From the block-printed labels on upper covers of Vols. I & II: Mitsu no nagame [one possible reading of the kanji: The View of the Beautiful City]; Vol. I sub-title label: [first characters indecipherable, but from another copy we know the word is Sumidagawa] no yuki [Snow at Sumida River]; Vol. II sub-title label: Musashino no tsuki [Moon of Musashino]; title at beginning of text: Hanakatsura nagame no gin sekai [Flowers on the Tree in [the Wintery] Silver World].

Vol. I: Illustrated “title-page,” one double-page woodcut with foldouts to form a four-panel diptych, with the addition of a “trick super flap” depicting three female genitalia (young woman, mistress, & wife), six double-page woodcuts, & two single-page woodcuts, all color-printed; & three double-page black & white woodcuts. Vol. II: Illustrated “title-page,” five double-page woodcuts, & two single-page woodcuts, all color-printed; & four double-page black & white woodcuts. Vol. III: Illustrated “title-page,” four double-page woodcuts, & two full-page woodcuts, all color-printed; & three black & white double-page woodcuts. All leaves have color-printed borders. .5, 1 folding leaf of preface (color-printed), 13 folding leaves; .5, 13 folding leaves; .5, 12 folding leaves. Three vols. 8vo, orig. decorated semi-stiff patterned boards, with color-printed symbols of the moon, flowers, & snowflakes, orig. block-printed title labels on upper covers of Vols. I & II (lacking on Vol. III, but there is no evidence a label was ever there), new stitching. [Japan]: Preface dated 1850.

First edition and very rare; we can find no copy in WorldCat or NIJL. Almost all of the techniques that make Japanese illustrated books so remarkable are utilized here. Finely illustrated and richly colored, this late shunga employs bokashi, the delicate variation of shading of pigment within the image; blind-embossing; and the very ample use of metallic pigments. The depicted garments are a mixture of extremely complex textures, colors, and patterns, all accentuated by blind-embossing and multiple woodblock impressions.

In Vol. I, the folding woodcuts — which reveal a man and woman engaging in sex — open to reveal a fine and complex four-panel scene in which we see three couples also having sex: a young couple, a man with his mistress, and the same man with his wife. On the third panel from the right, a hidden “trick” flap is revealed, depicting and comparing the genitalia of these three women. This “trick” panel has the title printed with seven kanji characters (the first two are indecipherable): “…mitate setsugekka” [“…Visual Puns of Snow, Moon, Flower”].

Each volume begins with a finely colored paste-down leaf, artistically depicting the themes of snow, moon, and flower, with poems. Facing each of these leaves is a portrait of a woman: mistress, young, and wife. All the black & white woodcuts also depict men and women engaging in sex and self-pleasuring.

Koikawa (1821-1907), was a prolific artist. He illustrated as well as wrote numerous books, under various pen names. At the end of the Preface in Vol. I, we find “Insuitei,” one of his pen names.

Fine set, with fresh coloring. The four-panel diptych has several small burn holes on the right-hand side. One black & white illustration has been “heightened” with red ink in a very minor way. Slight thumbing and a few minor stains.

Price: $6,750.00

Item ID: 8347

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