Five full-page botanical woodcuts. 28 folding leaves. 8vo, orig. brown wrappers, new stitching. [Probably printed in today’s Miyagi Prefecture, Japan]: first Preface dated 1798.
First edition of this very rare provincial imprint; no copy in WorldCat. Fujitsuka (1737-99), was born in humble surroundings, and his parents died early. An excellent student, he was adopted by the master of the Shiogama Jinja shrine in Miyagi Prefecture. Fujitsuka eventually married the daughter of the shrine master and was able to pursue his scholarly activities. A bibliophile with a large library, he studied Shinto theology, ancient stele, early waka poetry, and materia medica. He had many friends who were artists and poets. Late in life, he was exiled because of his religious beliefs.
The hana katsumi is a mythical plant, supposedly found in marshlands. This plant was first written about in the Man’yoshu [Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves], compiled sometime after 759, the oldest extant collection of Japanese waka. In the late 18th century, a cult developed around this plant, its history, and where it is found. We know that Basho included a visit to the famous Asaka marsh in Mutsu Province, hoping to see the hana katsumi.
The poems in this work are filled with double meanings, puns, and other complex rhetorical devices, typical of waka poetry. Remarkably, the five full-page woodcuts depict the imaginary hana katsumi, with accompanying detailed descriptions of the features of the flowering plant. To our eye, the plant is a member of the iris or lily family or, perhaps, the fern family. Clearly, Fujitsuka was uncertain.
From the collection of Frank Hawley, scholar and one of the most discerning collectors of Japanese books and manuscripts. His stamp appears on the first page of text. See R.H. van Gulik’s “In Memoriam. Frank Hawley (1906-1961)” in Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 16, No. 3/4 (Oct. 1960-Jan. 1961), pp. 434-47. Several other unidentified ownership seals on the first leaf.
Fine copy, preserved in a chitsu. Some worming, touching some characters, but carefully repaired.
Item ID: 8331