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Japanese Pillow Book.

No place: no publisher, [c.1860] Stock Code: 146236
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A well-preserved example of Japanese pillow book from the Meiji period. Erotic publications of the time were not sanctioned by the Shogunate, and artists, wood block carvers, and printers risked severe punishment if caught, resulting in a pseudonymous or anonymous (as here) publication issued in small numbers and distributed secretly. This is a very good survival.

Commonly called "Pillow Books" or "Makura Zoshiki", these erotic books were often gifted to couples on their wedding night, and certainly popular across all spectrum of Japanese society.

This was almost certainly a fukurotoji book (literally envelope-bound, a technique usually referred to in the West as "concertina-style"). This means that the pages would present a joint fold at the fore edge, so that the mica paper (inside the "envelope" thus formed) would not have been seen as it was simply used to make the printed characters clearer and prevent them from showing by transparency through the paper.

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Duodecimo (115 x 80 mm), ff. [28]. 12 leaves of text and 11 leaves of illustrations printed on a single side and interleaved with leaves of mica-rich paper (6 free, 5 pasted to the verso of a printed leaf), bound in the original heavy mulberry paper wrappers stitched with later brown silk thread in Yotsume toji style, woodblock-printed floral motifs in blue, yellow, and brown to wrappers. Housed in a custom red-brown cloth chemise and matching solander box with titles in gilt to leather spine label.


5 double-page woodblock erotic illustrations printed in green, blue, black, yellow, and brown, woodblock single-leaf bamboo branch illustration printed in black and brown.


Wrappers softened and faded, occasional light creasing and faint staining to contents, minute worming to last leaf and rear pastedown, pages open at the fore-edge, the illustrations clean and bright; a very good survival.


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