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Showing posts with label illustrations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label illustrations. Show all posts

17 November 2017

Slip back in time to Edo culture in Japan

Are you a student of Japanese culture and history? Subject Librarian Ayako Hatta introduces us to books held at Monash  describing and illustrating life in 17th century Japan.



The book “Ichinichi Edojin 一日江戸人” is an introduction to the lifestyle of the 17th century Edo江戸, Japan.  Edo as it was then known, is now known as the capital city, Tokyo東京.

The Edo period (1603-1868) was led by the shogun Tokugawa Family, a period which was often known to be a peaceful and happy time which lasted over 260 years. One of the foreign policies that the Tokugawa Family implemented was the “closed-door policy” (sakoku = 鎖国) that restricts any information coming inside Japan such as Christianity, immigration, trading and communicating with the outside world. A very unique culture including kabuki (dance-drama = 歌舞伎) with fashion & designs, ukiyo-e (picture of the floating world= 浮世絵) & shunga (erotic art = 春画) had flourished and became very popular during this period.

The population was already over a million people by the late Edo period, which at the time was larger than the population of London or Paris. Half of the Edo population were samurai (= 侍) and monks (sō = 僧), while the rest were town people (chōmin = 町民). Up to sixty percent of town people originally came from the country side and were skillful craftspeople (shokunin = 職人) or merchants (shōnin = 商人). Only five percent of them were known as “the real locals” (Edokko = 江戸っ子). 

Edokkogo etoki jiten ; 江戸っ子語絵解き辞典
(2) Edokkogo etoki jiten ; 江戸っ子語絵解き辞典

The majority of the Edokko population were tenants  and eighty percent of the people lived in dwellings called nagaya (“nagaya = 長屋”). The nagaya dwellings have many small rooms, an indoor kitchenette and a shared well and toilet outside. There were nearby public baths that the Edokko used at least twice a day.  Generally speaking Japanese people love to take baths but taking a bath 4 or 5 times a day was typical of the Eddoko. It was not because the Eddoko had a passion for cleanliness but because of the humid climate and a lot of sandy dust in the area.

The front cover of Ichinichi Edojin (top right) illustrates the way people dressed and travelled in the Edo period. When travelling, walking was the main form of transport. To travel outside of Edo, the traveller would need a “travel ticket” (ōrai kitte = 往来切手) from the master of the area or from a temple, and also a “certificate” (tegata = 手形) from the magistrate’s office. This was a people's identification according to families and guarantee of identity. The certificate also contained other details such as religion, funeral arrangement, and a statement that the traveller was not Christian as Christianity was prohibited by law during this period.

This is only a brief overview of life in Edo, Many more examples of how the Edo people lived are explored in the book with lots of manga illustrations.

(3) Sugiura Hinako no Edojuku ; 杉浦日向子の江戸塾



The author of “Ichinichi Edojin”, Hinako Sugiura was one of the notable manga artists in Japan. She was also a researcher with many scholarly yet highly accessible publications of resource materials specialising in the Edo period,. The book is ideal for anyone interested in learning more about the cultural history of Japan.

You can find this book and others illustrated here in the Japanese Collection located on the first floor of the Matheson Library in the Asian Collections. For more information about the Edo culture in English, use the Library Advanced Search and type in “edo period” in the subject field from the Monash University Library homepage.

Call numbers:
(1) JAP 952.025 S947.I 2005 
(2) JAP 952.025 S252E 2010
(3)  JAP 952.025 S947S 2006





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2 August 2017

Annotations and illustrations delight collectors

Inscriptions in children's books of the past can be of interest to both scholars and collectors, writes librarian Mia Goodwin.

Sometimes books inscribed by ordinary people can be valuable if the inscription gives insight into the context of the book’s history, production, reception or use.

Take, for example, Monash University Library Rare Books Collection’s copy of Tippoo: A tale of a tiger, by C. W. Cole (1905). This otherwise ordinary children’s book has become extraordinary due to the intriguing annotations inscribed by a previous owner. Mary M. Daubeney gifted the book to Peggy Morton, and carefully annotated each picture with quotations from some of Thomas Moore’s Irish melodies, often to comedic effect. See example above.

This demonstrates historical use of the book itself; how the owner engaged with it, adding textual layers and changing the book to become more playful and distinct for a gift.

Often, an ordinary book becomes especially unique, and therefore ‘rare’, if it was owned by someone famous, particularly if they inscribed their name or wrote a note in the book itself. For example, the Rare Books Collection is fortunate to hold a deluxe second edition of  Stories from Hans Andersen (1912), which includes a touching inscription by Nobel prize-winning author, Sinclair Lewis (1885 – 1951), who gave the book to his parents for Christmas in 1914, as shown below.


Sinclair Lewis was an American author famous for his wit and critique of the American literary establishment. That Lewis gave Andersen’s fairy tales to his parents demonstrates an appreciation of the Danish children’s author, and thus by examining the book in its context, scholarly conclusions may be drawn about Lewis’ literary upbringing and interests that could perhaps inform discussions around Lewis’ work. This is a benefit of examining rare books in context, and demonstrates one way that students and researchers can engage with the Rare Books Collection.

Deluxe books, especially for children, were often given as Christmas gifts in the early twentieth century. This stately edition is a collection of some of Andersen’s most loved stories, including ‘The Snow Queen’ and ‘The Mermaid’. The book is bound in pictorial cloth with beautiful inlaid gilt, as shown at right:

The book includes illustrations by French artist, Edmund Dulac (1882 – 1953). Dulac’s illustrations were exhibited by Leicester Galleries, and published by Hodder & Stoughton. The illustrations are of exceptional quality and were tipped-in separately. Dulac was a leading artist in the Golden Age of Illustration, alongside others such as Arthur Rackham, W. Heath Robinson, and Kay Nielsen. These artists largely provided illustrations for children’s books, and typically experimented with colour and rendering techniques. Their efforts were very well received:

Dulac's art, however, is not of the kind that only the critic may enjoy, for it is rich with poetry and imagination, and strong in the possession of that decorative element which renders a picture universally pleasing” (Stuart, 1910)

 For lovely examples of Dulac’s work see the Snow Queen and other characters below:






To view these books and other rare items, or for research advice and discussion contact Rare Books, or come and visit us at the new Special Collections Reading Room at Matheson Library.


Andersen, Hans Christian. Stories from Hans Andersen. Illustrated by Edmund Dulac, 2nd ed., Hodder & Stoughton, 1912.

Cole, C. W., and William Ralston. Tippoo : A Tale of a Tiger. New Ed., Simpkin Marshall / Hamilton Kent & Co, 1905.

Stuart, Evelyn Marie. “Edmund Dulac—A Poet of the Brush.” Fine Arts Journal, vol. 23, no. 2, 1910, pp. 87–102. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23905910.

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