« Flower Basket | Main | Sumo Wrestlers »


Posted by Dave Bull at 4:56 PM, October 31, 2005

I have used a wide variety of source materials for the images in this Treasure Chest series; single sheet prints, woodblock books, painting guides, even a photograph. But so far, I haven't made use of any 'advertising' material in my hunt for interesting images - something that is rectified now, with the inclusion of this pretty little bonsai maple tree.

In 1882 a German man opened a plant nursery business in Yokohama, exporting Japanese plants to customers overseas. At one point, he had the idea of producing a colour catalogue for customers, one that would give them a basic introduction to the most common flowers and plants in this country. To create this, he enlisted the help of Takejiro Hasegawa, the Meiji-era publisher of a number of books that featured woodblock illustrations combined with Western language texts.

In the year 1901 they produced a beautiful book - it seems hardly fair to call it a 'catalogue' - illustrating the Japanese 'year' in flowers: The Favorite Flowers of Japan, illustrated by kuchi-e artist Mishima Shoso, with text written by the wife of the nursery owner. Each page of the book went through two completely separate printing processes: the text was done first on a modern letterpress, and the printed sheets (high quality Japanese hosho paper) were then sent to traditional printers to add the illustrations.

It seems that the book was quite successful, as a number of editions were produced, and it can still be found sometimes in bookshops overseas, although copies in good condition are not cheap at all. I purchased my copy from a dealer in England, and was happy to bring it 'home' back to Japan!

As I sit and look through this book I can't help but ask why it is no longer possible to create new modern books of this type, but I guess I know the answer - it was only practical when craftsmen's wages were at developing country levels. These days, we have all become so rich ...

Monday, October 31, 2005

(Here's the print in context in the Treasure Chest series.)


Following comment posted by: Lauren Page on October 30, 2005 1:00 PM

I think I owned my first bonsai in 1971--a little boxwood that I kept and trained for three years. I had a juniper for a while, also; both met untimely fates when I had to leave them to be cared for by strangers. But I love them, and have always longed to have enough outside space to be able to raise deciduous bonsai.

And as for the print, I think the balance of space in it is just as lovely as the tree itself.

Following comment posted by: Marty Baird on October 31, 2005 9:09 AM

I enjoyed this one for a personal reason. I tried growing a Bonsai that this reminds me of. I should have purchased
a print it would have lasted longer. I miss the plant.

Add Your Input

Remember Me? (with a cookie ...)

(you may use HTML tags for style)

Back to the Main Page