Manuscript on paper, written in one fine legible hand, entitled on label of the first volume: “Gakkaroku” [“{Kyoto} Imperial Court Music & Dances Musicological Encyclopedia”]. Suenao ABE, but correctly Suehisa.

“Monumental” & “Very Highly Thought of by Modern Scholars”

Manuscript on paper, written in one fine legible hand, entitled on label of the first volume: “Gakkaroku” [“{Kyoto} Imperial Court Music & Dances Musicological Encyclopedia”].

Many illus., mostly in black but some in red, pink, gray, green, yellow, blue, etc. Ca. 1821 folding leaves of text. 1083 chapters in 50 parts in 54 vols. (parts 14 & 15 in one vol., parts 24, 34, 42, & 47 in two vols. each, plus one vol. of table of contents). 8vo (266 x 188 mm.), orig. blue wrappers, orig. manuscript labels on each upper wrapper, new stitching. [Probably Kyoto: written in 1690 & this is a mid-Edo copy].

A rare and extremely important text, finely illustrated and complete in 50 parts; it remained unpublished until 1936. WorldCat lists no copy of this manuscript in North America (the NYPL’s copy is a microfilm). This “monumental fifty-volume work of encyclopedic nature on gagaku” (Fukushima & Nelson), was written by Suenao Abe (1622-1708), a 17th-generation specialist performer on the hichiriki (a double-reed flute).

Gagaku refers to all traditional court music of Japan. The word is written in Japanese with two Chinese characters that signify “elegant music.” Its origins are Chinese, but the Japanese borrowed only the Chinese court entertainment music and not the ritual music.

“The Gakkaroku by Abe Suenao was compiled in 1690. At that time, the author (born in 1622) was 68 and looked back to a long experience in the service of the Imperial court in Kyoto. The Abe family was specialized in hichiriki playing and in bugaku since many generations. Suenao was excellent in both. He made a special study of the percussion patterns, to which a large part of the Gakkaroku is devoted, dealing separately with every instrument. Bugaku also is most thoroughly described. The Gakkaroku was greatly admired ever since it was completed, and is very highly thought of by modern scholars. Together with the Kyokunsho and the Taigensho it forms the body of the Gakusho’ no sandaibu, the three orthodox compendia of musical knowledge…

“Abe Suenao died in 1708, at the age of 87, 160 years before the great refurbishing of Imperial court music during the Meiji restoration. His well documented work was one of the pillars to support the newly restored gagaku.”–Eta Harich-Schneider, “Roei: The Medieval Court Songs of Japan” in Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 14, No. 1/2 (April-July 1958), p. 106.

This encyclopedia of Japanese musicology immediately became a standard work, and copies were quickly made and circulated. As noted above, it remained in manuscript for nearly 250 years and was not published until 1936.

This encyclopedia is incredibly rich in detail, revealing Abe’s great scholarship. For example, the corpus of musical works past and present is given with lyrics and notation, and the sections on theory and notation are extensive. The descriptions of all the musical instruments include information on their origins and structures, and instructions for how to manufacture, practice and play them.

Shishinden’s theater and stage settings are described in very considerable detail and illustrated. Names of performers and dancers are given with their family trees. Abe also lists the most famous and popular pieces of many periods; important ritual performances listed by month; the sequence within performances; the greatest performers of the past; styles of dances; and extensive lists of musical pieces for dances. Descriptions of costumes, masks, and headgear are provided along with illustrations.

Many performances of the past and their settings are fully elaborated. This work is wonderfully bibliographical as well: Abe provides in the final text volume a list of earlier reference books and manuscripts. The illustrations also include images of the musical instruments.

Some worming, occasionally touching text (but not badly), but a fine set. Preserved in five chitsu.

❧ Kazuo Fukushima & Steven G. Nelson, “The Documentary Sources of Japanese Music” in Fontes Artis Musicae, Vol. 43, No. 2 (April-June 1996), p. 182.

Price: $29,500.00

Item ID: 6808