- Museum number
Object: Raikin zui 来禽図彙 (Pictures of Imported Birds)
Object: Ehon kacho kagami (Picture-book Mirror of Birds and Flowers)
Illustrated book, album, print. 1 volume. Designs of birds imported to Nagasaki by Nanjing merchants. Colour woodblock-printed with gauffrage. Signed.
- Production date
- 1790 (c.)
Height: 25.10 centimetres
Width: 18.70 centimetres
- Curator's comments
This is apparently one of only two surviving copies of the first edition of this superb album, and is the only one which can rival the Tsutaya Juzaburo 'kyoka' books designed by Utamaro. The colophon announces two more volumes to follow, but they do not survive and may not have appeared at all. Masayoshi 'redesigned' the originals (whatever they were) of the Nagasaki artist Ishosai Shusen Genyu (1736-1824). The selection was made by a Chinese, Guan Yingwen.
Smith et al 1990
The printed foreword to the album explains how a government official named Seki Mitsubumi who was visiting Nagasaki in 1789 commissioned a Chinese artist resident in the city to execute a set of five handscrolls depicting exotic imported birds. On his return to Edo Seki showed these to the publisher Matsumoto Zembei, who decided to publish a selection as a 'de-luxe' colour-printed album at the end of 1790. The Ukiyo-e artist Kitao Masayoshi was employed to copy the Chinese artist's paintings and prepare designs which could be used by the woodblock engravers and printers. In the autumn of 1793 Seki and the publisher issued a second volume of explanatory text to go with the illustrations, 'Kaihaku raikin zui setsu', which included the information that the birds had originally been imported on a boat called 'Hachiban' ('Boat No. 8') in 1762.
The normal convention for Ukiyo-e prints was to have a thin black outline surrounding every area of colour, but here elaborate techniques of texturing the surface of the printing block or wiping the edges of inked areas have been employed to suggest the soft colour transitions of the original Chinese painting.
The only known complete copy of the rare first edition of this album - including a preface missing from the British Museum's copy - has recently been discovered in the collection of the Kobe City Museum.
Ueno Royal Museum (Ueno no Mori Bijutsukan), 'Daiei Hakubutsukan shozo ukiyo-e meisakuten', ed. Narazaki Muneshige, Tokyo, 1985, book no. 31.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Transferred from Department of Oriental Manuscripts (August 1915).
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Japanese Illustrated Book number: JIB.90
Miscellaneous number: 1868,0722
Other BM number: 16113.e.9
Other BM number: Or.c.25