Lovers of Japanese culture will be interested in this facsimile edition of Kitagawa Utamaro’s Studies from Nature available exclusively from The Folio Society and limited to 500 copies, making it a real collector’s item.
The lavishly-produced books are high-quality reproductions which come with commentary volume. They are printed and bound in a cloth-covered presentation box lined with printed paper and tied with grosgrain ribbon. Altogether, five volumes are bound in Twist paper printed with original designs redrawn by Neil Gower. You will also find a limitation certificate wrapped in Japanese Watermark Unryu paper.
During Japan’s Edo period, an era in which art and literature flourished, Kitagawa Utamaro (c.1754–1806) was regarded as one of Japan’s most highly regarded artists and printmakers. Alongside his contemporaries Hiroshige and Hokusai, Utamaro was an acknowledged master of ukiyo-e (pictures of the Floating World).
Although he is now renowned for bijin ōkubi-e, pictures of beautiful women, it is Utamaro’s Studies from Nature, rarely seen and never before reproduced in facsimile, that reveal his unique artistic genius. These five superbly illustrated books of insects, shells and birds, designed between 1788 and 1790 and amongst Utamaro’s earliest known works, display his talent for pairing strong composition with a delicacy of design.
The Folio Society has captured these beautiful books designed to be read in the traditional Japanese style from back cover to front, and from right to left across the page. In each, Utamaro’s elegant illustrations, as interesting to the naturalist as they are to lovers of art and poetry, are paired with kyōka: playful, erudite and often erotic poems on the sentiments of love, composed by some of the form’s most prominent poets.
The five exquisite volumes that comprise Studies from Nature – the two-volume The Book of Crawling Creatures, the single-volume Gifts of the Ebb Tide and the two-volume The Book of Myriad Birds – are considered the ne plus ultra of the colour woodblock printer’s art and the art of bookmaking of the period and, in fact, surpass most craft bookmaking today.
The Folio Society has printed from amongst the finest surviving first editions – luxury items in their own time and now treasures of the British Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum – reproducing each element with absolute fidelity to create a magnificent facsimile. The publication is accompanied by an in-depth commentary which includes a full translation and essays on the poetry, the artist and the culture of the Floating World.
See the Folio Society for more details and to order.