Trilingual publication (Japanese, English, French) of elaborately produced color woodblock prints on the theme of traditional Japanese children's games.
"Some to whom these [...] have been shewn, doubt whether they were ever produced in their present form from woodcuts [...] That such doubts should be entertained, affords me no small gratification, being a proof od the skill with which the woodcuts have been executed." – Preface
Gorgeous multi-color woodblock prints capture traditional games based on famous paintings created hundreds of years earlier. The laid-in English description includes (in part): "Hane-tsuki: 'Battledore and Shuttlecock,' a game played principally during the first ten days of the New Year"; "Koma Asobi: 'Playing with Tops,' and Tamaya: 'Blowing Soap-bubbles"; "Sugoroku, a sort of backgammon"; "Hotaru-gari: 'Hunting Fireflies"; and more, including descriptions of holidays like Obon and making "snowmen" of Daruma, the iconographic image of the monk who brought Zen to Japan.
The skill of late-era ukiyo-e and nihonga artist Kobayashi Eitaku is evident in this collection, which showcases traditional subjects and aesthetics – very much in response to the Western styles enjoying a growing vogue in the Meiji era. Publisher Nagao explains in the preface that he wanted to create a work of virtuosity within the form, both for love of the art and as a patriotic homage to Japan's homegrown arts in the face of Western ones: to this end, he issued the publication with Japanese, French, and English text. Truly a beautiful production, just as the publisher hoped it would be.
Tokyo: Hakubunsha, Meiji 21; 1888. Title front board: 子供遊び画帖 [Kodomo Asobi Gajō - Picture Book of Children's Play]. Rear titles: Japanese Paintings. Children's Sports. Dessins Japonais. Jeux D'Enfants. 9'' x 11.5''. Original rough cloth boards bound orihon (accordion) style. One full-page color printed illustration, followed by preface in three languages and 12 full-page color woodblock prints mounted on handmade paper with gold flecks. Text in Japanese. Single folded sheet laid in containing 2 pages of printed descriptions of the games depicted in each print. A bit of soiling to printed label, else remarkably bright and clean.
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