- Museum number
- Object: Nihon meisan zue 日本名山図会 (Illustrations of Famous Mountains in Japan)
Illustrated book, woodblock print. Vol. 1 of three volumes. Volume one: twenty-six double-page illustrations; volume two: thirty illustrations; volume three: thirty-four illustrations. Reprint of 'Meisan zufu' (first volume in 1804, extended to three volumes by 1806).
- Production date
Height: 26 centimetres (covers)
Width: 18.80 centimetres (covers)
- Curator's comments
- Clark 2001
The inscription reads: 'Mt Fuji. Located in Fuji County, Suruga Province. Adjoins the two provinces of Sagami and Kai to the north-east and to the south-east extends to Izu Province'. The view looks to be from the south-east, possibly deliberately to show Fuji at its most imperfect, with the subsidiary Mt Hoei jutting out inelegantly towards us and perhaps Mt Ashitaka in the foreground, thereby emphasizing that the ambitions of the book were primarily factual rather than artistic. For the illustrations are by Tani Buncho, the leading practitioner of Western-influenced topographical painting of his generation. The highpoint of Buncho's naturalism is represented by the travel-sketches 'Koyo tansho zu' ('Exploring Scenery Away from Public Duty'), somewhat mis-named since they were drawn while accompanying senior councillor Matsudaira Sadanobu – 'de facto' ruler at the time - on a tour of the coastal defences of Izu and Sagami in 1793. Many of the eighty sketches, from what was originally a folding album, include Mt Fuji.
This work was originally issued with the title 'Meizan zufu' ('Illustrated Album of Famous Mountains'), the first volume coming out in 1804, extended to three volumes by 1806. The British Museum copy is from the reprint edition of 1812. One of the prefaces, by Buncho, and one of the postscripts - by the compiler, a certain Kawamura Juan (Motoyoshi) - and Buncho, explain how in 1802 various sketches of mountains throughout the various provinces by Buncho and others, including his brother Gentan, were all re-drawn at a reduced scale but in great detail by Buncho for publication in woodblock. While such works already existed showing the famous mountains of China this was the first time the same had been done for Japan, and in a style that 'copied the truth' ('shinsha'). Volume one contains twenty-six double-page illustrations (of which Mt Fuji is the second); volume two, thirty and volume three, thirty-four, totalling ninety altogether. The style tones down the normal eccentricities of literati brushwork to serve the purpose of a more literal depiction, while adopting aerial perspectives that would have definitely seemed new and 'real' at the time.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001, 11 May-29 Jul, BM Japanese Galleries, '100 Views of Mount Fuji'
- Acquisition date
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Japanese Illustrated Book number: JIB.397A