The Lotus Sutra, Copperplate Printing

Engraved throughout in minute characters, the Lotus Sutra [or] Saddharmapundarikasutra, Japanese reading of title: “Myoho rengekyo…”

42 joined sheets with endpaper at front (covered with silk brocade on verso), wooden roller at end. Scroll (100 x 6440 mm.). At end (in trans.): “Heian [Kyoto] engraved 1825, published 1827.”

A very rare — we find no copy in WorldCat — copper-engraved scroll of the Lotus Sutra, the most popular of all Buddhist scriptures, which promises salvation to all who place faith in it. This is a most interesting and early example of copper engraving being used for purposes other than illustration in Japan.

“Copperplate printing was first introduced to Japan by Jesuit missionaries in the late sixteenth century, and it was under their direction that Japanese artisans learnt the art of engraving and applied it to the production of religious images…However, the suppression of Christianity and the expulsion of the missionaries in the seventeenth century inevitably brought about the decline of copperplate printing, which had been inextricably associated with the Europeans and the Catholic missionaries…

“The revival of the art of copperplate printing in Japan, and the introduction of the use of the etching technique, are both due to the interest of Shiba Kokan (1738-1818)…

“In the 1830s there were two centres for the production of copperplate prints, Edo and Kyoto. In Edo, however, copperplate printing went into a decline…In Kyoto, on the other hand, there was already a specialist shop dealing with copperplate prints, and Matsumoto Yasuoki (1786-1867), a former student of oil painting, founded the Gengendo, a firm which became the dominant producer of copperplate prints for a growing market up to the Meiji Restoration.”–Kornicki, The Book in Japan, pp. 167-68.

The engraver of this copperplate sutra was the artist Kyuko Inoue (active 1818-53), who worked in Kyoto. He was well-known for his skill in engraving scenes in miniature as well as engraving minute text characters, such as we find throughout this scroll (see Tokifuyu Yokoi, Nihon kogyoshi [1927], p. 374).

At the end, we find the names of the donors who financed the scroll’s printing and publication, including Shobei Nishimura and a number of members of his family, who resided in Hyogo Prefecture.

Fine copy, preserved in a modern box. One small defect, neatly repaired, at top of one sheet, with loss of about two characters. Minor dampstaining.

Price: $4,500.00

Item ID: 7970