Kokkei zuan ["Humorous designs"]
Kamisaka, Sekka [illustrated by].
Kyōto: Yamada Naosaburō, Yamada Unsōdō, Meiji 36 .
An album of amusing patterns and illustrations by the famous designer and Neo-Rinpa artist Kamisaka Sekka (1866–1942). Kokkei zuan was published two years after Sekka was sent by the Japanese government to Glasgow as part of Japan's modernisation scheme, and shows a synthesis of Japanese and Art Nouveau styles. This copy lacks the frontispiece of a windmill, but nevertheless brilliantly showcases Sekka's versatility as an artist in 46 playful designs over 30 colour woodblock-printed pages. Sekka does not reference the similarly-themed works of Santō Kyōden in his preface, and it is unclear if he even knew of the great author's textile-related books. The title is, however, suggestive of Akatsuki no Kanenari's Kokkei manga (1823). While it can be argued that Kyōden's works were at least partially designed with dyeing in mind, the focus of Sekka's Kokkei zuan is clearly art for art's sake, or perhaps humour for humour's sake. An important work that represents the timeless popularity of humorous design in Japan, by one of the Meiji period's most acclaimed artists.
One concertina-bound (orijō) volume, lacking or printed without the windmill frontispiece. Original upper board soiled, with light stains and losses to woodblock-printed paper. Lower board non-original, English title bound as upper pastedown. Occasional small tears and repairs to gutter versos and leaf extremities. Light internal browning, waves, and marks. Faint stain to upper margin of colophon. [16 unnumbered leaves including colophon and preface]. 25 x 18.2 cm.