Cotton: A Major Cash Crop

Menpo yomu [The Essentials of Cotton Cultivation].

Many full-page & double woodcut illus. 33; 33 pp. Two vols. 8vo, orig. pale blue wrappers (rubbed, lower wrapper of first vol. rather wormed), later title labels in manuscript on upper covers, new stitching. Edo & Osaka: Chojiya hebei et al., colophon dated 1833.

First edition and very rare; WorldCat does not list a copy. Okura (1768-1856?), was one of the three most eminent agriculturalists of the Edo period. A reformer, he wrote more than twenty books on all aspects of agricultural improvement and technology; they were among the best of their period for range and clarity of explaining the new methods.

By the end of the 17th century, cotton had become a major cash crop in Japan, far more profitable than rice, as it had become the standard fabric for commoners. Okura wrote this work to increase the revenue of farmers by instructing them how to grow and process the cotton crop more efficiently.

In the first volume, Okura describes in great detail the cotton plant and its varieties, where it is cultivated best, how to plant the seeds, and methods of fertilization of the soil and harvesting. The fine woodcuts — executed by the well-known artists Akatsuki no Kanenari and Settei Hasegawa — depict the plant and its parts including microscopic views of the flowers and fruits, seed selection, preparing the fields and planting, enriching the soil, tools, and tending the fields.

In Vol. II, Okura describes the regions where cotton is best grown, the types of cotton best used for certain products, and how to harvest. He provides many statistics about cotton production throughout Japan. The woodcuts in this volume depict the harvested crop being graded, landscapes of various cotton fields near Nara, preparation of the fields, etc. One of the woodcuts depicts a man at a spinning wheel and another shows bales of cotton being traded by wholesalers at Osaka.

Very good copy. Some minor worming and small faint dampstain at foot of Vol. I.

❧ For Akatsuki no Kanenari, see Brown, Block Printing & Book Illustration in Japan, p. 79, and Hillier, The Art of the Japanese Book, p. 861.

Price: $7,500.00

Item ID: 6884