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Rare Books

Japanese Illustrated Books & Prints

The LSU Libraries' Special Collections contains a small number of Japanese illustrated books, prints, and other related materials from the Edo and Meiji periods (1603-1912). The collection, much of which was acquired in 2015, is intended to support the teaching of Asian art and history, as well as the global history of books, printing, and graphic design. These materials were featured in a 2016 main gallery exhibition, "A Voyage to the Floating World: Japanese Illustrated Books and East-West Cultural Exchange in the Nineteenth Century." A complete exhibition checklist is available on request.

Good examples of Japanese illustrated books in the library's collection include:

  • Shitikei Sanba, Shibai kinmo sui (1803). An illustrated glossary of Kabuki theater.
  • Kinsui Shotei, Nihon hyaku sho den isseki wa (1857). The story of Japan's 100 most famous generals, with depictions of military actions.
  • Kitao Masayohi, Choju ryakugashiki (undated). Simplified drawings of animals.
  • Kishida Tosho, Yamashiro meisho fugetsushu (1885). Two illustrated volumes of haiku poetry.
  • Hiroshige Utagawa, Shoshoku gatsu (1863). A book of designs, with over 100 illustrations of ships, horses, saddles, Mt. Fuji, samurai, arms, armor, snakes, pottery, flowers, textile patterns, fruit, etc.
  • Kinga Baitei, Seiyo Shinsho (1872). An illustrated Japanese history of the United States, written less than 20 years after Commodore Perry opened relations between the two countries.
  • Matsui Toshu, Matayori gajo (1901). Abstract Japanese design plates.

Several Japanese illustrated books (and related Western titles) are available in the McIlhenny Natural History Collection:

For prints, see:

Kasuga Gongen Genki emaki is a reproduction of a large picture-scroll, completed in 1309, telling the stories of miraculous events related to the Kasuga shrine and Kofukuji temple in Nara, one of the most ancient cities in Japan.

Woodblock-printed maps:

  • Dai nihon do chu saikenzu (1878)
  • Dai Nippon shaji meisho kyuuseki ichiran no zu (undated; Meiji era)

Early works by Japanese photographers include:



Also available are materials related to cultural exchange between Japanese and Western artists and designers in the late nineteenth century. Two historically important art journals in this area are:

  • Le Japon Artistique (1889-91). Influenced Art Nouveau and Impressionism. See the May 1888 issue for the blade of grass print that was mentioned by Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to his brother.
  • Kokka. Art journal intended to promote Asian art as the equal of Western art. Founded in Japan in 1889.

Of related interest are early writings on Japanese art by European art critics and dealers:

See also:

  • Matthew Calbraith Perry, Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan (1856). The reproductions of Japanese prints were America's first encounter with Japanese art.
  • The Japanese Fairy Tale series by Hasegawa Takejiro, printed for Western audiences on chirimen (crepe paper).
  • Chiushingura: or The Loyal League, a Japanese Romance (1876). The book's 29 woodblock illustrations were drawn and printed by Japanese artists on rice paper, then shipped to New York and bound with the main body of text.
  • The Darling of the Gods (1903). A remarkable artifact of East-West cultural exchange, designed by illustrator Yoshio Markino (1870-1956). Educated in San Francisco, Markino spent most of his career in England, fusing the styles of Asia and Europe. Bound in Japanese accordion style, the book was printed in London using Western color lithography. The crepe paper imitates Japanese novelty books of this period, which ironically were mostly produced for Western audiences.
  • Works by Lafcadio Hearn, a one-time resident of New Orleans who later lived in and wrote about Japan.

Examples of Art Nouveau publications influenced by Japanese art include Jules Auguste Habert-Dys, Fantaisies Décoratives (1886), and Eugène Grasset, La Plante et Ses Applications Ornementales (1897). For additional suggestions, see the separate guide to Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau Book Design.

Miscellaneous works:


Compiled by Michael Taylor, 2016

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