Two manuscript volumes of the Honzo zufu [Illustrated Herbal]: Part 5 (“Sanso no rui” or “Species of Mountain Plants”) & a large section of Part 34 (“Mizukusa” or “Water Plants”). Kan’en IWASAKI, or Tsunemasa or Genzo.
Two manuscript volumes of the Honzo zufu [Illustrated Herbal]: Part 5 (“Sanso no rui” or “Species of Mountain Plants”) & a large section of Part 34 (“Mizukusa” or “Water Plants”).
Two manuscript volumes of the Honzo zufu [Illustrated Herbal]: Part 5 (“Sanso no rui” or “Species of Mountain Plants”) & a large section of Part 34 (“Mizukusa” or “Water Plants”).
Two manuscript volumes of the Honzo zufu [Illustrated Herbal]: Part 5 (“Sanso no rui” or “Species of Mountain Plants”) & a large section of Part 34 (“Mizukusa” or “Water Plants”).
Two manuscript volumes of the Honzo zufu [Illustrated Herbal]: Part 5 (“Sanso no rui” or “Species of Mountain Plants”) & a large section of Part 34 (“Mizukusa” or “Water Plants”).
Two manuscript volumes of the Honzo zufu [Illustrated Herbal]: Part 5 (“Sanso no rui” or “Species of Mountain Plants”) & a large section of Part 34 (“Mizukusa” or “Water Plants”).
Two manuscript volumes of the Honzo zufu [Illustrated Herbal]: Part 5 (“Sanso no rui” or “Species of Mountain Plants”) & a large section of Part 34 (“Mizukusa” or “Water Plants”).

“The Greatest Illustrated Botanical Work of
Nineteenth Century Japan”

Two manuscript volumes of the Honzo zufu [Illustrated Herbal]: Part 5 (“Sanso no rui” or “Species of Mountain Plants”) & a large section of Part 34 (“Mizukusa” or “Water Plants”).

Part 5: 23 double-page & seven full-page paintings on 55 folding leaves, pre-printed with woodblock borders & “pillars”; Part 34: five double-page & 31 full-page paintings on 44 folding leaves, pre-printed with woodblock borders & “pillars.” Two vols. 8vo (254 x 180 mm), orig. patterned wrappers, cont. manuscript title labels on upper covers, new stitching. [Japan: 1830-44].

Two of the manuscript volumes of the Honzo zufu, “the greatest illustrated botanical work of nineteenth century Japan…This monumental work, the Honzo zufu, briefly describes and splendidly illustrates in full color some 2,000 plants. It is considered to be one of the two most important works on systematic botany in the Tokugawa period (1603-1867).–Richard C. Rudolph, “Illustrations from Weinmann’s ‘Phytanthoza iconographia’ in Iwasaki’s ‘Honzo zufu’” in Huntiana, Vol. 2 (15 October 1965), p. 1.

Iwasaki (1786-1842), was an important natural historian who studied with Ono Ranzan, the “Linnaeus of Japan.” Iwasaki learned Western botanical theories from Yoan Udagawa, one of the most celebrated rangakusha (Dutch scholars) of the period, and from Philipp Franz von Siebold, the German physician and scientist. Iwasaki also made many field trips throughout the main island of Japan collecting botanical specimens, which he brought back to Edo and cultivated in a garden the government had given him. In 1818, Iwasaki published his first botanical work, the Somoku sodategusa, which is concerned with the cultivation, care, and propagation of ornamental and medicinal plants.

The publication history of the Honzo zufu is complicated, and there are several conflicting bibliographical accounts. We give Prof. Richard C. Rudolph’s account (cited abo ve), based on Kotaro Shirai’s history of the work, which appeared in Vol. 93 (1921) of the modern edition of Honzo zufu (1916-22). We believe Prof. Rudolph’s account is the best and most accurate in English.

“Early in 1828 Iwasaki founded a botanical society. The first meeting, which was held at his own home, was attended by the most prominent scholars in this field. In the autumn of the same year, after a long period of collecting, illustrating, practical gardening, and study of most of the available botanical works, Iwasaki completed the compilation of a comprehensive illustrated flora…

“Iwasaki planned to issue this large work in twenty-four series of four volumes each. It seems obvious from the preface that the illustrations were to be printed in black and white and then were to be colored by hand. Shirai, in his history of this project, says that in this first attempt to reproduce Iwasaki’s compilation, only four volumes were printed, and those in 1830. But there appears to be some bibliographical confusion here, and others maintain that six volumes were printed during 1829 and 1830…

“In any event, this first attempt to print the Honzo zufu was a commercial failure. Subscribers to the first series included the Tokugawa court, certain temples, the medical institute, certain officials and feudal lords, and a few bookstores, but the income was insufficient to finance the printing of so large a work…

“Regardless of whether four or six volumes were printed in this first attempt, printing was abandoned but reproduction of his compilation was continued in manuscript with colors brushed in by hand. How many copies were made of each volume in this manner is not recorded, but four volumes were produced yearly until his death in 1842. His family carried on with the work and completed the Honzo zufu in ninety-two volumes in the latter part of 1844.”–Rudolph, ibid., pp. 4-5.

The National Diet Library cataloguing, based on Shirai’s history of Honzo zufu, states that about 30 manuscript copies of each volume were produced by Iwasaki and his family.

Our manuscript volumes contain a series of very beautifully painted images. Part 5 has a title label on the upper cover with “Honzo zufu Go” (“Honzo zufu Five”) in manuscript. This volume is devoted to mountain plants. In comparing our copy with the National Diet Library copy, we find some textual differences and omissions, but all the illustrations are presented in the same order. I must admit I prefer the coloring of our copy.

The second volume is the seaweed section of Part 34. The manuscript title label on the upper cover has written “Honzo zufu Kaiso rui” (“Honzo zufu Marine Algae Category”). A number of images in our copy are not present in the copy of the National Diet Library but are represented in the modern edition.

In very fine and fresh condition.

❧ Bartlett & Shohara, Japanese Botany during the Period of Wood-block Printing (1961), p. 135–”even odd volumes are excessively rare.” Several articles have been written about Iwasaki and Honzo zufu, and one should also examine the WorldCat cataloguing of the Library of Congress and National Diet Library sets. A recent article by Junko Tanaka et al., “Honzo zufu, and How a Copy Came to Be in the Kew Library,” in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (2019), Vol. 36 (1), pp. 59-76, suffers from a lack of clarity and inaccurate nomenclature (perhaps a victim of translation).

Price: $12,500.00

Item ID: 7634