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Kurofune Kawaraban. Perry and the Black Ships in Japan. 蒸気船之圖 [Jokisen no Zu]. n.p. [1853 - 54?]. Woodcut 24x31cm. Folds, minor signs of use, a pretty good copy. Au$750

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 1853 and 54 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.
This print, though this copy is maybe under-inked, is notable for its convincing detail - convincing, not realistic. I get the sense that someone actually saw a steamship not too far back in the process to finished print. Many of these kawaraban were copied from other kawaraban which in turn were run up cobbling together bits of old 'Dutch' prints and anything with a foreigner in it based on reports of what was going on in Tokyo harbour.
There is another 1853 kawaraban with the same title as this which at first glance is similar but it is obvious that a Dutch ship two centuries old has had a wheel slapped on the side. Part of the problem in tracing the origins of these prints is that no matter what the ship is and where the ship is, it was long established that a three quarter view from the stern and a couple of small boats in the foreground is the best way to see them. The figure in the corner is still more samurai than US marine.


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Iehara Masanori & Shiozu Kanichiro. 学校必用 - 色図問答 [Gakko Hitsuyo - Irozu Mondo]. Kyoto, Shiga Shinbun 1877 (Meiji 10). 21x15cm publisher's wrapper with title label; [2],40,[2]pp on 22 double folded leaves, two colour charts and small colour squares through the text, hand coloured. A used copy with name on the cover, some dog ears and a couple of small inoffensive worm holes. Not bad for an old school book. sold

Second printing I believe. Western colour theory introduced to Japanese students. This was, according to one historian and repeated by others, first published in 1873 but I can't find any copy earlier than 1876. I have read that it is a copy of an American book by Marcius Willson but I think there is some confusion. Willson produced wall charts for American schools that were used in Japan and I suspect that in 1873 wall chart no. XIV was introduced. His accompanying writings on color in his 'Manual of Information and Suggestions for Object Lessons' - the work cited - are nothing like this.
In any case he seems to have borrowed Field's chromatics. So it was English colour theory that made its way into Japan first.


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Sada Kaiseki. 冨国歩ミ初メ [Fukoku Ayumi Hajime]. Tokyo, Sada 1880 (Meiji 13). Woodcut broadside 36x52cm, stencil coloured? Expert repairs to the folds at each side and in the centre, some stains. Folded as issued with the outer wrapper woodcut mounted on old paper. Au$1,750

This captivating woodcut which looks like an advertisement for imported treasures is instead a strident protest and attack on these gewgaws. Sada was a troublesome priest but no reactionary flat-earther. He developed complex theories of science, culture and economics and saw the opening of Japan to this slew of imports as the cause of inflation and hardship for the lower classes. This woodcut was produced to promote the boycott of foreign goods and lists specific targets.
Sada spent the last years of his life organising boycott societies and died - in 1882 - on a lecture tour. The presence of a wrapper with this print suggests to me this was not given away, it was sold.
Worldcat finds no copy. Waseda University illustrates two copies, one in better shape but carelessly coloured compared to this. The other is fairly worm eaten. They do have a wrapper, which, according to the provenance, belongs to their better copy but it is separately catalogued without any mention of Sada.


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Sugiyama Tojiro. 文明之花 [Bunmei no Hana] A Fine Story of Womans Right - the Flower Civilization [sic]. Tokyo, Kin'odo 1887 (Meiji 20). Octavo (19x13cm) publisher's colour illustrated boards and cloth spine; two single page and four double page illustrations. Expected browning of the cheap paper, a fabulous copy. Au$1,300

First edition of this remarkable utopian novel of women's rights in which a couple work towards and see the establishment of two equal parliaments, one for women and one for men. This was written in the period of anticipation for Japan's first parliament, scheduled for 1890.
Radical as Sugiyama was, there is a sting in the tail for current feminists: Sugiyama is clear that women should be equal to men in all things right up until they get married. Equality for men and women does not mean equality for husband and wife.
Sugiyama published a rush of novels and political writing in the late seventies and eighties. These days he has been exhumed and is kept busy being rediscovered as a science fiction writer.
This is a 'ball cover' (boru hyoshi) book - I can't find out why they are called that - the Japanese equivalent of a yellowback: flimsy western style bindings with lithograph covers that rarely survive in such good shape. Worldcat finds two locations for this, the National Diet Library and Berkeley.


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Kobayashi Ikuhide. 東京名所之内吾妻橋 ... [Tokyo Meisho no Uchi Ashumabashi ... Tokyo 1888 (Meiji 21). Colour woodcut 36x24cm. A couple of tiny holes, a nice bright copy. Au$175

Every artist and publisher in Tokyo had a go at the newly opened Azumabashi - the pioneer iron bridge opened in December 1887. Kobayashi produced more than one. Here the focus is not the bridge but the bustle of people; it's clear that near everyone in Tokyo wanted to look, to cross it.


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Henry James Black. (Burakku Kairakutei). 切なる罪 [Setsunaru Tsumi]. Tokyo, Ginkado 1891 (Meiji 24). 19x13cm publisher's cloth backed colour illustrated boards (mildly rubbed and worn at edges); one single page (I think a portrait of Black) and 15 double page illustrations three of which are in the text and repeated as frontispieces. Apparently reglued into its cover at some time. Signs of use but quite a good copy. Au$2,600

First edition of this detective story told as a serial to an audience by a gay Australian who became a professional Japanese story teller and actor, taken down in shorthand and published as this book.
Black was born in Adelaide and arrived in Japan in 1865 at the age of almost seven - his father, up until now a singer, had bought into the Japan Herald. Henry seems to have grown into something of a no-hoper in the eyes of some of his family at least and rather than settle to respectable work became first a proponent of progressive reform, like his father, then a professional rakugoka - story teller - and even a kabuki actor playing women. His reaction to his siblings' disapproval was to change his name to Burakku Kairakutei (Pleasure Black), marry a Japanese woman and become a Japanese citizen.
Ian McArthur, Black's biographer, quotes from a police report made at this time that he was living in "virtually a husband and wife relationship" with a young Japanese man but otherwise there was nothing untoward to worry about.
At the height of his fame - 1891 and 92 - maybe six or seven of these stenographic novels were published and other stories appeared in newspapers. It's a bit hard to unravel as a couple appeared more than once with different titles. Even the concise and acerbic Edogawa Rampo gets muddled and misled trying to work out a bibliography at the end of his 1951 essay translated as 'Fingerprint Novels of the Meiji Era'.
This handful of detective stories or thrillers was bracketed by two translations or adaptations of novels: Mrs Braddon's Flower and Weed in 1886 and Dickens' Oliver Twist in 1895. Of the thrillers from these two boom years, two are known to be adapted from stories by Mrs Braddon and one from a story by Fortune du Boisgobey.
Macarthur offered synopses of some of Black's works in his 2002 Phd. thesis - presumably those works he could find. For the rest he relied on second hand information. The account of this book - which has no known antecedent - is brief and confusing but probably no more confusing than any murder mystery of the period. For now we need only know that it involves a double love triangle - or maybe a square - and that the murder weapon is powdered glass.
The illustrations might baffle anyone expecting the characters to be in England where the story is set but Black made it a point to give his characters Japanese names and to digress with explanations of strange customs and laws for his audience.
These stenographic books - sokkibon - were hugely popular, distributed largely through lending libraries and have a pitiful survival rate. They are credited with playing a large part in transforming Japanese literature from the classical and formal to colloquial. This is also a 'ball cover' (boru hyoshi) book - I can't find out why they are called that - the Japanese equivalent of a yellowback: flimsy western style bindings with lithograph covers that rarely survive in decent shape. The comparative plethora of pictures and the good quality paper indicate the publishers thought this was better than the usual run of the mill thriller.
Worldcat finds no copy of this outside Japan.


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Henry James Black. (Burakku Kairakutei). 流の暁 : 探偵小説 [Nagare no Akatsuki : Tantei Shotetsu]. Tokyo, San'yusha 1891 (Meiji 24). Octavo (185x130mm) publisher's cloth backed boards with colour lithograph front cover; 263pp, 18 double page illustrations. Expected browning of the paper. A rather good copy. sold

First edition. This untraced complicated murder mystery starts with a French aristocrat fleeing to England to escape the terror. Then come twin boys to a now abandoned mother; one gets thrown in the Thames and of course they meet as adults. Then comes murder, impersonation and unsuspected incest (the half sister - keep up!) and final exposure by the detective who was made suspicious by the dead book keeper having such rough hands - shades of Black's fingerprint novel to come next year.


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Tokyo. 改正東京全図 [Kaisei Tokyo Zenzu]. Tokyo, Tsunashima Kamekichi 1891 (Meiji 24). 49x71cm coloured map folding down to 17x9cm with flexible card covers with title label. Covers marked, minor signs of use, a couple of tiny holes; a rather good copy. I'm pretty sure the map is engraved, the colouring added by blocks or stencils. Au$450

Not all maps of Meiji Tokyo were created equal. There were a lot of good folding maps but 1891 was the year the map maker and/or publisher surpassed themselves and everyone else in terms of downright delightful design and colour.
One startling difference between 19th century and present day Tokyo is the way old Tokyo and Edo before it rotated freely, as if on a spindle, without heed to the compass. Look at any group of 19th century maps of the city and north will be somewhere different. I guess somewhere in the 20th century Tokyo got so weighed down with concrete it ground to a stop.


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Maps. 地形学教程 + 地形学教程 附錄 [Chikeigaku Kyoti + Chikeigaku Kyoti Furoku]. [Tokyo, Rikugun Shikan Gakukau 1896?]. Five volumes 16x12cm publisher's wrappers with title labels; 27 folding maps and diagrams in the main part, 6 folding maps or diagrams and 11 leaves on heavy paper of examples of notation in the appendix. Insignificant grazing of the covers, an outstanding set. sold

This set of spiffy little books is, I think, the first edition of the manual - with the appendix - on the science and art of map making for officers of the military academy. It was much revised and reprinted over the next few decades. The only complete set I can find anywhere is at the Nichibunken in Kyoto ... the only copy - complete or not - of this edition.


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Hikifuda. Hikifuda of a ship bedecked with flags with fireworks overhead n.p.[190-?]. Colour woodcut 37x26cm. A small blotch in the upper right side, a nice copy. Au$185

An undeciphered by me hikifuda - large handbill or small poster - featuring some nautical celebration.


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Hikifuda. Hikifuda of a boy sailor winning a horserace with a crown princess like mother and two other military children cheering. n.p. [190-?]. Colour lithograph 26x37cm. Minor signs of use, quite a good copy. Au$150

An exhilarating conjunction of sport, patriotism and those repulsive chubby infants so popular in the late Meiji period. I don't know what this hikifuda advertises but it is winning.


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Hikifuda. Hikifuda of a ship against the rising sun. n.p. [c1900?]. Colour wood engraving? 26x36cm. Minor signs of use, quite good. Au$200

This handsome ship hikifuda advertises something I can't read. It uses the western technique of wood engraving, a technique that had a brief run in commercial printing between traditional woodcuts and lithography.


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Hikifuda. 信州松本東町上丁 [Shinshu Matsumoto Higashimachi Uetei]. n.p. [c1900?]. Woodcut broadside 28x24cm. A nice copy. Au$100

An intriguing and to me mysterious handbill from Matsumoto - a city in the Nagano prefecture in central Honshu. It seems clear it offers - in some rustic, or perhaps reverse way - what the well dressed man needs. Superior quality is promised but I'm stumped by all those series of numbers. They don't make sense as measurements to me.


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Specimen Hikifuda. 萬領乾物砂糖石油? [Yorozu to Kanbutsu Sato Sekiyu ...] n.p. [c1900?]. Colour woodcut 26x38cm. Rumpled with a couple of small repairs to the edges; quite decent. Stab holes in the right margin showing it was once in an album. Au$200

A bustling handsome print produced for merchants of imported goods. These hikifuda were usually produced by publisher's with the text panel blank. The customer had their own details over printed. In some cases, like this, samples were were produced with generic text to show the finished product.


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Hikifuda. 西陣織 ... [Nishijin-ori ...]. n.p. [1903?]. Colour woodcut 37x26cm. A nice copy. sold

I can't work out whether this ballooning extravaganza celebrates the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902 or the 1903 Osaka Exhibiton. It's definitely the Osaka complex down there. In any case all hikifuda are all about shopping. Here is advertised Nishijin-ori, traditional woven textiles that are complex, spectacular and expensive.


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Hikifuda. 煙草製造商 [Tabako Seizo Gyosha]. n.p. [c1904]. Colour lithograph 38x52cm. Old vertical fold, a bit rumpled with a short tear repaired. sold

Freudians and symbolists of the last century, eat your hearts out. Our artist beat you to every punch by years. This patriotic hikifuda advertising tobacco must date to the Russo-Japanese war. This is the second copy of this I've come across; the other advertised transport. Classic images like this are adaptable.


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Hikifuda. 橘屋久右衛門 [Tachibanaya Kyuuemon]. Osaka 1905 (Meiji 38). Colour woodcut 26x37cm. A few spots, still a nice copy. sold

A particularly well printed and vivid hikifuda with the lucky gods gone to war against Russia. It worked. A calendar for 1906 is provided.


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Hikifuda. 國産正藍染木綿製造 ... 黒川重兵衛 [Kunisan Shoaizome Momen Seizo ... Kurakawa Jubei]. n.p. [1905]. Colour woodcut 52x36cm. Used, crumpled margins with short nicks and smudging but not too bad. sold

What better way to mark the humiliation of Russia than a shopping spree? This hikifuda advertises domestic cottons offered by Kurakawa and provides a calendar for 1906.


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Kitazawa Rakuten. 新遊戯 "はめ画競争" [Shin Yugi "Hame-ga Kyoso"]. Tokyo, Shonen 1906 (Meiji 39). Colour broadside 54x39cm. Rather good with the playing pieces intact. sold

This paper game is not a sugoroku but a matching game, presumably boys against girls as they get two panels each. A rare game issued as a new year gift by the kids' magazine Shonen and drawn by the king of magazine cartoons, Rakuten.


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