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The appearance of illustrated books

The appearance of illustrated books

Starting from the 16th century, it became common to insert illustrations in book-style formats. All illustrated books were in the so-called “pouch” binding (fukurotoji). First, read the following article, and then watch Prof. Sasaki explain the details with examples.

We have noted that in Japan illustrations were associated with the scroll format, so for a long time no one attempted to insert images in book-format books even though it would not have been particularly difficult to do so. We have also mentioned the exception of handwritten copies of Chinese printed books featuring “plates” (as opposed to illustrations), the earliest examples of which date from the Kamakura period. The only pre-16th century book-format book that contains illustrations is a 13th century copy of the Tale of Genji bound in detchōsō binding.

However, starting from the 16th century, it became common to insert illustrations in book-style formats. All illustrated books were in the so-called “pouch” binding (fukurotoji), and came in two main sizes, a standard one and a smaller one approximately half the height of the regular size with “low” but wide pages (known as yoko-hon or “horizontal” books).

The examples of larger fukurotoji books in Keio Library’s collection include this slightly smaller than usual 16th century item measuring 21.7 by 27.4 cm(Ōgi-awase monogatari, Fig.1), and a rather large item measuring 25.0 x 31.9 cm which dates from the turn of the 17th century. (Yonjūni no monoarasoi, Fig.2)

illustrated books Fig.1. Ōgi-awase monogatari, Click to take a closer look

illustrated books Fig.2. Shijūni no monoarasoi, Click to take a closer look

Among the horizontal fukurotoji (yokohon), we can mention this early 17th century manuscript of the Bishamon no honji 24.6 x 16.5 cm (Fig.3) and the more or less contemporaneous (and slightly larger) Giō 25.6 x 18.5 cm (Fig.4).

illustrated books Fig.3. Bishamon no honji, Click to take a closer look

illustrated books Fig.4. Giō, Click to take a closer look

To summarize, both scrolls and fukurotoji books were made in two sizes, one twice as big as the other. The likely reason is that the same sheets of paper that were used to make large and small scrolls were also used to make illustrated fukurotoji books. The fact that in both fukurotoji and scrolls only one side of the paper is used also tells us that for those making these books paper was fairly easy to source.

Finally, it is worth mentioning items of rare or uncommon size. This one(Tokiwa no uba , Fig.5)measures 21.5 x 19.3 cm and it is almost square in shape.

Illustrated Books Fig.5. Tokiwa no uba (Old Lady Tokiwa), late-Muromachi period,
Click to take a closer look

Next are these two rather large books which look just like standard large fukurotoji books that have been rotated 90 degrees; the measurements are 34 by 25.8 cm.(Isozaki, Fig.6).

Illustrated Books Fig.6. Isozaki, early Edo period,
Click to take a closer look

Books introduced in the video

1. Taketori monogatari 2. A piece of big size of illustrated book (1) 3. A piece of big size of illustrated book (2)
4. Chūjōhime 5. Bunshō Sōsi 6. Kachō fūgetsu
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Japanese Culture Through Rare Books

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