Calligrapher: Hasegawa Myōtei 長谷川妙貞 (Japanese, year unknown)

Illustration calligrapher: Nakamura Sankinshi 中村 三近子 (Japanese, 1671 – 1741),

Illustrator: Sōsekishi 漱石子 (Japanese, year unknown)

TitleNyohitsu kasugano shita (女筆嘉須賀濃 下)

Date: 1730 (享保15年)

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

Publisher: Kyoto – Uemura Dōjirō 植村藤治郎, Edo – Uemura Dōzaburō 植村藤三郎, Ōsaka – Uemura Dōzaburō 植村藤三郎

Gift of Arthur Tress. Box 27, Item 11: https://franklin.library.upenn.edu/catalog/FRANKLIN_9977502732903681

Nyohitsu kasugano shita is the third volume of a three-volume set designed to show Edo-period women how to write elegant calligraphy in three different styles. It features examples by Hasegawa Myōtei, a highly regarded woman calligrapher, and belongs to the genre known as nyohitsu (女筆) or calligraphy primers for women. These texts often contained sample letters for use throughout the year and included motifs specific to the season as well as to popular festivals. This volume includes letters with seasonal motifs from winter to early spring, spanning from greetings on the Double Ninth Festival and the Lunar New Year to the first month of the year. It also contains sample letters to offer congratulations on the occasion called kamiogi, an auspicious ceremony when children have their first haircut, as well as to thank match-makers, along with others.

The Tress collection title includes one of the several names used by the woman calligrapher, Hasegawa Myōtei. She became famous for her elegant style. In this book, we can see Myōtei’s accomplished hand and admire her rendering of extreme ligatures between characters as delicate diagonal lines that rhythmically cut across the pages as well as her great flair in the leftward and upward motion of her script. The artist who composed the illustration on the second page of the book, Sōsekishi, may also have been a woman, but little can be determined about her life from extant sources.

The illustration by Sōsekishi on the interior of the front cover includes a text written by Nakamura Sankinshi that relays an anecdote about Fujiwara no Sukemasa, a well-known Heian period noble and calligrapher. While on his return to Kyoto from his post in Kyushu, Sukemasa encountered several days of storms. One night the god of Ōmishima island appeared in his dream, telling him that he sent the storm so that he could ask Sukemasa to stay and write the motto for the Ōyamazumi shrine. After granting the god’s request, Sukemasa was able to return to Kyoto safely. Sukemasa is shown here writing the calligraphy while on a boat floating in the river. This story was likely chosen to show the benefit of developing a fine hand to female readers.

The title for this volume, Nyohitsu kasugano shita, is taken from the exterior title and it may be the third part added to a two-volume book work Nyohitsu kasugano 女筆春日野. According to the database of women’s calligraphy manuals produced by the library of the Nara Educational University, this volume is particularly rare.

Selected Readings:

 Tomoko Sakomura, Nyohitsu shinan shū 女筆指南集 (see commentary tab): http://pulverer.si.edu/node/529/title/1

女筆手本解題, 江戸中期 (see number 82): http://www.bekkoame.ne.jp/ha/a_r/B33tyuki.htm

奈良教育大学教育資料館所蔵, 女筆手本類解説: http://www.nara-edu.ac.jp/LIB/collection/nyohitsu/female.htm#SER1

女筆春日野: http://www.nara-edu.ac.jp/LIB/collection/nyohitsu/f21-026.htm

きみか世 : 女筆. 下 / [長谷川妙貞] [書]: http://www.wul.waseda.ac.jp/kotenseki/html/bunko31/bunko31_e1696/index.html

Chiyomigusa 千代見草, Vol. 1, FSC-GR-780.453.1-3: http://www.pulverer.si.edu/node/528/title/1

Yuqi Zhao, October 5, 2019