Shōgaku Dokuhon Kangaku Suiteki [“Elementary Reader: Water-Dropper for the Encouragement of Learning”]
[Japan: workshop unidentified, ca. early to mid Meiji period (1870-1890s)].
A Bizen ware suiteki (water-dropper used to add water to ink for calligraphy or penmanship practice) in the shape of a fukurotoji-bound Japanese book. Bizen pottery is traditionally made in Okayama prefecture and is characterised by its reddish-brown hue and solidity resulting from high-temperature firing. The characters on the daisen title slip read Shōgaku Tokuhon, probably referring to the four-volume set of books originally published by the Ministry of Education in Meiji 6 (1873) and recognised as “the first Japanese language primary school reader”.¹ Said to be based on American educator Marcius Willson’s School and Family Series of readers (1860), Shōgaku Tokuhon was used at Japanese primary schools in the interests of modernisation and 'Western learning'. Kangaku, the two-character word etched to the upper right of the daisen, means 'encouragement of learning'. A charming water-dropper in the shape of a book, probably used by a child attending primary school.
A few small chips and minor discolouration. Length 9 x width 6.9 x height 4.8 cm.
1 Nordeborg, Martin. “Confucian Frosting on a Christian Cake: The Translation of an American Primer in Meiji Japan”, Japanese Language and Literature 43, no. 1 (2009): 83.