Mitate-e Mock-up

A finely illustrated manuscript mock-up for an unpublished work, with a number of correction slips. [Manuscript cover title]: “Tabi suzume take no fushimi” [“Travelling Sparrow Peeking Through the Bamboo Grove”].

14 illustrations, all hand-drawn within the text. 18 folding leaves (incl. lower wrapper). 8vo (190 x 133 mm.), orig. wrappers with manuscript annotations (see below), orig. stitching. [Japan: preface dated “1827“].

The manuscript mock-up — laid out for the woodblock carver — of a collection of illustrated doka poetry, a genre offering ethical lessons in verse. The poems are paired with beautiful and witty anthropomorphic drawings, a sub-genre of ukiyo-e called mitate-e (parody picture), or what we would consider visual puns. Each illustration is delicately rendered.

Sangoen (active 1825-49) was an illustrator and author of doka poetry books, which are quite uncommon. We have not been able to locate any other mock-ups executed by this artist.

A sample of five of the humorous illustrations follows:

1. “View of Eastern Kyoto”: a man in a loincloth lies prone in the shape of Kyoto’s famous Daimonji site, where the kanji character dai is created on the side of a mountain by torches.

2. “Sake Mountain and Rice Shrine”: grains constitute a human head, which is called a “rice shrine” and faces a mountain of sake.

3. “Weeping Waterfalls”: two waterfalls flow from the mountainside, which resembles a human face, the waters gushing from the face’s eyes.

4. “Nose-Hair Pine Trees”: a group of nine pine trees alluding to noses full of hair; below are tweezers ready to pluck out the hairs.

5. “Smelly Cherry Blossoms”: cherry blossoms in the shape of noses, with one large nose as the trunk of a tree. Two travellers pinch their runny noses.

In very good condition. On the upper cover, in addition to the title, we find the year “1827“; the name of the publisher “Ogawa Gen?” and the creator “Tsukimaro.” There is also the character jo, signifying that this may be the first part.

Price: $2,750.00

Item ID: 6819