Kumanaki kage [trans.: Shadows Everywhere or Shadows without Shade]. Zeshin SHIBATA, Yoshiiku UTAGAWA, artists, Robun KANAGAKI, author.
Kumanaki kage [trans.: Shadows Everywhere or Shadows without Shade].

Kyoka Poetry Society

Kumanaki kage [trans.: Shadows Everywhere or Shadows without Shade].

82 black & white silhouette ports. on pale blue backgrounds & numerous finely color-printed vignettes & “poem-strips.” 48 folding leaves. 8vo, orig. decorated wrappers, orig. block-printed title label on upper cover, new stitching. [Japan]: 1867.

First edition of this finely color-printed book which contains a memorable double-page frontispiece by Zeshin (1807-91), the leading Shijo-style painter of the Meiji period, one of the greatest of lacquer artists of his time, and a prominent contributor of designs for books. “In the Meiji period [and before], the presence of a print designed by Zeshin invariably gave a certain cachet to any book of verse or landscapes, and he was frequently enlisted by astute publishers to provide one or two telling designs for compilations of mixed authorship…In 1867, he helped to launch a book of shadow portraits or silhouettes, by designing a telling frontispiece. Kuma-naki Kage, ’Shadows Everywhere,’ consists of a series of the silhouettes (not thought to have been drawn by Zeshin), and Zeshin introduces such a portrait, mounted as a kakemono, into the elegant room he has pictured, with a balcony overlooking a lake.”–Hillier, The Art of the Japanese Book, pp. 964 & 915-16.

As noted above, Zeshin has contributed the beautiful double-page color-printed frontispiece (and perhaps a few more vignettes). The remainder of the silhouettes, vignettes, and “poem-strips” has been executed by Yoshiiku Ochiai (or Yoshiiku Utagawa) (1833-1904), one of the leading artists of the Utagawa school.

Each of the black & white silhouettes depicts members of a poetry society and the “poem strips” offers a selection of their verse and a brief biographical account.

The production of this book was complex, and displays Japanese woodcut color-printing at its finest. Many of the leaves have portions with blind-embossing (for instance, the fore-edges of books have been blind-embossed to give the suggestion of edges of leaves). A number of the text pages have also been blind-embossed with a cherry-blossom motif.

In fine and fresh condition. Accompanied by the original decorated sleeve, a very rare survival.

Price: $8,500.00

Item ID: 5425