Hikifuda specimen book. 引札見本帖 [Hikifuda Mihon Jo]. Osaka c1902. 25x37cm original string tied wrappers, title label; 60 colour lithographs. Some minor signs of use, stains and blotches; a remarkably good copy. Au$5100
Now this is rare. Specimen hikifuda do float around but this is because busy fingers have dismembered every sample book they can find. I knew they once existed because I've had a few individuals, each time noting the stab holes in the margin with some indignant grief. This is complete as issued.
Hikifuda - small posters or handbills - were usually produced with the text panel blank. The customer, usually a retailer, had their own details over printed, so the same image might sell fine silk or soy sauce. The colophons that have survived the trimmer in this book date between 1899 and 1902. Each hikifuda is numbered on the back but not in any sequence. I haven't deciphered a printer's name in the colophons but I'm sure someone literate can.
From what I can see, if you wanted fine, delicate printing you went to Kyoto; if you wanted commercial publishing on a huge scale you went to Tokyo; and if you wanted brash, vivid to the point of lurid, advertising you went to Osaka. I hope other printer's albums of Osaka advertising art have and will survive the breakers but I won't be holding my breath for the next one.
The splendidly flamboyant and assertive modern young woman in stripes toward the end of the album is unlike any other I've seen from this period. A special copy (on heavier paper) of that was my first hikifuda purchase and is still my favourite. And since this album has just doubled the number I've handled, that's saying something. Another shows a hardworking young couple with the main caption 'Shiobara Tasuke' - who was a rags to riches merchant of the 18th and early 19th century. This makes sense but doesn't explain why the cheerful young woman is about to blithely put a cleaver through her kimono while the falcon and the naval artist does explain why Japan has such a tradition of impossible bird's-eye views. There's stuff to learn here.
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