Toyokuni Woodblock “E-hon” Book, c. 1857

These are small, woodblock printed books that date from the last part of the 19th century. This one in particular is dated “3rd year of Ansei”, c. 1857.

They are called “E-hon” in Japanese, which literally means “picture book”, but they are not comic books. The E-hon are a “serialized” story of all things Japanese: love, adventure, feudal politics, mythical legends and sometimes even ghosts. They generally came out every week, or every month, with a continuing story, and they were inexpensive enough for the general population to purchase and enjoy reading.

We have provided four photos for each book, including the “cover” of the book, which is the “last” page by western standards, and is a full color woodblock print; all the other woodblock printed pages are printed in black and white. Unlike western books, Japanese books are read from “back to front”, from top to bottom, and from right to left. These books generally have 20 woodblock-printed pages or more, in any given book. If you look at the tiny calligraphy print in the background of each illustration please remember that what you are seeing was first created as an actual carved woodblock, with each small character carved into the wood BACKWARDS. Then it was inked and printed on Japanese washi paper, so that it could be read normally.

The woodblock printed part of this book was designed by the famous artist Toyokuni, then handed over to the carvers who carved the actual blocks. Then that was handed over to the printer who printed it on paper.

An immense amount of time and energy went into each and every one of the E-hon books. They are 4 and 3/4″ wide, and seven inches tall. Each of them is a fascinating, labor-intensive piece of art.

Please be aware, each book is about 150 years old and is well worn, having been read by many, many people of that day and age. None of these E-hon are perfect or pristine; some even have worm holes. But they are in pretty good condition for their age.

Perfect for that person in your life who loves Japan and thinks they have everything.

$60 plus $10 shipping within the U.S.