The Way of the Cleaver

[Shijo Family’s Collection of Secret Information].

Numerous woodcuts, many full-page, in the text. 2 p.l., 27, 11, 26; 20, 21, 24 folding leaves. Six parts in two vols. Oblong 8vo, orig. blue wrappers, manuscript title labels on upper covers (the label on Vol. I is largely worn away), new stitching. [Kyoto?]: most of the parts end with the date 1642.

First edition of this rare collection of early gastronomic texts from the Shijo school of hocho shiki. It was the oldest school of the special imperial knife ceremony and describes rituals in which the chef carves fish and poultry using a special kitchen knife and metal chopsticks, without once touching the flesh with his hands. “Unlike the modern steak house chef who is a vaudeville version of a short-order cook, medieval chefs who performed knife ceremonies were not ordinary chefs: they were at the top of their occupation, employed only by the military and aristocratic elite…The Shijo [school] traced their genealogy back to a branch house — appropriately called the ‘fish name branch’ — of the northern branch of the Fujiwara family, which dominated government during much of the Heian period.”–Rath, Food and Fantasy in Early Modern Japan, pp. 40-41

This book collects and prints six earlier texts, all of which remained in manuscript until being printed here for the first time:

Vol. I:
1. “Sanjuroku no Koi” (“36 Ways to Cut Up Carp”).
2. “Choshi richu” (“How to Serve Sake with Carp”).
3. “Ryori shitsuke sho” (“Recipes & Etiquette”).
Vol. II:
4. “Hocho kan dai ichi” (“First Section on the Knife”).
5. “Hocho kan dai ni” (“Second Section on the Knife”).
6. “Shijo kei hiden sho” (“Shijo Family’s Collection of Secret Information”).

The fine and numerous illustrations depict methods of cutting up various fish and game (including cranes), the setting of trays, how to wrap fish, chopping boards, knife handles, sake dispensers, mochi, etc.

This is an extremely early Japanese printed gastronomic work. WorldCat lists only two parts: numbers 2 and 3.

Fine copy, preserved in a chitsu. Occasional minor spotting. One woodcut partly defective due to a natural paper flaw.

Price: $15,000.00

Item ID: 6924

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