Orihon (accordion) printed book of Vol. 395 of the Sutra of Perfection of Wisdom or Mahaprajnaparamita sutra, entitled Da bo re bo luo mi duo jing [in Japanese: Daihannya haramitta kyo]. SUTRA OF PERFECTION OF WISDOM: KASUGA-BAN.
Orihon (accordion) printed book of Vol. 395 of the Sutra of Perfection of Wisdom or Mahaprajnaparamita sutra, entitled Da bo re bo luo mi duo jing [in Japanese: Daihannya haramitta kyo].
Orihon (accordion) printed book of Vol. 395 of the Sutra of Perfection of Wisdom or Mahaprajnaparamita sutra, entitled Da bo re bo luo mi duo jing [in Japanese: Daihannya haramitta kyo].

Printed in 1383

Orihon (accordion) printed book of Vol. 395 of the Sutra of Perfection of Wisdom or Mahaprajnaparamita sutra, entitled Da bo re bo luo mi duo jing [in Japanese: Daihannya haramitta kyo].

Five-page woodcut of Shaka, the historical Buddha, seated & preaching with his Protectors. Five columns per page, 17 characters per column, each column & page framed with silver borders. 91 pages, 1 blank page. Tall narrow 8vo (260 x 95 mm.), orig. decorated “wallet binding” of semi-stiff wrappers, with a pale-brown background (koiro; clove-stained), heightened with gold & silver speckles and a mist of gold (kasumibiki), all preserved & attached to the orig. “wallet-style” semi-stiff outer wrapper employing the same decoration. [Nara: 1383].

An extremely rare and very beautiful early sutra, printed at Nara in 1383. It has been printed on highest-quality thick paper (gampi, or mulberry fibers), and printed in bold, thick strokes, using black sumi ink, typical of kasuga-ban printings. The decoration, with silver leaf framing the text, and gold and silver leaf on the highly decorated wrappers, uses techniques reserved for important or prestigious productions. This is an example of kasuga-ban, a term for publications of the Nara monasteries in general. The decorated upper wrapper of the orihon itself has a contemporary inscription: “Yonhyaku uchi ju chitsu go” (“Within 400 ten chitsu five”).

Our book begins with a splendid five-page woodcut frontispiece depicting the historical Buddha Shaka and his Sixteen Protectors, along with other protective figures (juroku zenshin to shaka seppo). Xuanzang (596?-664), the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim, monk, scholar, and translator of the Perfection of Wisdom, is also shown, holding many sutra. He travelled to India in 629, where he studied Sanskrit, and returned to China in 645 with a quantity of scriptures in his luggage. This fine and large woodcut has been framed with a silver border.

The remainder of the book contains the text. Each column and page has been ruled with silver, heightening the elegance of each opening.

This is a book of very great beauty. In contemporary manuscript on the upper cover of the wrapper is the name and title of this volume (rather faded and only partially legible).

Following the title, on the first leaf of text is written “Ryuoku an joju” (an ownership inscription). On the final page of text, written in manuscript, is the date of June 1383 and the ownership inscription “Shirobei.”

For another example, in less good condition, see the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s webpage and search for the accession number 2013.740.

A fine and fresh copy. There is some inevitable worming, which has been mostly filled in.

❧ Chibbett, The History of Japanese Printing and Book Illustration, p. 49–”In artistic terms, there is no question that the finest examples of Nara-han, printed boldly on thick paper with gold and silver leaf decoration, represent a considerable achievement that can be enjoyed today, seven hundred years after they were produced.” K.B. Gardner, “Centres of Printing in Medieval Japan: late Heian to early Edo period” in British Library Occasional Papers 11. Japanese Studies (ed. by Yu-Ying Brown), London: 1990, p. 159–”The term Kasuga-ban became used more loosely, in a wider sense, to denote publications of the Nara monasteries in general, not only of the Kofukuji. The printing of Kasuga-ban in this broader sense flourished throughout the Kamakura period and up to the end of Muromachi ca. 1570.” Mizuno, Buddhist Sutras. Origin, Development, Transmission, pp. 178-79.

Price: $15,000.00

Item ID: 7329