Seikatsu roku [Account of Processing Kuzu Starch].
Seikatsu roku [Account of Processing Kuzu Starch].

Kuzu Starch

Seikatsu roku [Account of Processing Kuzu Starch].

Three double-page & ten full-page woodcut illus., and several woodcuts in the text. 1 p.l., 28 folding leaves, one page of colophon. 8vo, orig. blue patterned wrappers (rubbed & with a few stains), orig. block-printed title label on upper cover (label rubbed & partly defective), new stitching. Osaka: Kawachiya chobei et al., [Preface dated 1828; colophon dated 1830].

First edition of the earliest detailed Japanese description of the cultivation, harvesting, and processing of the kuzu (or kudzu) plant. Kuzu has many uses: its powder is the essential ingredient used throughout Asia for thickening sauces and making various types of desserts. It is also used in numerous traditional medicines (including the Japanese kakkonto) and in textile and paper manufacturing. Kuzu is easily grown in poor soil and can be consumed by humans and animals in times of famine.

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. Okura was devoted to the development of farm production which centered around the three aspects of technological improvement, cultivation of commercial products, and the processing of farm products.

Okura wrote this work to increase the revenue of farmers by instructing them how to grow and process the kuzu crop. He thoroughly describes the plant, its cultivation, and its numerous uses. The fine illustrations (and see below for the illustrator) depict the plant, workers cultivating the plant in the fields, tools, the manufacture of the powder and starch, preparing the kuzu fiber to make clothing, etc. Kuzu powder from Yoshino, a town near Kyoto, is mentioned in the text. The powder produced in Yoshino is known as a product of the highest quality. Fabrics made from kuzu fibers have a unique sheen.

The highly detailed illustrations were executed by Arisaka Hokuba (1771-1844), one of Hokusai’s most successful pupils and an assistant to Buncho; he was considered by Hillier (p. 830) to be a “major painter.”

A little thumbed in lower outer corners and a little tired, but a very good copy. Preserved in a chitsu.

❧ Brown, Block Printing & Book Illustration in Japan, pp. 188-89. For the artist, see: Hillier, The Art of the Japanese Book, pp. 723, 751, & 830.

Price: $4,000.00

Item ID: 6424