https://doors.doshisha.ac.jp/duar/repository/ir/22419/?lang=1 and https://doors.doshisha.ac.jp/duar/repository/ir/22420/?lang=1).

[4] When you compare the different examples that can be found of the illustrations of Catherine the Great and Tsar Alexander I, it can be observed that every portrait has its own distinctive facial features and use of color. See for instance Kankai Ibun (1850) Christie’s Lot 123, 8 – 19 December 2014; Kankai Ibun (1807), Vol.10, Alaska State Library; Kankai Ibun (1807), Vol.10, Rare Books Collection of Doshisha University.

[5] Martin Ramming, ‘A description of the Gottorp globe in a Japanese manuscript book’, Imago Mundi, Vol. 9 (1952), pp. 103-105.

[6] Otsuki Gentaku (text by), Edo period (circa 1850), Lot 123, SALE 5932, Christie’s 8 – 19 December 2014, https://onlineonly.christies.com/s/japanese-art-english-court/otsuki-gentaku-text-by-edo-period-circa-1850-123/13754, accessed on 23 October, 2019.

[7] Ikuta Michiko, ‘Changing Japanese–Russian Images in the Edo Period’ in Japan and Russia: Three Centuries of Mutual Images, Yulia Mikhailova and M. William Steele (eds.) (Folkestone: Global Oriental, 2008), p. 25.

[8] Terrence Jackson, ‘Ōtsuki Gentaku: Network Facilitator’ in Network of Knowledge: Western Science and the Tokugawa Information Revolution (University of Hawai’i Press, 2016), pp. 24-40.


Artist: Ōnishi Chinnen 大西椿年

Date: 1819

Medium: fukurotoji (pouch binding), woodblock printed; ink and color on paper; paper covers

Publisher: Osakaya Genbei, Kobayashi Shinbei

Gift of Arthur Tress, Tress Box 22, Item 13, https://franklin.library.upenn.edu/catalog/FRANKLIN_9977502751403681

Other Known Copies: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Pulverer Collection in the Freer Gallery of Art, National Institute of Japanese Literature, The British Museum

This e-hon, or picture book, by Ōnishi Chinnen (1791-1851) is bound in pale blue paper covers and decorated with large mica roundels stenciled in silver. Titled Azuma no teburi, this is Chinnen’s best known work, and it chronicles the daily frenzy of urban life in the capital: manual laborers ply their trade, women engage in domestic chores, and a toy-seller hawks his wares near playing children. The scenes are rendered with a graphic, highly gestural line that was distinctive of artists trained under masters of the Shijō school. Chinnen was pupil to both Tani Bunchō and Watanabe Nangaku, who repopularized naturalism in their use of birds and flowers as subjects. Chinnen’s lively strokes add a sense of movement and immediacy to his subjects, as if the scenes were drawn from close proximity. The viewer of Chinnen’s work thus becomes like a voyeur, and enjoys the pleasure of gazing unhurriedly at a scene that would quickly pass in the street. This quality illustrates what Jack Hillier calls the peculiar “limpidity” of Chinnen’s drawings. (Hillier 769)

Chinnen was born to a high-status family and worked as an official checker of government rice warehouses at Kuramae. The scenes of Azuma no teburi are topical to Chinnen’s civic occupation and daily work-route through the city. Each scene spans two pages and is framed by a thin black border. In one scene, the border frame is broken when two children play hanetsuki, a badminton-like sport, and their birdie bounces beyond the border. Here, Chinnen visually communicates the interplay between the boundaries of the game and the boundaries of the artist’s print block. By doing so, he engages the reader in a bit of wordplay in a text that has virtually no words. As such, Azuma no teburi broaches the question of its audience. What sort of 19th c. reading public is assumed by the sociological, civic, whimsical themes of Chinnen’s picture book?

Selected Reading:

Brown, Louise Norton, Block Printing & Book Illustration in Japan. London: Routledge, 1924, pp. 106.

Hillier, Jack. The Art of the Japanese Book. New York: Sotheby’s Publications, 1987, pp. 768-70.

Note: Book cover may have Sorimachi Shigeo’s handwriting

Posted by Ann Ho, Fall semester, 2019


Artist: Ōnishi Chinnen 大西椿年

Date: 1834

Medium: fukurotoji (pouch binding), woodblock printed; ink and color on paper; paper covers

Publisher: Ōsakaya Genbei, Kobayashi Shinbei

Gift of Arthur Tress, Tress Box 8, Item 2, https://franklin.library.upenn.edu/catalog/FRANKLIN_9977502571303681

Other Known Copies: The Pulverer Collection in the Freer Gallery of Art, National Institute of Japanese Literature, The British Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, Museum Volkenkunde (Leiden), and New York Public Library

This album is one of Ōnishi Chinnen’s best known works published under his artist name, Sonan. The Sonan gafu is a luxurious book showcasing the skillful hand of Chinnen, one of the most accomplished artists trained under the Shijō school, which was particularly lauded for its elegant portrayals of the natural world. In the Sonan gafu, Chinnen exhibits his artistic range in 25 double-page illustrations that feature everything from botanicals to bucolic boating parties. The variety of subjects covered in this album distinguish the work from Chinnen’s earlier book, Azuma no teburi, which presented illustrations that were centralized around a single theme of modern life in the Eastern capital of Edo.

The subjects of Sonan gafu dwell far from the metropole and their gentle pace of living is evoked immediately in the album’s opening image of a turtle. Subjects of the natural world are interspersed amongst scenes of folklore, making the reading experience of Sonan gafu one of serene pleasure and visual escape. In one scene, Chinnen depicts a handsomely dressed woman on the cusp of painting—her calligraphy brush teasingly grazes an unfurled scroll. The whiteness of the unpainted scroll is contrasted with the ornately patterned fabric of the woman’s costume. Chinnen’s manifold acts of painting in this image—both his and the promise of the woman’s—form layers of meaning and rendering intrinsic to the processes of block-printing that were used to make the image. The resulting interplay between the artist, the image, and the audience is what animates Chinnen’s delicate compositions into lively and engaging subjects.

Selected Reading:

Brown, Louise Norton. Block Printing & Book Illustration in Japan. London: Routledge, 1924, pp. 106.

Hillier, Jack. The Art of the Japanese Book. New York: Sotheby’s Publications, 1987, pp. 768-72.

Keyes, Roger S. Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan (The New York Public Library in association with the University of Washington Press, 2006).

Mitchell, C. H., with the assistance of Osamu Ueda. The Illustrated Books of the Nanga, Maruyama, Shijo and Other Related Schools of Japan. A Biobibliography (Los Angeles: Dawson’s Book Shop, 1972).

Toda, Kenji. Descriptive Catalogue of the Japanese and Chinese Illustrated Books in the Ryerson Library of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago: 1931; repr., Mansfield Centre, CT: Martino Publishing, 2004).


Posted by Ann Ho, Fall semester, 2019

SAKAI HŌITSU 酒井抱一, ŌSON GAFU 鶯邨画譜, 1817

Hoitsu deer

Hoitsu deer

Artist: Sakai Hōitsu 酒井抱一(1761–1828)

Title: Ōson gafu 鶯邨画譜 (Ōson Painting Album)

Alternative Title: Hōitsu jōnin gafu抱一上人画譜, Hōitsu jōnin Ōson gafu抱一上人鶯邨画譜

Date: Second month, 1817

Description: 1 volume

Medium: Woodblock printed; ink and color on paper; paper cover

Dimensions: 19 cm x 28 cm

Publisher: Izumiya Shōjirō 和泉屋庄次郎, Edo

Block Carver: Asakura Hachiemon 朝倉八右衛門

Gift of Mr. Arthur Tress

Object Number: Box 17, Item 3



In Ōson gafu, Sakai Hōitsu (1761–1828) demonstrates his understanding of Ogata Kōrin’s (1658-1716) oeuvre and positions himself as the artistic successor to Kōrin. The blue wave pattern on the cover immediately links this book to Kōrin’s famous wave patterns. Both the subjects and style of the illustrations in this book are done in the manner of Kōrin. The actual-size seals on every illustration and Hōitsu’s artist name, Ōson, in the title likewise claims Hōitsu’s right to use these images and to claim his place in Kōrin’s artistic legacy. In the first preface, scholar and poet Kamo Suetake (1754-1841) further praises Hōitsu as having surpassed the artistic achievement of Kōrin.

The image featured here is an excellent example of Hōitsu’s adoption of Kōrin’s tradition as it is rendered throughout this book. Here, Hōitsu portrays a deer standing with three red maple leaves on the ground. The torso and legs of the deer were printed by separate blocks to show the wet and fluent brush for which Kōrin was known and that Hōitsu seeks to imitate here. The maple leaves were printed as a gradient of colors. Similar images of deer also appear Kōrin gafu illustrated by Nakamura Hōchū, from 1802 (Tress Collection: Box 8, Item 11) and Kōrin hyakuzu by Hōitsu from 1816 (Tress Collection: Box 14, Item 13), which were published prior to this book. The superior printing quality brings the brushstrokes to life, which, echoing the first preface, elevates Hōitsu as a master of Kōrin’s tradition.

The artist Hōitsu was born to the Sakai family, a high-ranking samurai family that governed Himeji Castle in today’s Hyōgo Prefecture. His family was also known for its patronage of the arts, and their status allowed Hōitsu to access works by famous painters in various styles and to practice kyōka and haikai in his youth. In 1797, he became a Buddhist monk, and later he adopted the artist name Hōitsu from the Daoist text, theTao Te Ching. To demonstrate his admiration of Kōrin, who had also served the Sakai family, in 1815 Hōitsu held a ceremony and exhibition to commemorate the centennial of Kōrin’s death. One year later, he published the first edition of Kōrin hyakuzu (One Hundred Pictures of Kōrin), a monochrome catalogue showing works displayed in the centennial exhibition; this also includes the paintings which were owned by the Sakai family and Hōitsu’s close friends. Kōrin hyakuzu and Hōitsu’s own painting album, Ōson gafu, are the landmarks of his artistic career, and signal his embrace of the tradition of Kōrin. He utilized the printed painting album as a means to market himself to a broader audience.

Other copies of this book are in the British MuseumFreer Gallery of Art, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Museum of Fine Art in Boston.

Selected Reading

McKelway, Matthew P. 2012. Silver wind: the arts of Sakai Hōitsu (1761-1828). New York: Japan Society.

Hillier, Jack. 1987. The art of the Japanese book. London: Wilson for Sotheby’s Publications. 654-699

Posted by Tim Zhang, Fall semester, 2019


青楼其二(Brothel, no. 2). Volume 1

Artist: Suzuki Rinshō 鈴木隣松 (-1803) after Hanabusa Itchō 英一蝶 (1652-1724)

Title: Itchō gafu 一蝶画譜 (Itchō Painting Album)

Alternative Title: Hanabusa Itchō gafu 英一蝶画譜 (Hanabusa Itchō Painting Album)

Date: First month, 1770

Description: 3 volumes

Medium: Woodblock printed; ink on paper; some color in volume 1; paper covers

Dimensions8.2cm x 27.0 cm (volume 1 and 2); 8.0 cm x 25.0 cm (volume 3)

Publisher: Aoyamadō, Edo

Collector’s Seal: ?sai, ?斎on volume 3

Provenance: Margaret “Peg” Palmer

Gift of Mr. Arthur Tress

Object Number: Volume 1 and 2, Box 16 Item 7


Volume 3, Box 8 Item 18


This book features a wide range of themes from Hanabusa Itchō’s (1613–1685) painting oeuvre what is in effect a printed painting album. Many of the paintings are based on Sino-Japanese subjects which were often made by the artists in the Kano studio. These images demonstrate Itchō’s ability to convert traditional subjects into expressive, humorous, and relevant images, many featuring his observations from urban life.

The first image shown here depicts a man visiting the pleasure district. The man, his servant, and the sex workers are dressed in Tang-dynasty costumes. Meanwhile, the window lattices are in the style of Edo-period pleasure districts. Itchō himself was reportedly a visitor to the Yoshiwara, the pleasure district in Edo.

The second image included here is called the Asazuma Boat, after one of Itchō’s most famous paintings. This picture shows a woman waiting to meet her guest on a boat near Asazuma after the fall of the Heike. Suzuki Rinshō seems to have tried to represent the large variation of brushstrokes often featured in Itchō’s paintings. In the preface, Rinshō described these images as giga, playful paintings.

朝妻ぶね (Asazuma Boat), Volume 3

Hanabusa Itchō is known for his use of humor to illustrate the urban experience of commoners in the city of Edo. At a young age, he apprenticed in the studio of Kano Yasunobu in Edo, doing so by order of his local daimyo. He wrote haikai poems and was active in the circle of Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694). In 1698 he was banished to the island of Miyake by the shōgun for eleven years and made his living by selling paintings there. He adopted the name Hanabusa Itchō and continued his artistic practice after he returned to Edo. After Itchō’s death, his student Hanabusa Ippō (1691-1760) published painting albums in the style of Itcho (see Ippō, Ehon zuhen (1752, Tress Collection Box 39, Item 11) and Eihitsu hyakuga (1758). Suzuki Rinshō, a samurai who relinquished his position and studied painting, publishing this and other albums featuring Itchō’s paintings after Ippō’s death.

Other copies of this book are in the British MuseumHarvard Art MuseumsMetropolitan Museum of ArtMuseum of Fine Arts, Boston, and New York Public Library


Selected Reading

Hillier, Jack. 1987. The art of the Japanese book. London: Wilson for Sotheby’s Publications. 216-221

Wattles, Miriam. The Life and Afterlives of Hanabusa Itchō, Artist-Rebel of Edo. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Posted by Tim Zhang

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