Saishiki mitsu no asa [Colors of the Triple Dawn]. Preface by Yomo Magao. Kiyonaga TORII, artist.
Saishiki mitsu no asa [Colors of the Triple Dawn]. Preface by Yomo Magao.
Saishiki mitsu no asa [Colors of the Triple Dawn]. Preface by Yomo Magao.
Saishiki mitsu no asa [Colors of the Triple Dawn]. Preface by Yomo Magao.
Saishiki mitsu no asa [Colors of the Triple Dawn]. Preface by Yomo Magao.
Saishiki mitsu no asa [Colors of the Triple Dawn]. Preface by Yomo Magao.
Saishiki mitsu no asa [Colors of the Triple Dawn]. Preface by Yomo Magao.

“A Whole World within the Covers of One Book”

Saishiki mitsu no asa [Colors of the Triple Dawn]. Preface by Yomo Magao.

Seven double-page color-printed woodcut plates & one color-printed woodcut vignette on page of Preface. Large 8vo, accordion format (orihon), 14 panels, orig. patterned semi-stiff dark blue wrappers (a little rubbed & minor wear), decorated with gold, orig. blue-gray block-printed title label on upper cover. Edo: Eijudo, 1787.

First edition of this extremely rare and beautiful ehon; it is “Kiyonaga’s one great non-erotic album.”–Hillier, The Art of the Japanese Book, p. 382. Kiyonaga (1752-1815), most famous as a designer of color prints depicting the life and customs of the “Floating World” in and around Edo, was for many years considered “the supreme master designer of the colour print with figures.”–ibid. The leading designer of prints of beautiful women of the 1780s, Kiyonaga perfected his mature style in the second half of that decade. Because of the enormous demand for his color prints, he did not produce many books, and those were almost entirely shunga.

This book is printed on large mino paper. The double-page color-printed woodcuts display sophisticated embossing, both raised and indented, and with the slight application of mica and what appears to be gold. The most unusual wrappers have hand-drawn images in gold (now oxidized) of pine and mist patterns.

“The triple dawn was the eagerly anticipated, delicately savored moment of sunrise on the first day of the first month of the New Year. It marked the return of spring and initiated a whole series of ritual renewals as people refreshed their spirits by celebrating their first calligraphy, their first bath, their first sale, their first ride on horseback, their first sight of a warbler, the first lover of the year…

“Since the calendar changed every year, people consulted almanacs to decide which day was best for one’s first bath, for opening one’s storehouse, or for practicing archery for the first time. Kiyonaga titled his pictures with familiar almanac phrases…

“His first picture allows readers to peep over a fence into the garden of a palace, where a woman in ancient court costume contemplates a warbler on a plum tree. Two young girls stand on the ground like acolytes beside her. Two companions sit beside a writing table, brushes in hand, considering their first calligraphy of the New Year…

“The artist leads his readers from palace to pleasure quarter to archery range, from a merchant’s home to a samurai’s garden, from a bathhouse to a bustling city street with the shop of the book’s actual publisher…

“Wonderful in its details, Kiyonaga’s complicated picture is woven together with accents of black, recurring colors, and overlapping glances…Kiyonaga often casts a glance outward beyond the borders of his pictures…

“Colors of the Triple Dawn is a whole world within the covers of one book on seven brightly colored pages [he means seven double-page plates]: the world of spring, inhabited by people of different epochs and social class who model the Six Accomplishments (rikugei) — etiquette, music (the child bouncing her ball is singing), archery, horsemanship, literature (and calligraphy), mathematics (an elderly merchant holds up his account book) — whose pedigree extends back to China in the Tang Dynasty.”–Keyes, Ehon. The Artist and the Book in Japan, no. 24 (with three full-page color illus.).

In the words, translated, of the scholar/bookseller Shigeo Sorimachi (in his final catalogue, of 1982, regarding another comparable copy): “Rare, otherworldly genius, created in his prime…a legendary illustrated book…produced at the apogee of nishiki-e multi-colored woodblock-printed illustrated books…one of the most eloquently beautifully illustrated books to appear in Japan…and not many copies exist.”

In very fine and fresh condition. Three of the plates have a little worming at the center fold. The first plate has a small faint brown stain in the right panel and a little bit of thumbing in the lower right corner. A few other plates have unimportant faint spots of soiling. Preserved in a chitsu and wooden box from Shigeo Sorimachi, the great bookseller.

❧ Chie Hirano, Kiyonaga. A Study of His Life and Works (1939), no. 136–(with a detailed description of each double-page woodcut) & images 135A-H in the plate volume.

Price: $100,000.00

Item ID: 6498

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