16 double-page & four single-page color-printed woodcuts. 13; 11; 9 folding leaves. Three vols. Small 8vo, orig. speckled semi-stiff boards (boards rubbed), orig. block-printed title labels on upper covers, new stitching. [Japan, probably Edo]: manuscript inscription dated “1832” at end of each volume.
First edition and very rare; we do not find this book listed in WorldCat or in the Union Catalogue of Japanese Books. The Preface is signed by Akikei (or Akikage) Higashikuni.
This work is an erotic version of Shiki no en, an 18th-century group of songs on the four seasons of love from the Yamada ryu school of the Japanese harp (koto). The poems of Haku Rakuten (or Bai Letian, 772-846), the Chinese poet of the mid-Tang dynasty, are sources for the songs along with Japanese waka poems. Haku Rakuten “became the favorite poet of Heian times…He was the Chinese poet to whom allusions, and from whom recollections, were most frequent in Heian Japan. His verses were often used for kudai waka, and he epitomized Chinese poetry.”–Earl Miner et al., The Princeton Companion to Classical Japanese Literature, p. 160.
The first color-printed woodcut depicts a woman preparing to play the koto. There follows a series of erotic double-page woodcuts: kabuki actors, young samurai, Chinese characters, and women of various social classes are shown engaged in sex through the changing seasons. It is fascinating to see the various rooms and their furnishings, the participants’ costumes, and the landscapes in the background.
The fine woodcuts were clearly created by a member of the Utagawa school, however, we are unable to establish their artistic authorship.
Very good set, but with some thumbing. The second and third volumes have some worming touching several of the woodcuts.
Item ID: 7715