Hosokawa Honzō Yorinao, a woodblock print from Karakuri zui ('Illustrated Compendium of Clever Machines')

Published in Edo (Tokyo), Japan
Edo period, AD 1796

From a woodblock print illustrated book in 3 volumes

Kikō zui ('Illustrated Compendium of Clever Machines') was the first publication in Japan to give sufficiently precise instructions to enable the construction of clocks and automata. The author, Hosokawa Hanzō Yorinao (died 1796?) was an inventor, mathematician and, finally, government calendar expert. In making this valuable information public he was responding to the growing interest in Edo in the later eighteenth century in 'Dutch Studies' (Rangaku) (meaning here, 'European' - the Dutch were the only Europeans permitted to trade with Japan until the 1850s). The mechanisms of European clocks had to be converted to the more elastic Japanese system of telling the time, whereby daylight and darkness were each always divided into six units, which therefore differed in length according to the season.

Particular attention was also paid in Japan to developing the clockwork mechanisms for automata toys, which became a fashionable parlour toy among the wealthy. The 'tea-serving doll' (cha-hakobi ningyō) shown here is the most famous. The doll moved forwards towards the guest when a cup of tea was placed in his doll hands, waited respectfully while it was drunk and then turned around and trundled back with the empty cup.

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More information


T. Clark, 'Acquisitions: Japanese Compendium of Clever Machines', British Museum Magazine: Th-21, 34 (Summer 1999), p. 34


Height: 225.000 mm (covers)
Width: 159.000 mm (covers)

Museum number

Asia JA 1998.2-18.055 (JIB 932)


Purchased with the assistance of The British Museum Friends


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