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Illustrated tetsuyōsō-style books

Starting roughly in the second half of the 17th century, illustrated books also began to be made in the more prestigious tetsuyōsō format.

The second half of the 17th century saw the appearance of illustrated books also began to be made in the more prestigious tetsuyōsō format. They stand out for their beauty and quality. First, read the following article, and then watch Prof. Sasaki’s video explanation.

It is likely that the appearance of the illustrated fukurotoji books gradually weakened whatever resistance there might have been against placing illustrations in book-type formats. An important role may have also been played by the so-called trousseau books (yomeiri-bon), which from a design point of view were in every respect identical to illustrated tetsuyōsō books, and so it is possible that the first illustrated tetsuyōsō books were produced as gifts for new brides. Both the writing and the artwork in illustrated fukurotoji books tend to have a certain childish simplicity to them, especially in the horizontal, yoko-hon ones.

By contrast, tetsuyōsō books are usually of superior quality throughout, from the quality of the paper to the beauty and detail of the illustrations, which suggests that they were seen as a luxurious kind of picture books. With the appearance of illustrated tetsuyōsō-style books the prejudice against placing pictures in book-style formats vanished completely.

The vast majority of the illustrated tetsuyōsō books are in the larger “quarter” (yotsuhan) format. These two examples Monjuhime (Princess Monju) (Fig.1) and Tanabata (Tanabata, a.k.a. Ame no wakamiko)(Fig.2) measure 17.9 x 23.8 cm and 18.1 x 24.2 cm respectively, which is standard for this type of books.

Monjuhime Fig.1. Monjuhime Click to take a closer look

Tanabata Fig.2. Tanabata Click to take a closer look

Though much rarer, there are some examples of illustrated “eighth-size” books (yatsuhan-bon) or even smaller, but all come in vertical rather than horizontal alignment. Both the calligraphy and the artwork on this particular book Genji monogatari (Fig.3) are by a woman called Isome Tsuna (active 17th c.) who has been recently garnering attention as an author of illustrated books. It is extremely small, measuring just 4.6 by 6.0 cm. In addition to the standard formats, Tsuna also experimented with smaller ones, this being a particularly tiny example of her work.

Genji monogatari Fig.3. Genji monogatari Click to take a closer look

Books introduced in the video

1. Chūjōhime 2. Bunshō Sōsi 3. Genjimonogatari “Hanachirusato” 4. Atsutada shū
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Japanese Culture Through Rare Books

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