With Woodcuts After Mitsunobu Tosa

From the label on upper cover: Shokunin zukushi utaawase [Artisan Poetry Competition]; from the recto of the fourth leaf: Shichijuichiban utaawase [71 Matches of the Artisan Poetry Competition].

71 full-page woodcuts in the text. 27; 23; 25 folding leaves. Three vols. 8vo, orig. blue wrappers (wrappers a little worn), orig. block-printed title labels on upper covers, new stitching. Kyoto: Noda Tohachiro, 1744.

The “71 Matches of the Artisan Poetry Competition” has a long tradition in Japan, with a number of manuscripts, scrolls, and editions produced over the centuries; its origins are from the Muromachi period (late 15th century). Entirely imaginary, it was the largest poetry competition from late medieval time and provides an invaluable record of the professions of the period. There are only two early printed editions: ours is the second version (the first version appeared in 1657) and ours is finely illustrated in the style of Mitsunobu Tosa (fl. 1468-?1525), who had produced a picture scroll of the “71 Matches…” Tosa was the founder of the long-lived Tosa school of Japanese painting and chief artist to the Ashikaga shogunates.

The fine woodcuts depict 71 matches between members of 142 professions. The competitions are imaginary, and the subject matter is limited to either the moon or love. The verso of each leaf contains the two competing poems, the judge’s comments, and his final verdict regarding the winner. On the recto is the woodcut illustration of the two contestants (the first shows a carpenter and a blacksmith). The woodcuts are particularly important because they depict in great detail the attire and tools of each artisan, an invaluable record of the medieval period.

Some of the artisans we see at work include: a knife sharpener, a weaver, a dyer, a paper scorer, a wheelwright, an iron-pot maker (nabe), a sake manufacturer, a seller of oil, a brush maker, a mat weaver, a woman fan maker, a woman face-powder seller, a woman fishmonger, a papermaker over a vat, an armor maker, a sandal seller, an umbrella manufacturer, a tea seller, a blind woman musician, a painter, a hat maker, a sewing needle maker, a bean seller, a leather tanner (the outcast eta), a noodle maker, a medicine seller, an inkwell maker, a raftsman, a comb maker, a roof-tile maker, a scabbard maker, a translator, a beggar, a scholar, a dancer, a musician, a printer, a braid maker, a box maker, a gold miner, a mercury miner, a chef, a seller of white fabrics, a brocade seller, a woman incense seller, a pilgrim, a Buddhist practitioner, a traditional dancer, a vinegar maker, an herbal medicine brewer and seller, a shoemaker, a prostitute, a silverware maker, a maker of gold leaf, a mirror maker, a doctor, a fortune teller, a horse dealer, a lumberjack, etc., etc.

In fine condition. Vol. I has one small wormhole.

Price: $5,000.00

Item ID: 6892