[Zenpachi (original illustrations by)].
[Ōsaka?: Hiyoshi Nobuhisa?, ca. mid to late Edo period (19th century?)].
Eshingyō, also known as mekurashinkyō, mekurakyō, and hannya eshingyō, are woodblock-printed copies of the Heart Sutra (Hannya Shingyō) produced for illiterate people. The illustrations provide vocal cues to the 'reader' - each illustration represents a word or syllable of the Heart Sutra, and when the illustrations are 'read' together aloud in order the speaker can be heard to be reciting the Heart Sutra. The partially mnemonic illustrations for eshingyō are thought to have been produced by Zenpachi of Iwate Prefecture in the Genroku period (1688-1704). Among other pictorial sutras and useful literature Zenpachi produced in the Shōtoku era (1711-1716) for illiterate people was the similarly pictorial Mekura-goyomi ("calendar for illiterate people"), also known as the Nanbugoyomi ("Nanbu calendar") or egoyomi ("pictorial calendar"). The illustrations in these works cannot be described as moji-e; nevertheless, the artificial relationship between the characters (moji) and pictures (e) allows the pictures (which are typically unrelated to the meaning of the sutra) to be read as if they were characters. They may therefore be considered logograms, rebuses, or even hanji-e ("puzzle-pictures"). The sutras are an interesting example of rebuses being used practically rather than for amusement, although undoubtedly some people enjoyed them in this way. This copy was probably around the early to mid-nineteenth century. An ex-owner has written the characters 観音 十大 (and one illegible character, perhaps 願) over the original daisen title slip, and the handwritten colophon claims the sutra was printed in Osaka by Hiyoshi Nobuhisa. It seems likely that these sutras, like egoyomi ("pictorial calendars"), were increasingly used for amusement rather than for practical means as literacy increased in the Meiji period; both egoyomi and eshingyō continued to be published well into the Shōwa period (1926-1989). Editions with varying paginations are extant; this example contains a preliminary panel featuring the goddess of mercy and 65 illustrations in 17 panels.
One concertina-bound (orihon) volume, presumed complete, on single leaves. Presumed original wrappers generally worn, ex-ownership notes to upper. Occasional marks, browning, creases, and small gutter tears internally. Ex-ownership notes to upper pastedown, handwritten colophon note to lower pastedown. 17 x 7.2 cm when folded; approximately 17 x 143 cm including wrappers when fully unfurled.