Japan: Meiji Year 29 (1896). Fanfold (270 x 140 mm), containing 63 "pages" of white characters cut out of black background. Original silk binding, original silk label trimmed in gold (somewhat worn but perfectly sound). Pasted inside back board is a slip erroneously dating the work as "1887." Item #2698
Highly curious Japanese book commemorating the achievements of a known Samurai. The process of the book's creation is indeterminate: it does not appear to have been the "stone rubbing" technique. Originally a Chinese invention, the "stone rubbing" technique was also employed by Japanese publishers for transmitting calligraphic text, as here. "Rubbings were not only a means of diffusion but also a very faithful means of reproducing engraved characters over the stone, moistening it to make it more easily moulded and pressing it with brushes in order to squeeze it into the hollow parts of the relief. When the paper dried, the flat surface of the sheet still adhering to the stone was swabbed with ink. When the sheet was peeled away, the writing appeared in white on a black ground, the white parts exactly reproducing the relief of the inscription. The paper was moistened again to flatten it, and then it was mounted on a scroll or cut out to be mounted in an album" (Billeter, Chinese Art of Writing, p. 112/3).
Our attention is drawn to an extremely interesting section in Peter Kornicki's "The Book in Japan" (pp. 146-147) entitled "Blockprinting in the Tokugawa and Early Meiji Periods." Here Kornicki identifies three different woodblock processes: color printing using multiple woodblocks; Hidarihan (or Inkokubon), developed for printing books of calligraphic samples. There the relationship between the text and the surrounding area was reversed so that in was the text that was carved away from the blocks, with the result that the text appeared as white against a black background, like a rubbing of an incised inscription. Around 1700 a new technique came into use: shomenzuri, which involved in effect taking a rubbing from the actual wood blocks rather than applying ink to them in the usual way, and which was thought to produce a superior impression of the flow of calligraphy. This process transformed the commercial potential of Japanese calligraphic book production, and involved increasing specialization of calligraphers, block-carvers, and printers.
We are grateful to Deborah Rudolph, our colleague at the Starr East Asia Library, Berkeley, for locating an image and description of the original copper monument that bears the inscriptions in the present volume.
The calligrapher was Nomora Motosuke (Yusuke), known as "Soken" (1842-1927). Nomore Motosuke was a Japanese samurai, government official, and classicist who became one of the top three ranked calligraphers in Japan. This fanfold document was written by the emperor's orders. The text commemorates elevation in 1895 of Samurai fuedal lord M ri Motonori (1839-1896) to Junior Third Rank. In Japanese Motonori's name is -- he was also known as M ri Sadahiro . Not in OCLC. There is a copy at the Yamaguchi Archives.