Edited by Yusuishi Tanaka. Woodcut frontis. & eight fine double-page woodcut illus. 21; 18 folding leaves. Two vols. Large 8vo, orig. blue wrappers (wrappers rather worn & rubbed), orig. block-printed title labels on upper covers (rubbed), new stitching. Osaka, Edo, & Kyoto: 1749.
First edition of this beautifully illustrated book; the fine woodcuts are by Sukenobu Nishikawa (1671-1750 or -51 or -54), who “counts among the foremost masters of so-called ukiyo-e (primitive) prints. His subject matter, like that of his contemporaries, revolved around images of women walking. These images are stylised, lending the rhythmic movement of the sumptuous robes an almost sculptural effect. Nishikawa also did many book illustrations…Nishikawa founded a whole school, and according to his family archives Harunobu (1725-1770) was a follower of his.”–Oxford Art Online.
This work is concerned with the education of women in its widest sense, combining knowledge with taste. Four types of girls’ “play” are described and illustrated; each providing instruction in behavior and ethics. The fine woodcut frontispiece depicts a young woman reading a book, surrounded symbols of knowledge and refinement: bookshelves and brushes for calligraphy. Her clothes and hairstyle are appropriate.
The first volume is concerned with dolls (hina). In Japan, dolls are not for play but have high spiritual value, which offer girls preparation for adulthood and marriage. For the Japanese, dolls are living creatures possessing heart and soul, from which girls can learn discipline, obedience, and control.
Nakanishi (1634-1709), was a scholar and writer on Shintoism and the present text was edited and posthumously published by Yusuishi Tanaka, who has contributed a preface. The theme of the text is instructional and written for girls and young women: there are many references to texts essential for proper behavior and ethics. Nakanishi draws on the Nihon Shoki, the oldest chronicle of Japan; Man’yoshu, the eighth-century anthology of Japanese poetry; the Tale of Genji; and Makura no Soshi, the famous Pillow Book.
There are four fine double-page woodcut illustrations in the first volume. The first illustration depicts an upper-class woman sending her dolls away in a boat, thereby sending her suffering away. The second illustration depicts the hinamatsuri (doll festival) with dolls arranged on shelves. The following illustration depicts a young woman facing her suitor, her dowry behind her (all are objects of knowledge and culture: a calligraphy set, fine papers in a box, picture scrolls, books, etc.). The final illustration in this volume depicts an offering made to the sky, referencing tanabata (the star festival). According to legend, the Milky Way separates two lovers; they are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar.
The second volume is concerned with kai-awase, the Japanese shell-matching game. Again, there are four fine double-page illustrations, each filled with deep meaning. Matching the shells symbolizes the unity of partners in a marriage. There are many references to the Tale of Genji and Lady Murasaki; scenes from this novel were often used to illustrate the shells. One of the illustrations depicts the traditional card game called uta-garuta being played by several women.
A very good set and rare. Some carefully repaired worming, mostly confined to the margins. The lower outer corners of many leaves are “thumbed.”
❧ Brown, Block Printing & Book Illustrations in Japan, p. 131.
Item ID: 6330