Tokyo: Eisensha, 1885 (Meiji 18). 8vo (220 x 147 mm), stitched as issued in the four-hole yotsumetoji manner. COMPLETE with  woodblocks printed in color + 1 letterpress leaf (see below). Bound in the traditional Japanese fukurotoji binding style (original wrappers slightly soiled), with the original daisen mounted title-slip. In excellent condition. Very good. Item #4079
A SMALL BUT DAZZLING PUBLISHER'S ALBUM CONTAINING SOME OF THE MOST SENSATIONAL BOOK WRAPPERS THAT HAD APPEARED THITHERTO IN JAPAN. ISSUED WITHOUT ANY TEXT, THE COLLECTION CONTAINS 26 VIBRANT COLOR-PRINTED WOODBLOCKS DESIGNED BY UTAGAWA YOSHIIKU (1833-1904), BEING A CELEBRATION OF HIS WORK FOR THE EXTREMELY POPULAR SERIES OF SHORT NOVELS "KINKO JITSUROKO."
The illustrations ingeniously utilize several woodblock-printing techniques, including bokashi (gradation), tsuyadashi (burnishing, sometimes referred to as shōmenzuri in the print trade), karazuri (blind-embossing), and kirazuri (printing with mica). Yoshiiku was a pupil of Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861) and designed a wide range of prints including those depicting bijin (beautiful women), musha (warriors), yakusha (actors), and the sensationalized pictures of blood-stained mayhem called chimidoro-e and muzan-e (as here). Indeed, Yoshiiku's graphic designs have continued to influence Graphic Novels artists worldwide.
Our volume is certainly a conscious publishing effort as is attested by the letterpress title-slip, but it seems likely to have been issued by Eisensha as a collection of unused "Kinko Jitsuroko" wrappers designed by Yoshiiku. The illustrations were printed on one side only, originally intended to be pasted onto the novels' covers. In the present volume, the blank versos of two wrappers were affixed together along the bottom of the fore-edge; despite the fact that the two bespoke pages are not actually conjugate, this method allowed the publisher to bind the sheets in the fukurotoji manner, as if it was a "real" publication. Supporting our theory is presence at the end of an (almost) random letterpress leaf which came from the last page of one of the Eisensha story books. Including it eliminated the necessity of reprinting the Eisensha colophon, which here appears on the lower left corner).
MUST BE SEEN TO BE FULLY APPRECIATED.