Ikebana: Oldest Text on the Japanese “Way of Flowers”
Printed in Movable Type

Sendensho [or] Sendenshō [Secret Methods of Flower Arrangement, passed down].

Five full-page woodcuts, woodcuts in the text, & one full-page diagram. 39 folding leaves. 8vo, orig. wrappers (a little tired & rubbed, minor soiling), orig. block-printed title label on spine, new stitching. Kyoto: privately printed before ca. 1640.

An early and extremely rare edition, privately printed with movable type, of the foundation work of Japanese flower arrangement (ikebana or kado). We find no copy of any early edition outside of Japan.

With the introduction of Buddhism to Japan in the 6th century, the custom of offering flowers on the Buddhist altar became common. Ikebana developed through the process of experimentation with new approaches and techniques for placing flowers in Chinese vases. The art developed slowly, and rules began to be formulated in the 15th century. Sendensho refers to the style of flower arrangement called rikka in the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Our work provides a comprehensive guide to the flower arrangement, including theory.

The postscript at the end our edition of Sendensho states that the text of our work derives from a secret manuscript from the noble Sanjo family and was transmitted to Fuami in 1445 at the request of “Yorimasa ko.” The manuscript passed through a number of owners, all of whom are listed, until it was received in 1536 by Senno Ikenobo (fl. 1532-55), the founder of the Ikenobo school of flower arrangement. Ikenobo established a theory of ikebana teaching that included not only technique but also philosophy. One or more manuscripts of his secret teachings were passed on to later generations.

The secret text was not printed until the early 17th century, and several of the earliest editions were privately issued using movable type. In the Union Catalogue of Early Japanese Books, we find four editions printed in movable type: 1. 1596-1623; 2. 1615-43; 3. 1624-44; and 4. no date. Our copy, also printed with movable type, does not seem to correspond exactly with any of the above-mentioned editions, although the undated edition might well be the same. There is also a 1643 woodblock-printed edition.

The text begins with an extensive index of the 53 chapters (although there are really 119 chapters), describing the major themes: seasonal flowers, flowers for special events, flowers for each court ritual, flowers for ceremonies before troops depart for battle, which flowers are appropriate for certain vases, how the vases should be placed, which combination of flowers and branches are to be avoided, how to choose flowers for a tea ceremony, how to care for flowers, how to cut flowers and branches, etc. One of the chapters describes the theories of the Tanigawa school of flower arrangement. Many plant names are given, and there are notes on the seasons in which flowers are available.

Before the full-page woodcuts, in the text on folding leaf 21, there are woodcuts depicting 12 varieties of pruned branches, with descriptions. On folding leaf 22 is a full-page diagram of pruning techniques and their profound meanings in Taoism and Buddhism.

The first full-page woodcut shows a display of flowers in a vase, a tea bowl and whisk, tea caddy, water vessel, and a charcoal holder on a series of bi-level shelves (chigaidana). These display shelves were set up in Buddhist temples and the residences of influential people, including the Ashikaga family of the Muromachi Shogunate.

The next woodcut depicts mitsu-gusoku, the traditional arrangement of three ceremonial articles, including a vase of flowers, an incense burner, and a candelabrum, in front of a painting of Buddha and two other paintings (the paintings are represented by words). These are, in turn, surrounded by two more vases with flowers.

This is followed by another full-page image of a series of bi-level shelves and their contents: a container for sake, sake cups, a stack of containers for hors d’oeuvres, a box, and a flower arrangement in a Chinese-style ornamental pot.

The fourth woodcut depicts another full-page image of shelves and their contents: food containers, tea bowls, and tea ceremony tools.

The final full-page woodcut depicts another series of shelves with two plants in legged planters, a sake serving container and cups, and a bronze ornamental vessel.

Minor soiling here and there, but a fine copy. Stamp of the Mitsui family. An early annotator has written in red ink a series of neat, mostly marginal, notes and markings. On the final printed leaf and its facing endpaper, there are a number of early notes on plants, flowers, rules, etc.

Price: $45,000.00

Item ID: 6610

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