- Museum number
Object: Kokon yakusha monogatari, zen 古今役者物語 全 (Tales of actors past and present, complete)
Object: Kyōgen zukushi (Actors past and present)
Illustrated book, woodblock, one volume (complete). A guide to the world of kabuki, with views of theatres, actor's crests, and illustrations of famous scenes from kabuki plays.
- Production date
Height: 26.30 centimetres (cover)
Width: 18.50 centimetres (cover)
- Curator's comments
- One of the most important printed sources concerning early Kabuki, published in the same year and with the same format as Moronobu’s Yoshiwara koi no michibiki, a similar guide to Yoshiwara pleasure quarter. This is one of only two copies of the first edition presently known (the other, formerly in the collection of Edmond de Goncourt, then Werner Schindler, is currently owned by a Tokyo book dealer).
Each page has text and three actor crests in the top third, contained within a cusped border, and illustrations in the bottom two-thirds. After exterior views of the Nakamura and Ichimura theatres we see a party with actors and a backstage dressing room. The rest of the book comprises sixteen double-pages of famous scenes from Kabuki plays performed mainly in the Kanbun era (1661-73). Although unsigned the book is attributed, without doubt, to Moronobu.
From the early nineteenth century onwards, the text and illustrations have been used as important primary sources for the study of the history of Kabuki, beginning with references by the leading popular author Ryūtei Tanehiko (1783-1842). The several handwritten texts bound into the volume evidence the similar historiographic and bibliographic importance of this rare specimen.
BM also has a painted handscroll Scenes in a Theatre Teahouse by Moronobu (1881,1210, 0.1710) dated 1685 which bears instructive comparison with this book.
This is apparently the first edition, as is the ex-Goncourt-Schindler copy illustrated in Sato 1992
- The book is complete, but with two pages of the preface moved to the very end of the volume.
- A hand-written preface dated Meiji 13 (1880) by Segawa Jokō III (1806-1881) signed Engekisō (‘Old theatre fan’) on the first and second pages attached inside the cover, mentions a Mr. Someya, the then-owner of the book, and says how rare and important it is. (The book had long been known as a classic reference on kabuki theatre history.)
- The hand-written afterword, by Ryutei Umehiko (1822-1896) a pupil of the famous writer Ryūtei Tanehiko, notes that Tanehiko had valued the book highly, and also refers to the owner, his friend Mr. Someya.
- A written document of Meiji 14 (1881) mentions that Gekijō Shūran-kai of the Ichimura theatre, a group of theatre lovers, had received the book, valued at 1 yen, from Mr. Someya of the Rokuni-ren, another group of theatre lovers.
- The seals of various former owners are impressed on the first page (after the handwritten note): Narasaki Bunko, Gyokumen-dō, Ōta Hanakage/Ka’ei, and a circular seal (unread).
Asano Shūgō has suggested that this is the same first edition as the ex-Schindler copy.
See Satō Satoru, ‘Hanpon shōkai 1 – Kokon yakusha monogatari’, Ukiyo-e geijutsu 103, Jan. 1992, pp. 14-37 (full reproduction and transcription of the ex-Goncourt-Schindler copy, the only other known first edition).
Chiba-shi Bijutsukan, eds., Hishikawa Moronobu ten, Chiba, 2000, no. 108 (ex-Goncourt-Schindler copy; commentary by Asano Shūgō).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2016 9 Jan-28 Feb, Chiba City Museum of Art, Ukiyo-e: Power of the Woodblock, Power of the Brush
- Acquisition date
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Japanese Illustrated Book number: JIB.1036