171 fine full-page paintings of fireworks. Two vols. (of 3?). Oblong 8vo (155 x 192 mm.), in orihon (accordion) format, later decorated cloth over boards. Japan: late Edo or early Meiji.
It is uncertain when fireworks (hanabi; “fire flower”) came to Japan: it seems most likely that Chinese traders introduced them in the 15th century. However, Portuguese or Dutch merchants might have first imported them a century later. We know that the first fireworks manufacturer in Japan, Kagiya, was established in 1659 in Edo, where it continues today. During the Tokugawa period fireworks displays were used for various purposes: to salute the New Year, to commemorate victims of disasters, and to mark official ceremonies and many kinds of entertainments and celebrations.
Most Japanese fireworks are deliberately made to represent the flowers botan (peony) and kiku (chrysanthemum). The Japanese appreciation of the ephemeral nature of flowers in bloom is matched by their love of the ephemeral qualities of fireworks. Competitions between hanabishi (fireworks craftsmen) developed and stimulated development of new designs. “The most common display fireworks used in the world today are known as peony and chrysanthemums, and whilst easily recognisable by their round blooms, their origin in 19th century Japan remains largely unrecognised in the occident and, to a certain extent, within the global pyrotechnics industry itself.”–Damien Liu-Brennan & Mio Bryce, “Japanese Fireworks (Hanabi): The Ephemeral Nature and Symbolism” in The International Journal of the Arts in Society, Vol. 4, No. 5 (2010), p. 189–(& much of our description depends on this fine article, which explains the remarkable emotional connection the Japanese have with fireworks).
Our manuscript contains 171 skillful full-page and double-page color paintings of fireworks displays, each with a manuscript label. The range of colors in the paintings is exceptionally varied. The first volume — devoted to daytime fireworks — depicts 79 finely colored images of displays that were mostly dependent on colorful smoke effects and sounds, including multiple explosions. The preliminary text provides an index of the 79 images, many of which have quite charming and poetic names, including “yellow smoke weeping like a willow tree,” “yellow smoke and details of the chrysanthemum,” “morning dew on chrysanthemum petals,” “trembling chrysanthemum petals,” “maple leaves in autumn,” “white rain,” “hat with bells,” “white chrysanthemum with stem” (double-page and very beautiful), “two flowers,” “chrysanthemum field,” certain fireworks that only produced sounds, “five shades of clouds,” “kaleidoscope of butterflies,” “phoenix,” “colorful balls on willow branches,” “white waterfall,” “autumn maple leaves floating on the Tatsuta River,” “view of Nara with deer and maple leaves,” “seasonal images,” “colorful parachutes,” and many more. There is also an image of firefighters performing acrobatic acts. Many of the images are very impressionistic or abstract. Some of the fireworks are described as family secrets, passed down.
The second volume is devoted to nighttime fireworks, and again there is an index to the 92 paintings. Some of the names include “Mercury the planet,” “Venus,” “first frost,” “brooms of weeds in autumn,” “silk tassels,” “explosion of color,” “constellations in the sky,” “storms in Yoshino,” “green leaves of early summer,” “storms in Tatsuta,” “yin and yang,” “snow on hat,” “cherry blossom petals on hat,” “autumn maple leaves on umbrella,” “colorful umbrellas,” “bouncing balls,” “apricot flowers,” “flowers in Kyoto,” “flowers in a dream,” “clove flowers,” “crazy flowers,” “flower with stem and leaves,” “use your imagination,” “glistening dew,” “dreamy fabric,” “beautiful fabric from Kyoto,” “15 peonies in various and vivid colors,” “golden grains of sand,” “white rain,” “fireflies in the willow tree,” etc.
A nice set. Some worming throughout each volume, occasionally touching an image. Minor discoloration and browning. The index in the second volume mentions a third volume, which is not present.
Item ID: 8468