Depictions of von Siebold’s Botanical Collection

Somoku kajitsu shashin zufu [trans.: A Collection of Plants, Trees, Flowers, & Fruits, faithfully rendered].

Numerous full-page & double-page color-printed woodblock illus. Two vols. in four. Large 8vo, orig. yellow semi-stiff wrappers (wrappers a little dusty & stained), orig. woodblock title slips on upper covers, new stitching. Osaka: Maekawa Zenbe, [after 1836].

A fine copy of this famous book; this is the first edition to contain color illustrations (the first edition, which had only black-and-white woodcuts, appeared in 1836). Kawahara (1786-1860), was a late Edo painter who was given permission to document local life for the Dutch trading house in Dejima. He was, in fact, one of the few Japanese permitted to enter the Nagasaki island when it was the sole location of Japan’s trade with the West; Kawahara worked there as a painter from 1811 to 1842.

He became a close associate of Philipp Franz von Siebold, the resident physician and natural historian at Dejima, who collected over 1000 native Japanese plants. At the request of von Siebold, Kawahara drew and painted numerous plants the German had collected, and while doing so also learned Western-style artistic techniques.

The presentation and description of each botanical specimen is a fusion of Japanese and Western observation and illustration: we learn the English and Japanese names, when the flower blossoms, medicinal uses, views of the flowers and fruits, colors are described using Japanese terms, etc. The illustrations in von Siebold’s Flora Japonica were largely taken from those painted by Kawahara.

This is a very handsomely illustrated book using a number of woodblock impressions for each illustration. Some of the illustrations were rendered using at least six woodblocks, each with a different color.

Very good set and rare. The plates in Vols. III and IV have a little dustiness and spotting. The outer upper corners of Vol. IV have a very small stain, not touching any image or text.

Price: $22,500.00

Item ID: 6529

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