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Tools and Materials Illustrating the Japanese Method of Colour-Printing

Edward F. Strange


The Museum also possesses the following original Wood-blocks.

BAIREI, Kono (d. 1895).

Wood-blocks (4) used for a leaf of "The Hundred Birds." 1881. Cut both sides. (9 1/4 x 14 1/4)

583 - 1886

Exhibited with an original drawing and a proof from one of the blocks. The Museum contains the whole of the original drawings, which were specially preserved, and a copy of the publication.

BUNKEN (19th century).

Key-block for a colour-print. Eagle flying over the sea. (9 1/2 x 10 3/8)

E. 4934 - 1903

The back is engraved to print one of the colours. c. 1880.

GAKUTEI, Harunobu (worked c. 1800 - 1830).

Key-block for a Surimono. A carp swimming upwards. (8 1/2 x 8 3/8)

262 - 1903

Key-block for a Surimono. Geisha and peacock. (8 1/4 x 10)

E. 4946 - 1903

HARUNOBU (1724 - 1770).

Key-blocks for a set of five book-illustrations by Harunobu, C. 1770. Av. size (8 1/4 x 13 3/4)

E. 2168 - 2172 - 1909

Presented by J. S. Happer, Esq.

HIROSHIGE (1796-1858).

Key-block for an early set of lateral prints by Hiroshige, entitled "Toto Meisho Saka Tsukushi-no Uchi-Yedo." Series of steep roads in Yedo. Sub-title on face of print: "Aoizaka-no Dzu." The reverse was used many years later for a set of views by Hiroshige and Toyokuni (Kunisada). (10 3/4 x 15 1/2).

E. 2166 - 1909

Presented by J. S. Happer, Esq.

HIROSHIGE (continued).

Key-block for a half-plate set of "Toto Meisho" (views of Yedo) by Hiroshige. On the reverse is one of the colour-blocks for each half. (15 x 10 1/4)

E. 2167 - 1909

Presented by J. S. Happer, Esq.

HOKKEI, Todoya Shunyosai (c. 1780 - 1850). Key-block for a Surimono. A woman with writing materials. (8 3/8 x 8 1/2)

261 - 1903

KAGESHIGE (19th century).

Key-block for a Surimono. Fan and incense-burner, each on a stand. (9 x 7 1/4)

E. 4945 - 1903

The back is engraved to print two of the colours.

KIKUSAI (19th century).

Block for book-illustration. The three long-lived men - Tobosaku (9,000 years), Urashima Taro (8,000 years), and Miura-no-Osuke (106 years). (7 x 10 1/2)

E. 4941 - 1903

On the back are several incomplete engravings.

ODAKE (19th century).

Wood-blocks (8) for illustrations to "Mitford's Tales of Old Japan" (1871) with a set of proofs. Various sizes.

1401 - 1888

SADANOBU (worked c. 1820 - 1840).

Key-block for a colour-print. Daikoku and Okame wrestling before the rest of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune. (6 1/2 x 9 3/8)

E. 4942 - 1903

The back is engraved to print gold.

SEIKA (19th century).

Key-block for a colour-print. Landscape with Mount Fuji and Storks. (6 3/8 x 8 1/2)

E. 4936 - 1903

SHUNKICHIRO, Shunka (19th century).

Key-blocks (8) for book-illustration. "Zosho Monogatari." History of Soldiers. By Hako Shobei. Published by Fusi Kiken at Kyoto, Osaka and Yedo, A.D. 1846, 3rd month. Cut on both sides. (8 x 13)

381, 382, 387, 388, 393 - 396 - 1895


Engraved wood-block, showing a decorative design of bamboo plants: designed, engraved and printed by S. Sugisaki. (51 x 18 5/8)

E. 3790 - 1910

A print from the above.

E. 3790a - 1910

Presented by the Artist in 1910.

SUIK0 (19th century).

Key-block (part missing) for a colour-print of a fan design. "Shiki Bijin Sugatazoroye." Beauties representative of the Four Seasons. Spring. A woman of the Yoshiwara with her attendant (Kamuro). One of a set of four. (9 x 8 1/4)

E 4940 - 1903

The back is engraved to print gold and a colour.

Key-block (part missing) for a colour-print of a fan-design. Shiki Bijin Sugatazoroye. Summer.

A geisha enjoying the evening breeze. (81 x 8.)

E. 4938 - 1903

The back is engraved to print one of the colours.

UTAMARO II. (worked c. 1800 - 1840).

Wood-blocks (7) used in the production of a colour-print. (15 x 10 1/2)

E. 4316 - 4322 - 1909

UNSIGNED (19th century).

Key-block for a colour-print. Farmer turning an irrigation water-wheel, in rice fields. (8 3/4 x 9 3/4)

E. 4935 - 1903

The back is engraved to print one of the colours.

Key-block (on each side) for two colour-prints. Chrysanthemums and butterfly; on the back, peonies in a flower-vase 9 3/8 x 10 3/4)

E. 4933 - 1903

NOTE. - Proofs were taken (in 1910), by a Japanese printer, from each of the above, except in cases where such were already in the Collection. They can be seen on application in the Students' Room of the Department,~ which also contains a considerable number of original drawings made for this purpose, working proofs, etc.




Japanese paper, of the kinds used for artistic purposes, is made from the inner bark of various plants, chiefly the Broussonetia Papyrifera, Edgeworthia Papyrsfera and Wickstroemia Canescens. The young shoots ot the plant are cut in the withy stage; the fibre freed from the wood, and the skin and green parts of the bark, and edges of knot-holes and other defective parts are cut out. The selected residuum is then laid in running water for several days, and boiled in an iron kettle with lye, till it is quite soft and pulpy. The pulp is next washed with fresh water until the water runs off without discolouration. The process of dealing with this pulp does not greatly differ in principle from the European method; except that the scoop-net is not of wire, but of fine parallel bamboo splints or silk net toughened with Shibu (a preparation containing a large proportion of tannic acid). There is no watermark in Japanese paper; but patterns are sometimes produced by arrangements of bamboo splints woven, in net fashion, with silk or hemp thread (Mon-shi = patterned paper). The Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design possesses a collection of specimens of various Japanese papers.

The fine quality of the colours in old Japanese colour-prints is due, to a considerable extent, to the nature of the paper and especially to its tough but highly absorbent character.




The following works contain descriptions of the various technical processes mentioned above.

REIN, J. J. The Industries of Japan. (Paper, p. 389.) (10 x 7) London, 1889.

WASHINGTON: U.S.A. National Museum. Report of the Smithsonian Institution for the year ending 30 June, 1892. Japanese Wood-cutting and Wood-cut Printing, by T. Tokuno. Edited and annotated by S. R. Koehler. (p. 222.) Illustrated. (9 x 9) Washington, 1893.

WOOD-CUT Printing in Water-colours, after the Japanese manner. Illustrated. (In The Studio, vol. 3, pp. 110, 144. 1894.)

BINYON, L., and SEXTON, J. J. O'Brien. Japanese Colour-prints. Illustrated. (11 x 8) London, 1923.

LONDON: Victoria and Albert Museum Handbooks. Japanese Colour-prints, by Edward F. Strange. (Technique, chapter xi.) 5th edition. (8 x 6) London, 1924.

MIHARA, A. S. Lecture on Print-making. (In Ukiyoye no Kenkyu. Vol. iii. 1924).

SAKAKIBARA, Yoshino. Bungei Riusan. Essays on Japanese literature, with additional chapters describing the manufacture of paper and the processes of printing and engraving. (The Museum copy has MS. translations of the portion relating to engraving.) Cuts. 8 vols. (10 x 7) Tokyo, 1878.

NOTE. - The Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design includes a large collection of Japanese Colourprints and Drawings, which can be seen on application in the Students' Room (Room 71) at any time (except on Sundays) when the Museum is open to the public.


Printed by H.M.S.O. Press, Harrow.

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