Meiji prints


The Meiji period in Japan denotes the 45-year reign of the Meiji Emperor running from 23 October 1868 to 30 July 1912. For Japan this was a period of major upheaval. With his naval fleet admiral Perry from the United States had just forced the Japanese people to open up to the outside world. This event resulted in the introduction of Western inventions like photography and bookprint presses in Japan, threatening to put many experienced woodblock print carvers and printers out of business. As a result of all the isolated centuries spent in passing down the crafts of woodblock carving and printing from one generation to the next in a master-pupil relationship, carvers and printers still in business at that time of Japanese history seem to have been at the very top of their craftman abilities.

The prints produced in the Meiji era that I was able to obtain are displayed on this page. Click on any of these images to find out more about their size, publication date, provenance, enlargements, and the English translation of the Japanese texts on each print.

Some of these prints are special in the sense that they were not published separately but as free additions to magazines and novels. These prints called kuchi-e (literally meaning: mouth-pictures) typically have two clearly visible vertical folding lines. Along these lines, kuchi-e prints were folded in order to fit them into the magazines and books - smaller in size than the prints themselves - to which they were added as freebees. This is how a kuchi-e print - in this case ‘The scent of chrysanthemums’ by Kajita Hanko, see below - looks when being folded:

Hanko(2) Folded

A fascinating account of the historical context and technical aspects of the making of these kuchi-e prints can be seen in this YouTube video of David Bull.

Another special type of Japanese woodblock prints from - but certainly not restricted to - the Meiji era are those published in the form of illustrated orihon or folding albums. Prints in illustrated orihon would first be published separately until the time when a designated number of prints for a certain series had been produced. Once the designated number of prints for a certain series was ready, the publisher would bundle and sell them all together in a folding album. These folding albums typically contain an extra title print showing both the series title as well as a list of the names of the individual prints. Well-known examples of orihon published in the Edo period are the ‘One hundred famous views of Edo’ and the ‘Famous places in the 60-odd provinces’ series designed by Hiroshige, as well as the ‘One hundred aspects of the moon’ series designed by Yoshitoshi.

These folding albums all consisted of tate-e (i.e., vertical prints). In contrast, quite a number of orihon published in the Meiji period were based on sets of twelve yoko-e (i.e., horizontal prints), each print dedicated to one month of the year. By necessity these yoko-e had to be folded in order to accomodate them into the illustrated orihon book format in which they were issued. Unlike tate-e published in orihon format, these yoko-e are therefore characterized by one clearly visible vertical folding line right down the middle of the print.

This is how two of these horizontal print orihon or folding albums - the Ima Yō Bijin folding album with prints designed by Mizuno Toshikata and the Senshu no Hana folding album with prints designed by Ikeda Terukata - look when closed and seen from the front (left), and when opened to one of their pages (right):

Mizuno Toshikata Ima Yo Bijin front cover Mizuno Toshikata Ima Yo Bijin inside
Front cover of the Ima Yō Bijin folding album of Mizuno Toshikata Opened Ima Yō Bijin folding album displaying one of its prints
Ikeda Terukata Senshu no Hana front cover Ikeda Terukata Senshu no Hana inside
Front cover of the Senshu no Hana folding album of Ikeda Terukata Opened Senshu no Hana folding album displaying one of its prints

As unfortunately often happens with Japanese illustrated books (irrespective of the era in which they were published), dealers and owners take these albums apart and then sell the prints separately in order to increase profits. However, the vertical folding line as well as the glue residues found on both the left and right border of the verso of these prints (where the prints were glued together) still identifies them as having originally been part of an album.

Considering all this, it is interesting to note that horizontal prints issued in these folding albums lacking a central vertical fold (i.e, published separately) are therefore generally older (and therefore potentially more valuable) than those including a central vertical fold (i.e, published later as part of an orihon album).

So far I have been able to obtain yoko-e from the following seven illustrated orihon or folding albums issued in the Meiji era:

Some of these prints are older, not having a vertical fold, while others - clearly containing a vertical fold - were published later as part of an orihon or folding album.



Chikanobu(1)-thumbnail
Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912) - Beauty no. 35 in the Shin Bijin (True Beauties) series
  Chikanobu(2)-thumbnail
Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912) - Beauty no. 18 in the Shin Bijin (True Beauties) series
ChikanobuSumida-left-thumbnail
Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912) - Monday - Autumn moon over the Sumida river (left)
ChikanobuSumida-middle-thumbnail
Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912) - Monday - Autumn moon over the Sumida river (middle)
ChikanobuSumida-right-thumbnail
Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912) - Monday - Autumn moon over the Sumida river (right)
Toshikata-thumbnail
Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) - Jakkō-in temple
Keishu-thumbnail
Takeuchi Keishū (1861-1943) - New Year’s street musician
Eisen-thumbnail
Tomioka Eisen (1864-1905) - Woman with umbrella
Hanko(1)-thumbnail
Kajita Hanko (1870-1917) - Plum
Hanko(2)-thumbnail
Kajita Hanko (1870-1917) - The scent of chrysanthemums
Kyokata-thumbnail
Kaburaki Kiyokata (1878-1972) - Light snow
  Kogyo Sea Bathing Beauty thumbnail
Terasaki Kōgyō (1866-1919) - Sea-bathing beauty
 
KiyochikaRyogokuFromMotoYanagiBridge-thumbnail
Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915) - Distant view of Ryōgoku at Moto Yanagi bridge
OgataGekko-thumbnail
Ogata Gekkō (1859-1920) - Boy on an ox picking blossoms
KiyochikaSumidaRiverAtNight-thumbnail
Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915) - Sumida river at night
  EdoNoNishikiTableOfContents-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Edo no Nishiki: Title page/Table of contents
 
Terukata(1)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Edo no Nishiki: Young woman at the sakura bathhouse
Terukata(5)
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Edo no Nishiki: Girl with love letter
Terukata(3)-new-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Edo no Nishiki: Wisteria blossoms
Terukata(6)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Edo no Nishiki: Woman smoking at a roadside teashop
Terukata(12)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Edo no Nishiki: Beauty gazing at the beach
Terukata(17)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Edo no Nishiki: Woman with an umbrella standing by a palanquin under cherry blossoms
Terukata(13)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Edo no Nishiki: Geisha and servant
Terukata(14)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Edo no Nishiki: Young woman with lamp
Terukata(15)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Edo no Nishiki: Woman attaching a paper strip to a maple branch
Terukata(9)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Edo no Nishiki: Woman on a bridge under a full moon
A young woman with umbrella-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Edo no Nishiki: A young woman with umbrella
Terukata(16)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Edo no Nishiki: Young woman walking in snow
SenshuNoHanaFrontCover-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Senshu no Hana: Front cover of orihon album
SenshuNoHanaTableOfContents-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Senshu no Hana: Title page/Table of contents
 
Terukata(11)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Senshu no Hana: The warbler's first call
Terukata(20)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Senshu no Hana: Picking flowers
Terukata(21)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Senshu no Hana: Watching the cherry blossoms
Terukata(2)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Senshu no Hana: Lady composing a waka
Terukata(22)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Senshu no Hana: Lady watching irises
Terukata(23)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Senshu no Hana: A lady gardening and butterfly
Terukata Firefly Hunting thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Senshu no Hana: Firefly hunting
Terukata(7)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Senshu no Hana: Two ladies by a river watching the full moon
Terukata(10)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Senshu no Hana: Woman washing her hands at a water fountain
Terukata(8)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Senshu no Hana: Three girls with a Japanese flag
Terukata(24)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Senshu no Hana: Young woman under a maple tree
Terukata(19)-thumbnail
Ikeda Terukata (1883-1921) - Senshu no Hana: Woman in snow
Mizuno Toshikata Ima Yō Bijin Front cover-thumbnail
Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) - Ima Yō Bijin: Front cover of orihon album
ToshikataTitlePage-thumbnail
Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) - Ima Yō Bijin: Title page/Table of contents
 
Toshikata(1)-thumbnail
Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) - Ima Yō Bijin: Girl setting up New Year’s decorations
Toshikata(2)-thumbnail
Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) - Ima Yō Bijin: Hanging poems on a plum tree
Toshikata(3)-thumbnail
Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) - Ima Yō Bijin: Waitress at a teahouse in a garden with flowering cherry trees
Toshikata(4)-thumbnail
Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) - Ima Yō Bijin: Feeding the carp, with a wisteria in the background
Toshikata(5)-thumbnail
Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) - Ima Yō Bijin: Girl holding freshly cut irises
Toshikata(6)-thumbnail
Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) - Ima Yō Bijin: Lady watering bonsai in a garden with bamboo in the background
Toshikata(7)-thumbnail
Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) - Ima Yō Bijin: Lighting a lantern for a party
Toshikata(8)-thumbnail
Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) - Ima Yō Bijin: Viewing the full moon from a balcony
Toshikata(9)-thumbnail
Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) - Ima Yō Bijin: Girl seated on a riverbank, the full moon reflected in the water
Toshikata(10)-thumbnail
Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) - Ima Yō Bijin: Fisherman’s tent on the beach
Toshikata(11)-thumbnail
Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) - Ima Yō Bijin: Feeding the pigeons
Toshikata(12)-thumbnail
Mizuno Toshikata (1866-1908) - Ima Yō Bijin: Admiring the snow
Biho-1-thumbnail
Bihō (?-?) - Azuma Sugata: A mother and a daughter watching the fireworks
Biho-2-thumbnail
Bihō (?-?) - Azuma Sugata: Two young ladies enjoying the cool evening by the water at full moon
Biho-3-thumbnail
Bihō (?-?) - Azuma Sugata: Visitor
Biho-4-thumbnail
Bihō (?-?) - Azuma Sugata: At the tea ceremony
Biho-5-thumbnail
Bihō (?-?) - Azuma Sugata: New Year’s visit
Biho-6-thumbnail
Bihō (?-?) - Azuma Sugata: A young lady getting ready in front of the mirror
  Biho(7)-thumbnail
Bihō (?-?) - Azuma Sugata: A young lady reading by the window
 
Shiki no Nagame: Sounds of insects-thumbnail
Yamamoto Shōun (1870-1965) - Shiki no Nagame: Sound of insects
Shiki no Nagame: Ferry in snow-thumbnail
Yamamoto Shōun (1870-1965) - Shiki no Nagame: Ferry in snow
Shiki no Nagame: Spring haze-thumbnail
Yamamoto Shōun (1870-1965) - Shiki no Nagame: Spring haze
  Chikanobu Azuma Fuzoku Title page Table Of Contents thumbnail
Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912) - Azuma Fūzoku: Title page/Table of contents
 
Chikanobu Azuma Fuzoku Playing cards thumbnail
Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912) - Azuma Fūzoku: Playing cards
Chikanobu Azuma Fuzoku Backyard cherry tree thumbnail
Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912) - Azuma Fūzoku: Backyard cherry tree
Chikanobu Azuma Fuzoku Spring rain
Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912) - Azuma Fūzoku: Spring rain
Chikanobu Azuma Fuzoku Make-up thumbnail
Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912) - Azuma Fūzoku: Make-up
  Chikanobu Azuma Fuzoku Visiting a shrine thumbnail
Yōshū Chikanobu (1838-1912) - Azuma Fūzoku: Visiting a shrine
Hidekata AKatei no hana: After the storm thumbnail
Mizuno Hidekata (1875-1944) - Katei no Hana: After the storm
  Hidekata Katei no hana: A slight token of esteem thumbnail
Mizuno Hidekata (1875-1944) - Katei no Hana: A slight token of esteem


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