Item ID: 9992 Honzō zufu 本草圖譜 [Illustrated Materia Medica]. Kan’en 岩崎灌園 IWASAKI, or Tsunemasa or Genzo.
Honzō zufu 本草圖譜 [Illustrated Materia Medica].
Honzō zufu 本草圖譜 [Illustrated Materia Medica].
Honzō zufu 本草圖譜 [Illustrated Materia Medica].
Honzō zufu 本草圖譜 [Illustrated Materia Medica].
Honzō zufu 本草圖譜 [Illustrated Materia Medica].
Honzō zufu 本草圖譜 [Illustrated Materia Medica].
Honzō zufu 本草圖譜 [Illustrated Materia Medica].
Honzō zufu 本草圖譜 [Illustrated Materia Medica].
Honzō zufu 本草圖譜 [Illustrated Materia Medica].
Honzō zufu 本草圖譜 [Illustrated Materia Medica].
Honzō zufu 本草圖譜 [Illustrated Materia Medica].
Honzō zufu 本草圖譜 [Illustrated Materia Medica].
Honzō zufu 本草圖譜 [Illustrated Materia Medica].

“The Greatest Illustrated Botanical Work of Nineteenth Century Japan”

Honzō zufu 本草圖譜 [Illustrated Materia Medica].

Several thousand double-page & full-page color-printed woodcuts, many with embossing. 95 vols. 8vo (256 x 174 mm.), orig. tan patterned semi-stiff wrappers, orig. title slips on upper covers, orig. stitching (occasional stitching a little loose). Tokyo: Honzō Zufu Kankōkai 本草圖譜刋行會, 1916-22.

The definitive and complete edition of the “the greatest illustrated botanical work of nineteenth century Japan…This monumental work, the Honzō zufu, briefly describes and splendidly illustrates in full color some 2,000 plants. It is considered to be one of the two most important works on systematic botany in the Tokugawa period (1603-1867).”–Richard C. Rudolph, “Illustrations from Weinmann’s ‘Phytanthoza iconographia’ in Iwasaki’s ‘Honzō zufu’” in Huntiana, Vol. 2 (15 October 1965), p. 1.

Iwasaki (1786-1842), was an important natural historian who studied with Ono Ranzan, the “Linnaeus of Japan.” Iwasaki learned Western botanical theories from Yoan Udagawa, one of the most celebrated rangakusha (Dutch scholars) of the period, and from Philipp Franz von Siebold, the German physician and scientist. Iwasaki also made many field trips throughout the main island of Japan collecting botanical specimens, which he brought back to Edo and cultivated in a garden the government had given him.

The publication history of the editions of Honzō zufu is long and complicated, and there are several conflicting bibliographical accounts. We give Prof. Richard C. Rudolph’s account (cited above), based on Kotaro Shirai’s history of the work, which appeared in Vol. 93 (1921) of the modern edition of Honzō zufu (1916-22). We believe Prof. Rudolph’s account is the best and most accurate in English.

“Early in 1828 Iwasaki founded a botanical society. The first meeting, which was held at his own home, was attended by the most prominent scholars in this field. In the autumn of the same year, after a long period of collecting, illustrating, practical gardening, and study of most of the available botanical works, Iwasaki completed the compilation of a comprehensive illustrated flora…

“Iwasaki planned to issue this large work in twenty-four series of four volumes each. It seems obvious from the preface that the illustrations were to be printed in black and white and then were to be colored by hand. Shirai, in his history of this project, says that in this first attempt to reproduce Iwasaki’s compilation, only four volumes were printed [in 1830]…

“This first attempt to print the Honzō zufu was a commercial failure…income was insufficient to finance the printing of so large a work…printing was abandoned but reproduction of his compilation was continued in manuscript with colors brushed in by hand. How many copies were made of each volume in this manner is not recorded, but four volumes were produced yearly until his death in 1842. His family carried on with the work and completed the [manuscript volumes of] Honzō zufu in ninety-two volumes in the latter part of 1844 [and they are incredibly rare]…

“It is obvious that a printed edition of such an important work would be produced sooner or later. [Several attempts made in the late 19th century ended in failure.] In the early years of the present century the Honzō Zufu Kanko Kai, or Society for Publication of the Honzō zufu, was organized and a successful printing of the work in color by woodblocks was completed after five years of labor, in 1921. This edition is composed of ninety-three volumes…The first ninety-two volumes contain illustrations of about 2,000 plants in color and a very brief text, and the following volume is composed of an additional text by Iwasaki, together with Shirai’s biography of him and history of the work. Another two volumes, containing Japanese, Chinese, and Latin binomial indexes compiled by Shirai, were published in the same format in 1922. Moreover, each of the ninety-two volumes of plates has its own Chinese (Japanese)-binomial index…

“In projects of this kind, the publisher deserves a share of credit along with the author…it would take a man of considerable courage to undertake the printing of this great flora by woodblocks. Such a person was the Tokyo publisher, Iwamoto Yonetarō, a man of little capital and poor health, but rich in the courage required to produce a work of this kind…The rise in the cost of materials and labor due to World War I almost caused the project to end in failure, as had others before it…To obtain the necessary funds, he sold his personal library and cut down on the size of the staff…[Iwamoto] personally went over each printed page, correcting faults in blockcutting and in coloring…

“Either because Iwamoto published a small edition of the Honzō zufu, or because it suffered destruction during World War II, as did early Japanese books in general, it is now almost impossible to locate a complete copy of this work.”–Rudolph, ibid., pp. 4-6.

The plates are superbly color-printed and often exhibit subtle embossing.

In very fine and fresh condition. Covers a bit discolored or spotted.

Price: $37,500.00

Item ID: 9992