26 folding leaves (first & last leaves pasted-down as endpapers). Large 8vo (297 x 204 mm.), orig. decorated semi-stiff wrappers, new stitching. [Japan]: early-mid-19th century.
A beautifully rendered album on special thick paper, depicting, in 76 highly finished images, a series of edible (and a few poisonous) fish, crustaceans, sea cucumbers, and a seal. The unidentified artist (see below) was clearly very accomplished; the watercolors are finely executed with rich and realistic colors, employing the full range of effects used in luxury Japanese books and manuscripts, including mica (to provide an iridescence), silver, and a white pigment made from ground-up seashells that provides an almost 3D quality.
For each image, there are contemporary notes, written in scholarly kanbun-style text, giving the name of the fish, regions where found, taste qualities, shapes and sizes, and the health benefits: “warming up the body,” “good for stomach,” improvement of the function of many organs of the body, increase of blood circulation, stimulation of appetite, helpful to flush toxins from the body, useful for eliminating intestinal worms, reduction of mucous in the throat, easing of hemorrhoid conditions, beneficial to children and the elderly, reducing fevers, good for expectant women, provides relief from constipation, etc., etc.
The manuscript begins with illustrations of red snappers of various sizes, tilefish, several sea bream, dace, Japanese eels (both salt- and fresh-water), types of carp, sea trout, catfish, rose fish, ling fish, crucian carp, lamprey eel, flathead fish, rockfish, fat greening fish, red batoid, icefish, whitebait, tiger prawns, striped goby, and Japanese spiny lobster.
The next section of the manuscript is devoted to 11 species of flatfish including varieties of flounder and sole. For each, the artist has depicted both the pigmented upper side and pale lower side.
This is followed by more fish, including bitterling, chum salmon, star butterfish, saw-edged perch, stonefish, mackerel, red rockfish, the scorpionfish, largehead hairtail, salmon, yellowtail, red gurnard, sea cucumbers, and, finally, a seal.
In very fresh condition. There is a bit of worming touching a couple of images. There is a small label pasted on the upper cover from the late 19th century with a note in French dating this manuscript to 1819 and giving the name of the artist as “Shiguemara.”.
Item ID: 7671