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Design. An album of designs for textiles and/or paper. c1913-1920's? Large folio cloth [620x430mm]; 24 card leaves with 39 mounted original colour block prints (3 double page). Expected signs of use but nothing drastic; one print removed. Au$1200

Doubtless the designer's album of designs, these are proof prints from the blocks, each show the shape where the repeat pattern fits. The first pages are annotated with details of the client ('Achete a George. 9 Rue St Fiacre Paris' - in earlier decades this was the home of a calico manufacturer, which makes sense, and now houses a public relations firm and Ella Bache, which is neither here nor there) and the engraver (Gillet, sometimes in concert with someone else); the details dwindle as the album proceeds until we reach the large and dramatic geometric design in black and white which was "vendu a Mrs Bosset". Dating these designs to 1913 would seem foolish but for the first few leaves being dated 1913 in the top corner; two or three are dull, traditional floral patterns but the rest, while by no means radical avant garde, would sit more happily in the next decade or two - some are really quite stylish. The theme is floral, or at least botanical although one is based on a Chinese cloud pattern; several are oriental in style or inspiration and one is a very stylish piece of Japanese abstraction. I'm pretty sure this is the work of a Japanese designer in Paris, partly because it most recently came from Tokyo and partly because of the modern simplicity of several designs.


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Japanese design. 幾何文様 [Kika Monyo - Geometric Patterns]. n.p. n.d. [c1910-30?]. Oblong folio (275x365mm) decorated cloth with paper title label (some insect nibbling of the cloth); 50 double page leaves of light card bound as an accordian fold - meaning that each design is 275x730mm and given enough room the whole could be opened out some 36 and a half metres - each a design painted in gouache with some metallic and transparent layers. Rubbing or offsetting of colours here and there and a few leaves with some adhesion at each edge, nothing too serious. Au$3500

A spectacular collection of large designs and something of a mystery. This is a sophisticated, professional production for presentation; this is not an artist's personal scrapbook and there is nothing amateurish or studentlike about the designs or the album; but I can't find a name anywhere. On the back of some sheets are some sketched pencil designs and occasional characters, nothing I can interpret. Design competitions were held in the textile trade in the early 20th century and entered albums of designs were both serious and anonymous; perhaps this was for some such competition. One current chic kimono maker (撫松庵) has a signature pattern that looks like it was lifted almost whole from this album. If this was western I would date it to the sixties, perhaps the fifties, but I have no hesitation declaring this decades earlier. I have seen a 1913 album of original designs that contains what could be one of the dullest designs in this. It took me a while to see that page after page of this album comes from the same six straight lines - the hemp (Asanoha - 麻の葉) pattern. Plenty of cultures mastered ornamental pattern, even an Englishman, Robert Billings, did a good job in the 1850s, but no-one seems to be able to re-invent over and over from the most simple foundation with such vibrant strength as a Japanese designer of this calibre. Once Japan took back and redigested - from the late 19th century on - what the west had taken from Japan, what we regard as modernism, I find it almost impossible to decide what is borrowed and what was always theirs. Can I see the influence of the scraperboard technique popular in the twenties or is it the development of the traditional asymetrical graining of nature? I saw a giant Argyle sock but it is, I think, based on the swastika design popular in textile design for centuries. And what would have been produced using smart new technology in the west - plastics, spiral binding perhaps - has been put together with materials and techniques unchanged for a couple of centuries or so. The previous owner of this firmly equivocated and dated it somewhere between 1900 and 1940. After studying it for some time I think he was right. But having seen some of these patterns used in early Taisho books and posters, I narrow it down to between 1910 and 1920.


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Charles Spencer. Fusen Nori Uwasa Takadono [in 歌舞伎新報 (Kabuki Shinpo - Kabuki News)]. Tokyo, Kaneko Genzo, Kabuki Shinpo Co., 1891 (Meiji 24). Octavo publisher's? wrapper with printed title label; three colour woodcut titles and 13 colour woodcut plates. Au$275

Kabuki Shinpo was a sophisticated Kabuki magazine that printed the texts of plays as well as gossip and critical pieces. It ran between 1879 and 1897 and was apparently issued in gathered volumes such as this; containing thirteen plays. Here is one of the most fascinating of the period. Aeronaut Charles Spencer - of the Spencer aeronautic dynasty - came to Japan in 1890 with his balloons and parachutes performing his balloon ascent and parachute descent stunts in Yokohama and in Ueno Park in Tokyo in November 1890. He is said to have injured himself slightly having to avoid the royal tent during a command performance. Tokyo went balloon mad - again, they had a craze years earlier - and Spencer's performance was made into a Kabuki dance play - Fusen Nori Uwasa Takadono (Riding the Famous Hot-Air Balloon, see Brandon; Kabuki Plays on Stage) by premier dramatist Kawatake Mokuami - which ran for a month in early 1891. The Kabuki star Kikugoro V played Spencer with waxed moustache, hat - and in this print natty striped socks - and learnt a short speech in English for the finale.


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Hayashi Tamiji. 器物図式 [Kibutsu Zushiki - Vessel Patterns (more or less)]. Tokyo, Hayashi Tamiji 1888 [Meiji 21]. 245x180mm publisher's wrapper with printed label (sometime rebacked with rice paper and since split down the spine); [2]pp, one single and 51 double page litho plates. Bound as an accordian fold, with one plate separated down the fold. Signs of use but pretty good for a book virtually guaranteed to be used to pieces. Au$600

An intriguing thing: a lithographed pattern book for export ceramic ware and very much a working book. Essential at the time when Japanese manufactury moved from craft to industry with the introduction of plaster casting, transfer printing and so on. Pots, cups and saucers, jugs, vases, urns, bowls ... some items are shown decorated, some show enough decoration to be a guide and many are outline plates - some at full scale - to get the form right. Getting the form right was the important bit at this point, pattern books for decoration were plentiful. This has the look of being adapted from a Chinese work - which makes sense, the Chinese had a long established export market, and some of the forms here are already a century old - but I can't trace what that may be. Nor can I find much about this; Worldcat finds one copy, in Chicago, and further searches find only the National Diet Library copy.


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Hokkai Takashima. [Tokuzo Takashima]. 歐洲山水奇勝 [Oshu Sansui Kisho]. Kinkodo 1893 (Meiji 26). 245x180mm publisher's boards with title label (discoloured), bound accordian style; 54 double folded leaves with 48 double page colour woodcuts. A nice copy with the original printed outer wrapper (fukuro) loose inside. Au$950

A fascinating bit of explorative assimilation. Hokkai has produced an album of mountain views gathered in Scotland, France and Italy; unmistakably Japanese wood blocks yet also, somehow, unmistakably western lithographs. The Scottish views are captioned in English, the others in French. Hokkai was sent by the Ministry of Agriculture to Scotland in 1884 then to Nancy to study forestry. Here, from 1885 to 1888, he became a central member of the Ecole de Nancy and cross pollination becomes personal - in Nancy at least the stamp of Japan on burgeoning tendencies of Art Nouveau is direct and unequivocal, thanks to Hokkai. Hokkai's fascination with the grandeur of foreign mountains didn't end in Europe. He resigned his directorship of Forestry soon after his return to Japan, in 1889, in favour of art and in 1893 two paintings done in the Rockies were exhibited at the St Louis Exhibition. These showed "all the grace and dexterity of the Japanese handling combined with the true spirit of the American wilds" wrote Maude Oliver in The Studio.


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Japanese illustration. Hanai Oume? Set of proof wood engraved illustrations for a Japanese serial story. n.p. n.d. [c 1887?] Oblong quarto by size (260x185mm ) contemporary plain wrapper; 41 wood engravings on 21 double folded leaves. A little browning. Au$475

A prime example of the strange casserole of Meiji Japan. In form, in technique, in content and in production these hold all the paradoxes of Japan embracing western modernisation while hanging fast to tradition. These are the illustrations for what seems a rollicking sword and sash thriller but ... it is set in a modern metropolis; bowler hats, suits and dashing mustachios are not out of place, neither is what looks like a railway station; and these are not ukiyo-e woodcuts for a popular novel, these are western wood engravings for a long serial - there are 41 after all - in a newspaper or broadsheet magazine; an illustration of such a paper helpfully holds a bough of blossoms in one illustration. The subject apart, the glaring difference between these and any western illustrations is the skill of artist and engraver, all but a few western counterparts are put to shame. I'm convinced that these relate to Hanai Oume the celebrated Tokyo geisha-teahouse owner who, in 1887, stabbed her sometime lover and employee who, apparently in concert with her father, was trying to muscle her out of the business. The first illustration here shows two men holding umbrellas that, I'm told, advertise a restaurant or 'licenced pleasure quarter' remarkably similar to hers: Suigetsu. Oume or O-ume - her professional name - was celebrity manifest. Her murder trial was public and though crowds unable to get in became irate every moment was covered in the press; books were published within minutes, kabuki plays and novels performed and published, and the newspapers made rich. Yoshitoshi produced a famous print of the murder as a supplement for the Yamato Shimbun but while there is plenty of violence in these pictures there is no murder. Spin-off or fanciful concoction, there's a good story here. There is an owner's (maybe artist's?) seal which I make out to be 春耕慢虫 - I'm sure I'm wrong.


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Ogawa Usen [also known as Soju Usen]. 草汁漫画 [Soju Manga]. Tokyo, Hidaka Yurindo 1908 (Meiji 41). 255x190mm publisher's printed wrapper (some wear, spine chipped); [6],136;[4],[8]pp; woodcut illustrations throughout, a few colour, most printed in sienna. Originally stapled, the staples have perished; a used but very decent copy in a modern chitsu. Au$750

First edition of Usen's first book; a facsimile was published in the seventies. A lively collection of pictures, seemingly naive at times but as Hillier said of a later book - Sangushu (1921) - "The childlike naivete of the original sketches is ... actually the acme of sophistication ... the artist is as elliptical as the poet." (Hillier; The Art of the Japanese Book). Usen hadn't yet attained the fame that brought the quality of printing his later work has but he makes up for that here with humour and imagination. Usen studied western painting before starting his career as a newspaper and magazine illustrator and is among the best of the generation of artists born and educated with the Meiji, soaked in both the foreign and the nationalistic reaction to the foreign, and determined not to step backwards into regurgitating tradition nor become mimics of the west. Some of his late work seems refined to the point of kitsch to me but when sleek expensive art journals publish articles in English on the hitherto neglected anarchistic aims of Usen's early work we know that he has truly arrived. OCLC finds no copy of this outside the National Diet Library.


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Muneaki Mihara. 自在教育法図解 [Jizai Kyoikuho Kuzai]. The Teaching by Pictures the Way of Impraving Freely am Easely the Natural Constitution of Man [sic]. Ritsuma Akiko, 1888 (Meiji 21). Broadside 695x530mm, woodblock printed, folding into publisher's limp cloth covers 173x132mm with printed label. A nice copy. Au$900

An enchanting and self evident exposition on the value of pictures in learning. Seemingly as simple as a phrenology chart but judging by the amount of text worked into all those different parts of the brain perhaps a lot more complex. From the little, as an illiterate, I can glean on brain function as outlined here this might sit somewhere between phrenology and neurophysics. The open area at the very centre of the brain is labelled 未詳 - unknown.


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Chiarini's Circus. Chiarini's Circus and Menagerie. Complete Congress of Wonders and Marvels. n.p. 1887 (Meiji 20). Woodcut poster 38x50cm, folded. Stained on the right side and a couple of blotches elsewhere, still a rather good copy for such a vulnerable thing. Au$750

Chiarini's circus spent months in Japan in 1886 and 1887 and the Emperor saw his first circus. And being true royalty he was generous in his appreciation, not like a certain modern bunch who will reward with a handshake and have their accountant bill the nation for new gloves. Chiarini's was the circus for much of India, south east and east Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Latin and South America. They were indefatigable travellers. I gather it was the scale of the spectacle, the horse riders and the animals that enraptured the Japanese; they already had plenty of great acrobats. I read somewhere that the first Japanese given official permission to leave the country were acrobats snapped up by the canny Richard Risley whose circus had been allowed into Japan in 1864 but no further than Yokohama. In this poster the stars are hard at work and are identified.


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Kurofune Kawaraban. Perry and the Black Ships in Japan. Kawaraban or illustrated news sheet titled 亜墨利加舩号人物姓名録 [Amerika sengo jinbutsu seimei-roku - Details of the people from the American ships]. n.p. n.d. [1854]. Woodblock printed broadside 17x24cm. Some insect holes in the margins repaired. Au$1050

These illicit illustrated news sheets for the streets were produced by the million for a couple of hundred years so of course few survive. They were produced for anything more interesting than the drop of a hat and the arrival of the Black Ships, the American squadron commanded by Perry, in 1854 eclipsed any and all tiresome earthquakes, fires, plagues, famines, murders and scandals. For most Japanese this was the same as a squadron of alien space ships arriving on earth now. These prints are the kurofune kawaraban. The columns of detail about the members of the ships - and it may well be fact - give this the authority of documentary evidence but what is immediately clear is that the artist drew this view of the procession carrying gifts from description. He certainly had never seen an American and had no authentic picture to copy from, so things unfamiliar have become things somewhat familiar: the Americans' odd hats are like those of the mongol Chinese, Americans carry swords so naturally they would be carried on their back. What must also have been described and is beautifully caught is that Americans are a shambling, undisciplined bunch but they seem cheery enough. So, why not use pictures of the Dutch as models? Was this issued in some provincial city where even images of the Dutch were unfamiliar? Did the differences as described overwhelm the similarities? Or, as I suspect, was it a canny commercial decision that a new alien race that looked much like the Dutch would sell no papers? The Ryosenji - the Black Ship Museum in Japan, which boasts the largest collection of Black Ship material - does have a copy of this among the fewer than twenty kawaraban they hold. I can't find one anywhere else.


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Kurofune Kawaraban. Perry and the Black Ships in Japan. Kawaraban or illustrated news sheet of a sumo wrestler defeating three American sailors while American and Japanese onlookers laugh and clap. n.p. n.d. [1854]. Woodblock printed broadside 17x24cm. Some insect holes in the margins repaired. Au$1150

These illicit illustrated news sheets for the streets were produced by the million for a couple of hundred years so of course few survive. They were produced for anything more interesting than the drop of a hat and the arrival of the Black Ships, the American squadron commanded by Perry, in 1854 eclipsed any and all tiresome earthquakes, fires, plages, famines, murders and scandals. For most Japanese this was the same as a squadron of alien space ships arriving on earth now. These prints are the kurofune kawaraban. A joyous depiction of perhaps the first international wrestling match in Japan? The text explains that first one, then two, then three foreigners took on the Sumo wrestler. Our artist captures the moment one hits the ground and the other two are about to follow him. The Americans are laughing hard enough to cry while two of the Japanese spectators take their role as critics or judges seriously. Are they a summation of Japanese reactions to the westerners: disapproval, delight and a clinical determination to do the job right? There exists a kawaraban perhaps by the same artist showing Sumo wrestlers delivering a gift of rice for the Americans to the beach close to their ships. Three wrestlers pirouhette and juggle hefty bales of rice like toys. There was quite a bit of fun in these meetings despite the arrogant aggression of Perry himself. The Ryosenji - the Black Ship Museum in Japan, which boasts the largest collection of Black Ship material - doesn't have a copy of this in their catalogue and I can't find one anywhere else.


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Suguroku. 飛行機戦争双六 [Hikoki Senso Sugoroku]. Tokyo, Tanoshiki Danshi 1928 (Showa 3). Colour illustrated broadside game, 40x55cm. Folded, a nice copy. Au$650

A near breath-taking tour de force display of the Japanese talent for blending infantile cuteness, mayhem and sinister threat. Most bellicose nations produced books, pictures and games of and for toddler soldiers but they were usually dressed up kids playing at soldiers. Here we race, using dice, with our child pilot from his farewell ceremony to his triumphant return, destroying any number of enemy ships and planes along the way. Telling is the implication in the last triumphant scene that most important nations of the world supported Japan's war aims; not the US perhaps but Texas was in their corner. Miyazaki is too young to have owned this when new but I can't help believing that images just like this lodged in the child and captivate the adult.


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Aso Yutaka. ノンキナトウサン出世双六 [Nonki na Tosan shusse sugoroku]. Tokyo, Hochi Shinbunsha 1925 (Taisho 14). Colour illustrated broadside game (54x79cm); folded, mild signs of use. With the circular portraits of the characters down the side which could be cut out and used as game pieces. Au$650

The new year extra from the newspaper Hochi Shinbun starring Japan's first serial comic strip hero Nonki Na Tosan - usually translated as Easy-going or Lazy Daddy - who first appeared in regular comic strips in the paper the year before. He owed some debt to Jiggs of Bringing Up Father but uncle Nonto was a thoroughly Japanese scapegrace and loafer who quickly made his way into games, toys and, in 1925, a short animated film. Now our game is presented as a film while the information I've found about the film, and all the toys, suggests that they were piracies; comic characters were not protected by copyright. Perhaps an all round notion that popular comic strips and film are natural partners explains what may or may not be a coincidence. This may be Nonto's first sugoroku but it certainly wasn't his last. Come the early thirties as the manga craze blossomed our hero was often teamed with Mickey Mouse and Betty Boop - something of a holy trinity. As said, uncle Nonto is a loafer and this game follows him through a series of disastrous attempts at holding down a job.


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Sugoroku. 子乗物双六 [Ko Norimono Sugoroku]. Tokyo, Seugaku Sophomore, Ist January, 1930 (Showa 5). Colour lithograph broadside, 54x78cm; Folded, a nice copy with the playing pieces intact in the left margin. Au$375

An exciting and vivid jaunt around the world and all forms of transport is the theme here. This was the New Year treat that came with the magazine Seugaku Sophomore (for the second year of primary school). I don't know who those two kids are but they never aged and, with updates in fashion and style, seem to have been on a ceaseless whirl of travel and adventure ever after. For decades new but the same sugorokus appeared. The zeppelin vanished of course, square automobiles became sleek cars, trains went diesel and electric and aeroplanes became jets, and on they went. Perhaps they learnt early what many idle wealthy globe trotters know: that a diet of fine demi-sec and pure cocaine keeps you young forever.


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Tsutsumi Kanzo. 漫画双六 世界早のぞき [Manga sugoroku sekai haya nozoki]. Nagoya(?), Shin Aichi 1931. Colour lithograph broadside, 55x70cm; Folded, a touch of nibbling on one edge. a nice copy with the playing pieces intact in the right margin. Au$750

Sugoroku, these paper racing games, like most genres of Japanese graphics range from the fabulous, through insipid to kitsch to awful to downright disturbing. This one is fabulous. Tsutsumi - one of the great pioneers of modern manga - takes two young aviators on quick world tour and shows them all the most important things. Curious, for me, is that each stop is not headed with the country name but some quality, some spectacle, some activity. Thus meeting Mussolini in Italy is titled 'hero'; for baseball we see see Babe Ruth knocking over a New York skyscraper; tennis is Henri Cochet in France; film is of course Charlie Chaplin in Hollywood; science is a zeppelin in Germany; war is Chiang Kai-shek in China; manners are learnt in England from Ramsay MacDonald; I'm not sure what the gymnastic penguins in the Antarctic represent. And so on round the globe with celebrity and national stereotypes galore.


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Train at Night. Japanese colour woodcut of a train and signal man. n.p. n.d. Early Meiji, c1872? 160x375mm, a few small holes. Au$650

Before even the first train hit the rails every person in Japan who could hold a brush or chisel was hard at work turning out prints of trains. They range from naive scratches to elaborate pageants of life in modern Japan but I've never seen another like this. The format and the style mark it out but maybe more remarkable is that this is a train at night. Kiyochika is credited with being the first to upend the conventions of how the machine was to be seen with his mordant and somewhat fictional print 'View of Takanawa Ushimachi Under a Shrouded Moon' of 1879 which shows how the train changed the night wherever it went - which in turn was a reversal of most prints in that series which show how night changes the world. The anonymous print here might be loaded with symbolism but there is no play of light and shadow; there is no ambiguity, no hint of landscape to be obliterated, no way to read melancholy into it. There is nothing of traditional Japan here, only telegraph poles, train, signalman in western uniform waving the train onward with the new national flag, westward ho. The only hint of the past here is the heroic stance of the signal man, familiar from prints of warriors urging their troops into battle. Undoubtedly this is the train that will run between Tokyo and Yokohama starting in 1872.


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Yukawa Shodo. War Nurse from the series 今古風俗百美人 [Kinko Fuzoku Hyaku Bijin - 100 Beauties Past and Present]. [Osaka, Wakita Ainosuke?] c1903. Colour wood block print, 42x28cm. A little browning; with full margins. Au$375

Shodo's series is mostly dress up. He put his beauties into costume, gave them a prop or two, maybe a hint of background. And the majority are decorative and little more. But here and there are exceptions. A weaver hold us with her confident gaze, gripping her shuttle like a club, and a couple of his modern women are truly modern rather than mannequins put into trousers. A young student in hakama - men's wide trousers - reading while she leans against the window has the true defiant insouciance of a young woman going places and this nurse is nothing less than majestic with her implacable calm. This is a woman with a job to do. This is not a woman to be ordered about. Most but not all prints I've seen from this series have the red numbers in Arabic and Japanese at the top which don't relate to the print's place in the series. Is this that French invention - a numbered limited edition? I've seen numbers up to about 130. Some also have a caption in the bottom margin; those I've seen have been both numbered and unnumbered.


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Teruha toiletry poster. 白麗水. [Hakuresui or Hakureisui]. A shop poster for Hakuresui toiletry to whiten the skin and remove blemishes. Osaka, Takegaki Shokai c1910. Colour lithograph 53x38cm on quite heavy paper. In excellent condition with the original metal strips, top and bottom, and ribbon loop for hanging in a shop. Au$1500

Among the myriad images that use race superiority and fear to sell goods - particularly soaps, toiletries and cosmetics - this is the weirdest and most hypnotic that I've ever seen. The weirdness intensifies if you know that the model is Teruha, maybe Japan's most famous geisha and pin-up girl at the end of the Meiji and through the Taisho period. Born Tatsuko Takaoka, in this poster she is 14 or so and has possibly graduated from her apprentice name, Chiyoha. Sold by her father at 12, her virginity was soon sold to the president of the Osaka stock exchange and by the time she was 14 she had been engaged to one wealthy business man, promised to another and had a secret affair with an actor. The extended left pinkie finger must be a joke about her misguided sacrifice to love which earnt her yet another name: the Nine Fingered Geisha. Before and after - or with and without - comparisons were nothing new in Japanese advertising. Neither were celebrities: courtesan prints sold patent medicines long before the Americans arrived and Bismarck adorned adverts for a patent syphilis cure that did for medicine what Bismarck did for Germany. Darkie - coon, nigger, whatever you want to call it - advertising images were obviously not unknown but neither can they have been familiar enough to be taken for granted and reproduced to the American and British formula in the way that the jazz age negro became a standard pattern to be played with by artists and designers in Japan as everywhere else. There is more than hint of a jovial tengu, spirit or minor god here, but for that suit.


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Matsuyama Shisui. 船と造船所の話 [Fune to zosensho no hanashi]. Tokyo, Kinto-sha 1932 (Showa 7) Octavo publisher's colour illustrated boards and slightly rubbed slipcase (a hint of rubbing, a small surface chip from the top of the spine); 12,244pp, illustrated title, three photo plates, two folding plans, illustrations and photos through the text. An outstanding copy. Au$650

While the cover designer almost nods to the subject of the book and the title page lets you know there's technical stuff to follow, the outside and the inside, are only connected by the spirit of modernity and progress. Inside we find a worthy, serious book on shipbuilding for the younger reader, specifically boys - and damn serious boys at that. It looks as thorough and as technical as most adult monographs for English readers. The Sanko Library has a copy and that's all I can find anywhere. I want to know who designed the cover, I can't find a credit in the book.


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Okamoto Ippei. 漫画双六 [Manga Sugoroku]. Tokyo, Shufunotomosha 1929 (Showa 4). Broadside 64x94cm; colour printed. Folded, fairly minor signs of use. Au$650

A splendid large - on better paper than average at this time - and lively sugoroku - racing game - by the illustrator/cartoonist whose place in modern manga history is still being argued. Issued as a New Year supplement to the magazine The Housewife's Friend, the game is an intriguing melange, to me, of the modern and traditional, whether in conflict or harmony or all round mocked I don't know. The winning post - the joyful family of plump plutocrats with both husband and wife looking remarkably like lucky gods - is the dream of the modern young woman being hatched from an egg in the upper right but she is not the starting point of the game. There seems to be several starting points. Did any young western woman ever dream of being rich and fat? Okamoto Ippei began as a newspaper cartoonist for the Asahi Shimbun in 1912, travelled to the US in the twenties and brought back an enthusiasm for American comic strips which quickly spread through Japan. A prolific artist naturally, he has a long bibliography and much of it is found in scatterings in western libraries but I know of only one with a copy of this.


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Hayashi Tadaichi. 少年帝都復興双六 [Shonen Teito Fukko Sugoroku]. Tokyo, Nihon Shonen January 1924 (Taisho 13). Colour printed broadside 55x79cm. Folded, some small holes and tears repaired; a pretty good copy. Au$400

Have you seen a better piece of visionary urban planning? This sugoroku - racing game - accompanied the New Year issue of Nihon Shonen (Japanese Boy) and what better way to mark the new year than rebuilding the freshly devastated Tokyo along utopian lines? The title more or less translates as Boy's Reconstruction of the Imperial Capital and I'd move there in a flash. This has been thought out. Public transport is a marvel with canals, aerial cable cars and trains tearing round the city and on and off ferries; the airport is sensibly at flight level, which must save enormous amounts of fuel; I think the floating palace is an overnight shuttle to America. Public health and safety is well considered: the fire brigade operates from a tower with a water cannon that can reach across the city to extinguish fires and the hospital will come to you, no matter the terrain. Culture and sport are catered for and the traditional at heart will be comforted to see industry over on the wrong side of the tracks, well away from the houses on the hill, where it belongs. Two essential Tokyo survivors are the start and finish: Tokyo railway station and the imperial palace. I don't approve of the alarm on the clock tower but no-one can be unimpressed by the solar heating plant. Boy or not, this is the town for me.


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Isaac Newton. Kawanabe Kyosai & Nakagane Masahira. 世界風俗往来 - 外篇 [Sekai Fuzoku Orai - gai hen]. Tokyo, 1873 (Meiji 6). 230x155mm publisher's wrapper (missing the title label); two full page colour woodblock prints by Kyosai. Some smudges that suggest it may have read by a member of the working class; a bit of worming in early pages, nothing serious; a pretty good copy. Au$725

Could there be a better portrait of Isaac Newton? I doubt it. Where else have you seen the fierce intellect and the majestic dignity of the warrior king of science so well embodied? In one piercing moment he has seen into the secret heart of all things, made his ruling and brought order to an unruly universe. Having decreed how that apple had moved through space and where it now rests he defies it to move again. The other picture is of the young James Watt making his first steam powered discoveries. The myth of child Watt and the kettle seems to date from 1839 with Arago's Eloge of James Watt and in picture a few years later; the earliest I found is an 1844 wood engraving in Jerrold's Illuminated Magazine illustrating a fanciful retelling by Angus Reach. Kyosai's picture is closer in form to Buss's 1845 painting than Marcus Stone's 1863 reworking of the story but it is clear that he has worked - as with Newton and the apple - from the story rather than any pictorial model. There is a complementary 1872 book with much the same title as this introducing the west but each is a complete and separate thing. OCLC finds only the Diet Library copy of this but Waseda University has a sadly chewed copy they illustrate online.


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Wada Sanzo. 配色総鑑 [Haishoku Sokan]. Tokyo, Hakubisha 1933-34 (Showa 8-9). Six volumes (198x130mm) of plates in publisher's cloth titled in gilt, each in publisher's printed card slipcases; the volumes constitute a total of 348 accordian folding card leaves with mounted colour samples arranged in pairs in the first two volumes, trios in the next two and quartets in the last two. The colour samples are all mounted and captioned in Japanese and English. Four colour sample plates on two folded card leaves are loosely inserted as are some publisher's announcement and an errata slip. Without the summary, which is a 40 page pamphlet in Japanese, and there is no place here for it - it would not fit in any of the slipcases and nor do I believe it would have its own case. I have only seen this work before issued in a chitsu case and I wonder whether these separately cased volumes were sold individually or whether these were copies that were stored ready for orders never received. In excellent condition. Au$2500

First edition of this fabulous dictionary or grammar of colour - there is a recent reprint; a sophisticated synthesis of western and Japanese theory and usage. Wada's place in Japanese art has been assured since his 1907 prize winning painting Nanpu - which in western terms sits somewhere between Winslow Homer and beefcake pinup, much as Winslow Homer did - but Wada got more interesting as he got older and a return to Japanese painting in the twenties along with his design work and colour research pushed along an increasingly assured generation of artists with a grasp of west and east and an intent of their own. Wada's name was unfamilar in the west until recent years but you don't have look far to see his ideas at work, spread by second and third hand borrowings. Unknown to the amazingly bad Osborne 'Books on Colour Since 1500' (as a book a waste of ink and paper, as an ebook a waste of electrons); Yale has a copy in the Faber Birren colour collection and OCLC finds no other copy outside the National Diet Library. Neither can I in all the places where I can think to look.


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Wada Sanzo. 配色総鑑 [Haishoku Sokan]. Tokyo, Hakubisha 1933-34 (Showa 8-9). Six volumes (198x130mm) of plates in publisher's cloth with title labels; a 40 page booklet in wrappers and four colour sample plates on two folded card leaves all together in publisher's folding case with clasp and title label. The plate volumes constitute a total of 348 accordian folding card leaves with mounted colour samples arranged in pairs in the first two volumes, trios in the next two and quartets in the last two. The colour samples are all mounted and captioned in Japanese and English. The outer case a bit faded with a couple of small flaws; the separate cards browned; a rather good set with loosely inserted publisher's slips and errata slip. Au$3500

First edition of this fabulous dictionary or grammar of colour - there is a recent reprint - a sophisticated synthesis of western and Japanese theory and usage. Wada's place in Japanese art has been assured since his 1907 prize winning painting Nanpu - which in western terms sits somewhere between Winslow Homer and beefcake pinup, much as Winslow Homer did - but Wada got more interesting as he got older and a return to Japanese painting in the twenties along with his design work and colour research pushed along an increasingly assured generation of artists with a grasp of west and east and an intent of their own. Wada's name was unfamilar in the west until recent years but you don't have look far to see his ideas at work, spread by second and third hand borrowings. Unknown to the amazingly bad Osborne 'Books on Colour Since 1500' (as a book a waste of ink and paper, as an ebook a waste of electrons); Yale has a copy in the Faber Birren colour collection and OCLC finds no other copy outside the National Diet Library. Neither can I in all the places where I can think to look.


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Shochiku-za Theater. Revue des Revues. モンパリ [Mon Paris]. [Osaka], Shochiku-za Theater [1929]. Quarto (27x20cm), 4pp, outer pages in red and black, photo illustrations. A vertical fold. Au$125

A svelte bit of typography and design, no? My first impulse is to want more legs but I decided that, as no doubt the designer did, that would be obvious, cute, camp, maybe even tawdry. The Shochiku-za, built in Osaka in 1923, was Japan's first cinema devoted to foreign films and inspired and aspiring young designers did their publicity and newsletters. Presumably they worked on the usual terms: little money and no credit. There is quite a bit of remarkable anonymous graphic art of the twenties and early thirties with the Shochiku-za banner. This publicity sheet or programme is for the March 1929 debut of the French film, Revue of Revues - renamed Mon Paris in Japan, a panoply of Paris cabaret acts and show girls strung together with a disposable plot by Joe Francis. Long thought lost it has recently been reconstructed from rediscovered fragments and it is occasionally remarkable, not least for its partial colouring. There are three magical moments and two of them are Josephine Baker. Paired with the Revue is the opening of what I think is Scarlet Seas (眞紅の海), a 1928 thriller starring Richard Barthelmess and Betty Compton.


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Okamoto Ippei. 山と海 [Yama to Umi - Mountain & Sea]. Osaka, Asahi Shimbun 1926 [Taisho 15]. Quarto publisher's colour illustrated wrapper; 40pp, b/w illustrations throughout. Mild signs of use, natural browning of the paper; a pretty good copy. Au$100

A comic commentary on the Japanese out and about on holiday and I suspect many other things beyond me. There is a cast of recurring characters and it's evident from the cover that class wars are at play - there is a drawing inside of a plutocrat mugging a beggar - but there's a lot going on in these busy pages that are fun to look at but incomprehensible to me. If you look up Okamoto Ippei in non-Japanese places now you will find so many entries telling us how unjustly neglected and forgotten he is in the history of comics and manga that we know his place is assured. Ippei was the king of newspaper cartooning as Rakuten ruled the magazines in Taisho and early Showa Japan. It was Ippei that brought the American comic strip to Japan and heads, with Rakuten, the lists of idols and inspiration of many modern manga artists; hardly forgotten.


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Photography - Japan. Portraits from photographs scrupulously hand painted to impersonate lithographs. n.p. [c1880-1890?]. Two sheets, 54x41cm and 60x48cm, with nine portraits all but one oval; each about 25cm - ten inches - high. Au$450

Are these the ultimate modern one-up-manship in family portraiture? Painted over photos are common enough and paintings from photos equally so but these are large scale, done from scratch purposely to mimic the grain of lithography. The stippling is so painstaking and exact that it would have been easier to make and print lithographs. By the 1880's reaction to modernity and the west, by nationalists watching their tradition vanish, was strident and often powerful. Don't forget the western design of the residence of the new Imperial Palace was abandoned after earthquake damage to brickwork and the official carpenter took over. No small victory for superior Japanese traditions. The arguments over portraiture and photography are often unexpected, confusing and contradictory to me. Schools that I would think traditionalist welcomed the camera and realism - though some disliked photo portraits for moral or ethical reasons - but whatever the argument the photograph and its wedded industry - portraits painted in oils over or from photos - became ubiquitous essentials for the family shrine. Our well to do family is not only on the side of western modernity, they go one step further by embracing the foreign technology of the lithographic print. So why hand painted on such a scale? Maybe partly because that's what a prominent family can afford but likely because portraits like this were still private family affairs. According to Conant (Challenging Past and Present), the painter Takahashi - portraitist of the Emperor - was thwarted in his 1880s project to paint portraits of the heroes of the Meiji by families refusing him use of their photographs. The smaller set of portraits here is signed and sealed Hokushu. The other, clearly later, has an illegible, to me, seal.


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Kamishibai. Kijima Takeo. 債券往来 [Saiken Orai]. Kobe, Yokusan Bunka 1943 [Showa 18]. 20 sheets (27x39cm) of card with colour illustrations on one side and text on the other. A small piece from a corner of the last card; signs of use but decent enough. Without a card envelope these usually came in but complete. Au$450

This is a head scratcher. At first glimpse a wartime kamishibai in cartoon form telling the story of the bonds business seems so bizarre that it is irresistable. On second thought it makes sense; selling war bonds was a big deal in every country. On third thought it gets bizarre again. I may be merely uneducated but of all the forms of Japanese graphic art, kamishibai are the most peculiar in that the vast bulk of all that I've seen are godawful. Even given the preponderance of sickening morality and national good in kamishibai stories it is astonishing how few good artists - a particularly versatile bunch in Japan - set their hand to them. This one is a happy exception. Which is where it gets head scratching again. Produced by the cultural arm of the Yokusan - the press ganged ruling party of wartime Japan - who weren't known for taste, humour or delicacy and who usually produced numbingly awful war propaganda kamishibai ... how did this get through? Kamishibai are public stories usually told by kamishibai men who set up a folding stand on the back of their bicycles and enacted the dramas illustrated on the cards. Held up with the plates in order, the text for the first picture is on the back of the last. The sheets are transferred to the back as the story continues; the text for the second picture is on the back of the first, and so on.


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Nakazawa Hiromitsu, Kobayashi Shokichi & Okano Sakae. 東洋未来双六 [Toyo Mirai Sugoroku]. Tokyo, Hakubunkan 1907 (Meiji 40). Colour printed broadside, 55x78cm. Minor flaws and signs of use, some ink splodges on the back. Au$750

A view, or a panoply of views, of a future Asia. Some of these vignettes of what's to come are obvious enough - schoolgirls at rifle drill and sumo wrestlers in striped bathers - but a few seem fairly recondite to me. I'm not sure how much is optimistic, how much is dire warning and how much is wearily stoic. Nakazawa, Kobayashi and Okano, still young, had been fellow students at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, and of Kuroda Seiki, and collaborated on the five volume Nihon Meisho Shasei Kiko, issued over several years.


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Furuya Korin. 竹づく志 [Take Zukushi]. Kyoto, Unsodo 1906 (Meiji 39). 18x25cm publisher's boards; 50 colour woodcut designs on 25 double leaves, accordian folding. Light signs of use, a rather good copy. Au$1650

Exquisite printing, with metallic inks and dustings of mica, of often exquisite designs by the foremost of neo-Rimpa designers. One of three independent portfolios of designs by Korin each devoted to one plant. This one is bamboo. The others are pines and plums. Korin, whose name is taken from the original master, started as a gifted but unsurprising designer - prolific and workmanlike in ambition compared to Sekka. But come the twentieth century - the final years of his life; he died young in 1910 - his albums of designs (rather than art) need no apology.


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Sugoroku. Kawabata Ryushi & Hoshino Suiri. 買い物双六 [Kaimono Sugoroku]. Tokyo, 1914 (Taisho 3). Colour printed broadside 79x55cm. Minor signs of use; a nice copy. Au$750

The New Year gift from the magazine Shojo no Tomo - the Girl's Friend. Shopping and fun, fun and shopping, indivisible here as it should be. There is a zen-like approach to this. The goal is the top balcony where the winner can gaze with calm detachment back and down on the world of the great department store. Only by immersing yourself in the experience can you come to comprehend. As the master who gave me the only coherent account of zen I ever heard said, as he bit the top off the eleventieth bottle of beer, "When you're drinking you're only drinking." Kawabata's career took a curious turn during a 1913 stay in America to study western painting. Apparently he was so impressed with the Japanese art he saw in Boston he switched to being a Nihonga painter. Still, he remained being an illustrator for magazines for quite some time. As did most of the early to mid 20th century artists now revered.


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Fire. Safety poster. Hokkaido Police. One of a series of fire safety posters produced by the Hokkaido Police. Hokkaido-cho Keisatsubu, 1918 (Taisho 7). Colour lithograph 79x54cm. A bit of browning, a short marginal tear and piece from one corner. Au$650

As a fan of safety posters I can tell you they are not known for subtlety, taste or elegance. I'm not sure whether the quite delicate style and colouring of these make them more or less chilling. In any case nothing could be more chilling than your sleeping infant burning while you gossip over tea. And not only is the baby barbequeing, it is Japan's most precious family treasure - a boy. On a value scale I'd say it goes boy then house then girl. All these posters are signed and sealed by the same artist but I'm unable to read it. Neither can I find an indication of how many were in the series.


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Ginza. 銀座通り之真景 [Ginza-dori no Ma Kei]. Tokyo, Urashima-do 1919 (Taisho 8). Colour lithograph 40x54cm. Some rumpling and short marginal tears. Au$150

This is a self titled true picture of the Ginza but I suspect it was seen a few years earlier. Maybe it's not photo-realism but how else to capture the excitement of strolling the Ginza on a Taisho afternoon? The style, the wealth, all the achievements of modernity around you and overhead. And not without drama. There are no signs of poverty, no beggars or thieves, so why has that well fed dog with a collar run off with the boy's parcel?


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Wada Sanzo. Wood Block Hand Prints - Japanese Life and Customs - A set of six pictures by Sanzo Wada. [aka 昭和職業絵盡, Showa Occupations or Japanese Vocations in Pictures]. Kyoto Hanga-In [195-?]. Publisher's patterned board folder (24x30cm) with illustrated label; six colour woodcut prints, loose as issued. A scratch to the label, an excellent copy, the prints bright and fine. This contains the flower sellers, the fortune teller, the weavers, the soba vendor, the komuso, and the farming family. Au$450

In the late thirties Wada gathered an in-house team of woodblock cutters and printers and began work on a projected series of 100 prints recording occupations in his changing Japan. Some were traditional and vanishing and some were the product of modern industrialised Japan. From here we can see that some of those modern jobs barely lasted out the century. The prints began appearing in 1939 and struggled on until 1943 when two series totalling 48 prints had appeared. After the war the project was resurrected by the Kyoto Hanga-In and a third series of 24 prints appeared from 1954 to 56. They also re-did earlier prints from new blocks; the originals had been destroyed. According to Ross Walker (Ohmi Gallery), the owners of Kyoto Hanga-In told him that they could not afford too many cherry woodblocks so their blocks for the prints of the fifties were planed and re-used and nothing before 1960 survives. This album is obviously for foreign consumption and contains six prints from the first and second series. The paper size is smaller than the separately issued prints but the quality of printing is no less, often better than copies of the separate prints I've seen. The colours are strong and vibrant and the extra embossing that is such an important part of the print - and can't be seen in reproduction - is deep and crisp where used. These copies aren't lettered or signed, one has the artist's seal. I've traced two other sets and both hold the same six prints but small variations in the prints and signatures occur in all. Wada's drawings have a modest charm and get better the more you look at them. The best may not hold your gaze at first but after a while you realise that they are the work of a great master of observation and deceptively simple expression.


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Sugoroku. 家庭教育世界一周すごろく [Katei Kyoiku Sekai Isshu Sugoroku]. Osaka Mainichi Shinbun, 1926 (Taisho 15). Colour printed broadside 109x80cm. Folded as issued; minor signs of use, a short tear repaired; not bad for a particularly large and vulnerable sugoroku. Au$350

You must have a smarter brain than me. I'm sure you do. It took me a few moments of slackjawed wonder before I realised this is a world map turned sideways and sat on. From where in space did the artist choose their viewpoint, unpeel the globe and spread it out flat? This a self titled educational game for the family. What does it teach us about our place on the planet and relationship to each other? Maybe that all maps are fiction. The Japanese flag flying in the Canadian Rockies marks the first ascent of Mount Alberta by the Japanese Alpine Club in 1925.


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Ishikawa Savings Bank. 新築御披露 [Shinchiku o Hiro]. The bank [1927]. Broadside colour print 19x27cm. Folded and a bit rumpled. With a date stamp that suggests October 7, 1927. Au$30

Some sort of flyer apparently for a new housing exhibition and sale taking place on October 10 and 11. Not a bad triumph of the worker image, in a humble untroublesome way.


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Baido Kunimasa [Utagawa Kunimasa IV]. 明治貴顕鑑 [Meiji Kiken Kagami]. Tokyo, Hoeidi 1888 (Meiji 21). 12x9cm publisher's wrapper with title label (ink inscription on the back cover); 15 double folded leaves giving one single page, one gatefold quadruple page, and 15 double page woodcuts. Actually all but a couple of leaves are quadruple folded - the printed leaves around double folded leaves of heavier paper making the book tougher, made to be handled often. Au$300

A nifty little book, a portrait gallery of eminent figures of the Meiji. But captured in action, not the studio poses of so many 'Eminent Men' galleries. These are woodcuts but they are, with true modernity, cut to resemble engravings. Worldcat finds only the NDL copy.


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Wakamoto. Sugoroku. わかもと - 漫画健康すご六 [Wakamoto - Manga Kenko Sugoroku]. Tokyo, Wakamoto [c1930]. Colour poster 63x46cm. Folded, a pretty good copy. Au$1150

An early bit of advertising from the health supplement makers and I don't think they've ever done better. The company started in 1929 in Shiba and opened a new plant in 1932; here the address is Shiba. This is a sugoroku, a racing game, and it's a succinct lesson in economics and industrialisation. The body as a machine had been explored by more than one graphic artist but here is not so much an intermediate step as a rational alternative. A production line may be useful but when labour is cheap why would you spend money on machinery? A decent length of sewage pipe, some vats and a manned treatment pond will do the job.


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Ise. 伊勢参宮名所案内之図 [Isesangu Meisho An'nai no Zu]. Yamashita Sobei 1925 [Taisho 14]. Colour printed broadside 34x50cm; woodcut and half-tone printing? Folded, natural browning of the cheap paper but rather good.. Au$95

An odd anachronism, this combines the production of the cheapest printing of a generation earlier. Yamashita Sobei produced these pilgrim tourist guides without changing their style from 1898 at least, updating details like trains, trams and new buildings. Maybe the lurid roughness became part of the tradition of the regular pilrimages to the two shrines of Ise.


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Nakamura Fusetsu. 世界一周双六 [Sekai Isshu Sugoroku]. Tokyo, Asahi Shimbun 1910 (Meiji 47). Colour printed broadside 55x78cm. Folded as issued, mild browning and signs of use. With the playing pieces intact in the margins. Au$850

An elegant sugoroku - racing game - issued by the newspaper Asahi Shimbun to celebrate the 1910 Anglo-Japanese Exhibition in London. Nakamura was a star of the generation that studied western painting and went on to forge a new style of Japanese painting, enlivening magazine work and book illustration.


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Fire Safety Poster. 火防 - 秩父消防組 [Hifuse - Chichibu Shobogume]. Chichibu Fire Prevention Publicity Department [192-?]. Colour litho poster 39x27cm. Au$225

A good straightforward illustration of what a carefully applied match can do.


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Hikifuda. A large hikifuda - handbill - or modest poster for Kyoto haberdashery bargain sales. n.p. [Kyoto 190-?]. Colour lithograph 37x26cm. An outstanding copy. Au$450

This splendidly flamboyant and assertive modern young Japanese woman is unlike any other I've seen from this period. Being able to decipher phrases like "bargain sale" but unable to decipher the trademark or any particular merchant's name here I suspect this is a sample produced by or for Kyoto silk merchants and haberdashers. Being on much heavier paper than usual for hikifuda clinches the matter for me.


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Smoca Toothpowder Poster. タバコのみの歯磨スモカ [Tabako Nomi no Hamigaki Sumoka]. n.p. [c1930]. Colour poster 42x31cm. A hint of browning, a nice copy. Au$950

Not quite inexplicable but it would take a while to work out an explanation of this poster for Smoca Toothpowder. Samurai mask - sure, but why? Links to racist posters by manufacturers of whiteners of all kinds round the world? Indeed. But put it all together and ... you make sense of it. Smoca's success - they are still going - was through clever advertising. From the start, in 1925, the company's founder, advertising man Kataoka Toshiro, hired the best artists and cartoonists. Book compilations of Smoca's newspaper advertising have made regular appearances since the fifties.


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Tokyo Peace Memorial Exhibition 1922. 平和記念東京博覧会第二会場之美観 [Heiwa Kinen Tokyo Hakurankai Ni Kaijo Kore Bikan?]. Tokyo 1922 (Taisho 11). Colour lithograph, 39x54cm. Rumpled with some short tears repaired. Not indecent. Au$250

An average afternoon in Taisho Tokyo before the earthquake, to judge by the lurid lithographs that came into fashion at the end of the Meiji. Life was brisk, vivid to the point of hallucination, crammed with progress and novelty; the skies buzzed with planes and airships. The seaplane was one of the hits of the exhibition. The 1922 Peace Memorial Exhibition, celebrating the League of Nations and a bright future, was the most lavish national Expo ever held.


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Japanese 1920s graphic thriller. Preliminary sketches for a graphic story, probably for a magazine or pulp book. n.p. [192-?]. 23 sheets 22x15cm numbered to 21 with the last two (a bit smaller) unnumbered and two small paintings on red ribbon which don't seem to belong to the story but are of a piece with it. Two drawings to a page, all but a couple - pencil - in ink and wash. Au$450

Being illiterate doesn't stop me from recognising a timeless jazz age tale of crime, degradation, betrayal, forbidden lust and madness. This is clearly a good girl gone wrong story with a twist. Maybe more than one twist. The overt lesbian stuff was not that common in parallel western stories - book or film. This is pretty steamy stuff; in a tortured, fully dressed way. The drawings are signed but my translator can't decipher them. The accompanying text is mostly dialogue.


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Ishii Usaburo. 新撰大匠雛形大全 [Shinsen Taisho Hinagata Taizen]. Osaka, Seikado 1897 [Meiji 30]. Six volumes small quarto by size, publisher's embossed wrappers with title labels; illustrations throughout, a couple folding - all lithographed. The cover surfaces well grazed by insects, excellent inside; a rather good set. Au$850

First edition of this excellent builder/architect's pattern book - it was reprinted in 1910 - published just at the time when there was both a cultural argument and a government led reaction against the wholesale importation of western architecture into Japan. This particular book bridges the confrontation between a nationalistic return to ancient temple forms and the fervour for modernisation. Two thirds of this book is traditional Japanese design, structure and carpentry but the last two volumes introduce western building designs and, in the details, western building methods. Here nuts, bolts and metal brackets replace traditional carpentry and forms in masonry are described. In the last volume are a series of profiles of mouldings, architectural hardware and fairly elaborate gates, fences and entries in western styles. At this time architecture itself was an innovation - the first generation of trained architects were beginning to replace the craftsman, until then designer and builder. But the Imperial Palace, despite the Emperor's push for modernity for the country, was not built to the designs of any of the western or western trained architects who submitted designs; it was built by the Imperial Carpenter, who went on to teach many of these young, new architects then, in turn, responsible for the resurgence of Japanese historicism.


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Tokyo. 東京名所万世橋広瀬中佐銅像 [Tokyo Meisho Manseibashi Hirose Chuza Dozo?]. Tokyo 1913 (Taisho 2). Colour lithograph 27x40cm. A bit rumpled. Lightly tipped at two corners onto card. Au$150

The statue of Hirose Takeo - Russo-Japanese War hero - was erected in 1910 and in 1913 the monumental pile of Manseibashi station - opened in 1912 - should be right behind him. It would spoil the composition of this view so it has understandably been omitted. Once the eyes stop watering these acid trip views of late Meiji and Taisho Japan start to make sense. They may have started as a cynical grab at attention for cheap, often nasty, prints but after a while they become a celebration of being in a place and time so exciting that no portrait can be too brightly, too impossibly, coloured. Photographs may be in some way a more reliable record but no photographer could gather the cast of characters - and the characters include trams and motor cars and the latest fashions - and arrange them to so capture the thrill of being out and about in Tokyo on a Taisho afternoon.


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Hikifuda. Benkyo Shoten? 和洋雑貨毛織物類 [Wayo Zakka Keorimono-rui]. Hikifuda - or handbill - for a sale of Japanese and western wool textiles. n.p. [190-?]. Colour lithograph broadside 38x26cm. A touch browned round the edges. Au$90

An exuberant yet elegant thoroughly up to the minute snapshot of a stylish woman - with her painfully exquisite daughter - graciously acknowledging the attention of the shop boy at a busy warehouse sale of fabrics.


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Dye colours. Kohiyama H. (?). An album of annotated dyed fabric swatches with the binding title, "Dyed Pattern - The Higher Technical School of Tokyo - H. Kohiyama." n.p. [191-?]. Oblong folio (28x38cm) half calf (scuffed and worn but solid); Some 1600 samples mounted on both sides of 62 lined leaves - plus some unused leaves. A couple of swatches missing and couple insect chewed. Copiously annoted in ink. Au$1500

The "Higher Technological School" of Tokyo was third name for what is now the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Founded in 1881 as the Vocational School it graduated to Higher in 1901. As a colour dictionary I've not seen many that can match 1600 samples. Here is a thorough record of dye colours, their ingredients, recipes and processes. Much is Japanese but names, chemicals and quantities are in English and doubtless any reasonably proficient dyemaker, anywhere, could reproduce these colours now. I'm not sure what it means but I notice that some reds that include alizarine paste are not colour fast - a few have left strong impressions on facing pages. I'd guess that H. Kohiyama was the instructor and this was likely bound by the school bindery.


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Hikifuda - fashion. 河喜商店. A small hikifuda - handbill - advertising fashion from Kawaki Shoten in Ogawamachi in Tokyo. Tokyo [c1910?]. Colour lithograph broadsheet 18x19cm. Illustration on one side, text in blue on the other. An old crease. Au$65

Small but chic. Is the young dandy wanting the stylish but undeniably bourgeois family to move on or is that merely a dandy's customary expression of disdain?


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Kon Wajiro. 新版大東京案内 [Shinpan Dai Tokyo Annai]. Tokyo, Chuo Koronsha 1929 (Showa 4). Octavo publisher's illustrated boards and slipcase (wear and a couple of chips from the slipcase, rubbing and surface loss to some of the spine of the book - probably a label removed); 380pp and four double page maps, illustrations throughout, several full page. Text block pretty much detached from the covers. Not the best but certainly not the worst copy of this graphically smart but badly made book. Au$100

A new guide to a new Tokyo by the founder of modernology. This is not a guide to carry round, the flimsy construction puts paid to that if you try. Tokyo is divided into culture, purpose and theme more than districts. It comes out of the years spent documenting Tokyo and its people after the 1923 earthquake - what is now called urban ethnology - and work done with other designers and architects shaping the new Tokyo. It is sort of an adjunct and a preface to the Modernologio books to come in the next few years.


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Shogakusei Zenshu. Okano Sakae [cover design]. 算術の話 [Sanjutsu no Hanashi]. Tokyo, Kobunsha 1928 [Showa 3]. Octavo, cloth backed publisher's illustrated card wrapper; illustrated title in red, one colour plate and numerous b/w illustrations and diagrams through the text. Some browning and mild signs of use; a remarkably good copy. Shogakusei Zenshu no.73. Au$250

The Shogakusei Zenshu, or Complete Works for Elementary Schools, runs to some 88 volumes of educational texts and literature - much of this in translation; few of them seem elementary. This one is arithmetic. I believe that if my maths texts looked like this my education would have been much more rewarding. This masterpiece of a cover is by Okano Sakae, one of the generation of artists who came through the western painting department of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts at the beginning of the century, later a pupil of Kuroda Seiki, and collaborator with fellow Hakubakai students on the five volume Nihon Meisho Shasei Kiko.


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Shogakusei Zenshu. DEFOE, Daniel. ロビンソン漂流記 [Robinson Hyoryuki]. Tokyo, Kobunsha 1927 [Showa 2]. Octavo, cloth backed publisher's illustrated card wrapper; illustrated title, two colour plates, b/w illustrations through the text. Some browning and mild signs of use; a rather good copy. Shogakusei Zenshu no.72. Illustrated by Watanabe Shinya. Au$125

The Shogakusei Zenshu, or Complete Works for Elementary Schools, runs to some 88 volumes of educational texts and literature - much of this in translation; few of them seem elementary. This one is a translation of Robinson Crusoe of course.


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Shogakusei Zenshu. Conan Doyle, Maurice Leblanc etc. 少年探偵譚 [Shonen Tanteitan]. Tokyo, Kobunsha 1928 [Showa 3]. Octavo, cloth backed publisher's illustrated card wrapper; illustrated title, two colour plates, b/w illustrations through the text. Some browning and mild signs of use; a rather good copy. Shogakusei Zenshu no.45. Cover and title by Hatsuyama Shigeru, illustrations by Michioka Toshi, Imamura Nobuo and Emori Seihachiro. Au$185

The Shogakusei Zenshu, or Complete Works for Elementary Schools, runs to some 88 volumes of educational texts and literature - much of this in translation; few of them seem elementary. This one contains translations of Sherlock Holmes, Lupin and a Subway Sam story by Johnston McCulley. Hatsuyama, best known as an illustrator, gave up illustration in the mid thirties, reluctant to feed military propaganda to children, and concentrated on printmaking, coming back to illustration after the war.


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Shogakusei Zenshu. 児童物理化学物語 [Jido Butsuru Kagaku Monogatari]. Tokyo, Kobunsha 1928 [Showa 3]. Octavo, cloth backed publisher's illustrated card wrapper; illustrated title, two colour plates, photo and b/w illustrations through the text. Some browning and mild signs of use; a rather good copy. Shogakusei Zenshu no.61. Cover by Michioka Toshi. Au$90

The Shogakusei Zenshu, or Complete Works for Elementary Schools, runs to some 88 volumes of educational texts and literature - much of this in translation; few of them seem elementary. This one is physics and chemistry.


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Shogakusei Zenshu. Maekawa Senpan. 飛行機の話 - 潜水艦の話 [Hikoku no Hanashi - Sensuikan no Hanashi]. Tokyo, Kobunsha 1928 [Showa 3]. Octavo, cloth backed publisher's illustrated card wrapper; illustrated title, one colour plate, photo and b/w illustrations. Some browning and mild signs of use; a rather good copy. Shogakusei Zenshu no.80. Cover by Maekawa Senpan. Au$185

The Shogakusei Zenshu, or Complete Works for Elementary Schools, runs to some 88 volumes of educational texts and literature - much of this in translation; few of them seem elementary. This one covers the aeroplane and the submarine. Maekawa started as a cartoonist; a founding member of the Sosaku Hanga movement, like many of his generation, he continued to make his living as a commercial illustrator. Here he outshines many of his most celebrated prints.


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Shogakusei Zenshu. 子供生理衛生物語 [Kodomo Seiri Eisei Monogatari]. Tokyo, Kobunsha 1928 [Showa 3]. Octavo, cloth backed publisher's illustrated card wrapper; one colour plate, photo and b/w illustrations. Some browning and mild signs of use; a rather good copy. Shogakusei Zenshu no.69. Colour frontispiece by Unno Seiko, other illustrations by Hosokibara Seiki. Au$85

The Shogakusei Zenshu, or Complete Works for Elementary Schools, runs to some 88 volumes of educational texts and literature - much of this in translation; few of them seem elementary. This one covers health. Seiki's illustrations aren't so well printed but they are lively and amusing.


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Shogakusei Zenshu. Murayama Tomoyoshi. 音楽の話と唱歌集 [Ongaku no Hanashi to Syokashu]. Tokyo, Kobunsha 1927 [Showa 2]. Octavo, cloth backed publisher's illustrated card wrapper; one colour plate, b/w illustrations throughout. Some browning and mild signs of use; a rather good copy. Shogakusei Zenshu no.67. Covers - front and back - by Murayama Tomoyoshi. Au$125

The Shogakusei Zenshu, or Complete Works for Elementary Schools, runs to some 88 volumes of educational texts and literature - much of this in translation; few of them seem elementary. This one covers music. Murayama maybe leads the list of avant-garde heros of interwar Japan. Founder of MAVO and communist troublemaker he had books and plays banned, ended up in prison and produced lively, humourous illustrations for children.


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Shogakusei Zenshu. Murayama Tomoyoshi. アラビヤ夜話集 [Arabiya Yawashu]. Tokyo, Kobunsha 1928 [Showa 3]. Octavo, cloth backed publisher's illustrated card wrapper; one colour plate, full page b/w illustrations. Some browning and mild signs of use; a rather good copy. Shogakusei Zenshu no.13. Cover, colour plate and illustrations by Murayama Tomoyoshi. Au$195

The Shogakusei Zenshu, or Complete Works for Elementary Schools, runs to some 88 volumes of educational texts and literature - much of this in translation; few of them seem elementary. Here we have some Arabian Nights. Murayama maybe leads the list of avant-garde heros of interwar Japan. Founder of MAVO and communist troublemaker he had books and plays banned, ended up in prison, and produced lively, humourous illustrations for children.


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Cars & Planes. 汽車と飛行機 [Kisha to Hikoki]. Osaka, Enomotoshoten 1919 (Taisho 8). 21x15cm publisher's illustrated wrapper; 10pp including cover, colour lithograph illustrations throughout. Natural browning of the cheap paper, an excellent copy. Au$165

Yes, this is called Cars and Planes, or Automobiles and Aeroplanes if you want to be formal, but that train on the cover is too exciting to sulk about. Maybe not the finest printing but these akahons (red books) - cheap and gaudy - do manage to catch the thrill of being alive in a time when everything is new and speedy. This may be a reprint; published a couple of years after the first.


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Shinoda Senka & Utagawa Yoshiharu, 明治英名百詠撰 [Meiji Eimei Hyakueisen]. Tokyo, Murakami 1879? 18x12cm publisher's wrapper with title label; one double page and one full page colour woodcut, 120 half page woodcuts on 60 double folded leaves. Two clean tears across the paste down title page without loss, a well read copy but solid and decent enough. The illustrations, not so well printed, are by Utagawa Yoshiharu. Au$100

A popular, poetic, gallery of famous folk of the Meiji period - the first bit of it anyway. There are the expected statesmen and lords but there are also scholars, a handful of women and what look to to be unsavoury reprobates. Perhaps they are great statesmen. I'm equally ignorant about the verse with each portrait. I presume these aren't cheeky limericks or Clerihews.


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Frank Lloyd Wright. Sugawara Eizo. 新橋演舞場 [Shinbashi Enbujo - Shinbashi Theatre]. Tokyo, Koyosha 1926 (Taisho 15) Small quarto publisher's decorated white boards blocked in gilt and red, printed card slipcase (this with some not so serious wear); [2],10pp and 71 plates (plans and photo plates, two colour plates with mosaic designs). Covers a bit smudged, a few pages with some browning or spotting; a very good copy of a smart book in a hardly sensible binding. Au$950

This could be called 'Frank Lloyd Wright's Tokyo Theatre' for it is, top to toe, Wright at his most Japanese. Even the red and gold design on the cover is pure Wright. Wright did design a never-built theatre while in Tokyo so, despite his aversion to sharing credit, or fees, perhaps he had some satisfaction in seeing the theatre of his colleague and acolyte Sugawara Eizo realised so exactly in his own image. Following the colour plates of mosaic designs are measured drawings and plans and photo views of the exterior and interior, where Wright is particularly rampant, with satisfying detail. The theatre lasted longer than Wright's Imperial Hotel by a few years - it was rebuilt in 1982 - but this monograph seems to be the only real record that survives. As no drawings or plans for Wright's Ginza theatre are known to survive, this is as close as we get to his ambitions for a Japanese theatre. OCLC finds two locations outside Japan, neither are architecture or design libraries, and a search of umpteen likely catalogues found no more.


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Kurofune Kawaraban. Perry and the Black Ships in Japan. 海陸御固附 [Kairiku Okatame Tsuke]. [Tokyo? 1854 (Kaei 6)]. Woodcut broadside 41x62cm on two sheets joined in the middle. Folded, a small repair in the bottom margin, a couple of pin holes; a remarkably good copy. Au$2400

These illicit illustrated news sheets - kawaraban - for the streets were produced by the million for a couple of hundred years so of course few survive. They were produced for anything more interesting than the drop of a hat and the arrival of the Black Ships, the American squadron commanded by Perry, in 1854 eclipsed any and all tiresome earthquakes, fires, plages, famines, murders and scandals. For most Japanese this was the same as a squadron of alien space ships arriving on earth now. These prints are the kurofune kawaraban. Perry's ships in the bay and the defensive array of clans with tens or hundreds of thousands of troops along the shorelines was a popular kawaraban subject; this and one similar are the largest and busiest I've seen. The other version I've seen of this - titled Shinkoku Taihei Take Mori Mata Akira - is the same size, looks similar and features the American sailor in the corner, but is printed from different blocks with the ships in a different spot.


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Tea Label. Smile Extra Choicest Spring Leaf Japan Tea. n.p. n.d. (early c20th?) Colour woodcut 39x34cm. An outstanding, crisply impressed copy. Au$225

A fabulous and puzzling large label - ranji - for export tea chests that would do any sixties' album cover proud. I have learnt that woodcut printing survived for tea labels after other printing went litho because exporters didn't want the ink smell contaminating their tea. Printing quality was high, this was international advertising, but the labels that survive are of course remainders or samples. I take this to be a sample - the paper is good quality and heavy and the printing immaculate - for a label maybe never used. I have looked through hundreds of labels online without finding any Smile Tea. Can an expert put me straight? This has what a label needs: bright colours, bold contrast, lively typography and an arresting design. But it doesn't have what other tea labels have: a pretty picture that foreigners will immediately recognise as Japan. No elaborately kimonoed beauty, no Fuji, no lucky god. No kimonoed beauty on a tea plantation terrace with a lucky god in attendance and Fuji in the distance. What we have is a happy but somehow sinister character. With those ears he is surely a wrestler. But bald? Was there a happy bald wrestler famous enough in Japan that someone thought he might translate to the outside world? An ex-wrestler who became famous as the eternally cheerful muscle for the mob?


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Sugoroku. 輝く日本双六 [Kagayaku Nihon Sugoroku]. Tokyo, Seugaku Sophomore, Ist January, 1938 (Showa 13). Colour printed broadside 53x79cm, folded as issued. Minor signs of use, one short marginal tear; with the playing pieces intact in the margin. Au$350

The New Year treat from the magazine Seugaku Sophomore (for the second year of primary school) and come 1938 the fun is gone. Our globe trotting young couple from earlier sugoroku look frighteningly serene and the world, and war, and life, is no longer a riotous cartoon. When 'Shining Japan' - Kagayaku Nihon, the name of this game - became a motto for war in Asia I'm not sure. The Shining Japan Exposition - a military display no matter how many white doves fluttered over the battleships - was in 1936 and Japan was long a crusader fighting for Pan-Asian peace, liberated from colonialism. The name surfaces still, used by ultra nationalists in Japan.


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Shinoda Senka & Utagawa Yoshiharu, 明治英名百詠撰 [Meiji Eimei Hyakueisen]. Tokyo, Murakami 1879. 18x12cm publisher's wrapper with title label; one double page, one full page colour woodcut, 120 half page woodcuts - all but a couple coloured - on 60 double folded leaves. Inscription on the back cover; a nice copy. The illustrations are by Utagawa Yoshiharu. Au$400

First edition and a deluxe coloured copy of this popular, poetic, gallery of famous folk of the Meiji period - the first bit of it anyway. There are the expected statesmen and lords but there are also scholars, a handful of women and what look to to be unsavoury reprobates. Perhaps they are great statesmen. I'm equally ignorant about the verse with each portrait. I presume these aren't cheeky limericks or Clerihews. I don't know how rare coloured copies are but I haven't found another amongst the recorded copies.


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Exposition - Beppu 1928. Hatsusaburo Yoshida. 中外産業博覧会 [Chugai Sangyo Hakurankai]. Kyoto? 1928 (Showa 3). Colour illustrated card cover 19x12cm with a 75cm long folding colour birds-eye view by Hatsusubaro on one side and text and photo illustrations on the other. Cover also by Hatsusubaro. Au$225

Panorama of and brief guide to the Chugai Industrial Expo held in Beppu in 1928. Beppu, on Kyushu, seems a brand new city built on the old spa town. Hatsusaburo Yoshida was phenomenon. No Japanese city, town, district, tourist site or attraction in the twenties and thirties could be without a Hatsusubaro birds-eye view and for twenty odd years he travelled up down the land creating some 3,000 of them. He did take on help later in his career. There were other birds-eye artists but they don't seem to have spent the time surveying the view nor have his talent for twisting the landscape into the shape needed to be evocative and useful. He returned sometimes and his views of cities ten years apart are probably the best guide to change we have. He did views of Hiroshima in the twenties and thirties and a final, numbing, series of the city as the bomb exploded and as a smoking ruin.


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Ota Saburo. 朝霧 Asagiri. Tokyo, Seibido 1912 (Meiji 45). Two volumes 19x13cm publisher's colour illustrated wrappers; excellent in a mildly shabby publisher's box; illustrated in colour throughout. An outstanding copy. Au$1300

"A series of small colour prints of astonishing invention and charm," said Hillier in the 'Art of the Japanese Book' and there is no need to improve on that. Hillier was uncertain as to what is woodblock and what is lithography and I'm not sure it matters much. The tangle of western and traditional technique and discernment could take years to untangle with artists and books like this. The covers play with the popular sword and sash novels of an earlier generation for which some great artists did woodblock covers that put together formed a picture. Warrior on one and beauty on the other was standard. Ota Saburo is among the best of the generation of artists who studied oil painting and refused to become a western copyist, instead forging new a Japanese art which saw some of the most delightful illustrated books you could wish to see.


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乗物大会 [Norimono Taikai]. Osaka, Enomoto Matsunosuke 1930 (Showa 5). 19x27cm colour illustrated wrapper; 8pp including wrapper, with three double page colour spreads and on the back a cartoon with a character that looks a lot like Uncle Nonto. A used copy, a crease across one page that looks like a production flaw, and still most acceptable. Au$200

Not the finest copy maybe but once I saw the first spread I wasn't going to take a chance on finding one better. The last spread is a cheerful enough procession of royals with cars and horses, the middle is a vivid and pleasing fire engine race and the first is a splendid vision of flying machines over the city. There is a later book with much the same title in the NDL but I can't find another copy of this anywhere.


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Hikifuda. 喫煙勸誘 [Kitsuen Kan'yu?]. Hikifuda - handbill - or poster. n.p. [190?-]. Colour lithograph 25x37cm. Minor signs of use, a couple of small professional repairs to the margin. Au$125

A lively and rowdy advertisement that has the look of a town meeting run by a plutocratic lucky god and attended by representatives of Japan throughout the ages. A livid Kintaro holds his axe with two bijin and a sumo wrestler just behind him. This advertises tobacco and I don't know what else. The largest characters say something about clothes and Karamono, which may be the tea implements. Perhaps someone literate can help.


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Meteorological Inspection. Peace! The sudden thunder and lightening ceased at all; and leaves the weather fair. Tokyo, Marumaru Chinbun 1889 (Meiji 27). Colour lithograph, 38x52cm. Folded, a bit rumpled and used. Au$60

An intriguing comment on something or another, issued as a supplement by the troublemaking journal Marumaru Chinbun. The Chinbun (strange news as opposed to shinbun - newspaper) began life as a satirical anti-government paper in 1877, was diluted through the eighties into social satire before giving up any troublesome tendencies after the death of founder Nomura Fumio in 1891. Exactly why the storm demon lashes the working people of Japan while the city folk of modern Tokyo continue fair may be explained or maybe you had to be there.


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ニコニコポンチ [Nikonikoponchi]. Osaka, Enomotoshoten 1919 (Taisho 8). 21x14cm publisher's colour litho wrapper; 10pp including wrapper; colour lithograph illustrations throughout. Natural browning of the cheap paper, an excellent copy. Au$80

Short comic strip gags printed in that style that makes you reach for your 3D glasses. Maybe not the finest printing but these akahons (red books) - cheap and gaudy - do manage to catch the thrill of being alive in a time when everything is fun. This may be a reprint; published a couple of years after the first.


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電車ト乗物. Densha to Norimono. Osaka, Fujiya 1930 (Sowa 5). 19x26cm colour illustrated wrapper; 12pp including wrapper; full page colour illustrations on each. The last page has cartoon gags. Minor signs of use, an almost splendid copy. Au$300

Once inside the hero of this book is the tram - or streetcar if you prefer. There is a page of ships, a train, lots of cars, barges in the river, but trams throng the streets.


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Fujiwara Taichi. 絵を配した図案文字 [E o Haishita Zuan Moji]. Tokyo, Daitokaku 1926 (Taisho15); quarto publisher's cloth stamped in gilt & blue, scraped but solid publisher's printed card slipcase; 4,6,112pp; illustrated throughout with lettering and alphabets with example layouts of advertising. The first twelve pages in colour, the rest in b/w or varied monochromes. Minor browning and signs of use; a rather good copy. Au$385

An exciting pattern book of new alphabets for modern commercial use. At the end are some European logos. Designer Fujiwara produced a handful of alphabet books through the twenties and thirties and none are easy to find. He has been accused of letting style trump legibility but who hasn't?


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