Japanese School, circa 1840
Seven Japanese albums of original botanical water-colours. [No date but circa 1840]. 4° (267 x 197mm). 486 original pencil, water-colour and body-colour drawings of trees, fruit, vegetables, flowering plants, grasses and bulbous plants (162 with integral manuscript identification in Japanese characters). (Some marginal worming.) Stitched with black and gilt woven cloth head bands within limp silver-grey cloth covers speckled with gold leaf, all within a single 20th-century green cloth box with morocco label.
A VERY FINE SERIES OF LATE EDO PERIOD ALBUMS ILLUSTRATING A LARGE SELECTION OF PLANTS GROWING IN JAPAN JUST BEFORE THE COUNTRY OPENED UP TO TRADE WITH THE WEST. The species illustrated include trees, fruit, vegetables, flowering shrubs, bulbous plants, plants with rhizomes, grasses, climbers and annuals. The trees include pine, palm, sweet chestnut and prunus; the fruit: orange, mulberry, peach, almond, fig, banana, strawberry and grape; the vegetables: gourds, pumpkin, cucumber, squash, radish, brasicas, maize, leek, chilies, peas, beans, millet, aubergine, horseradish and barley. Amongst the other plants are tree-peony, camellia, hibiscus, heuchera, sweet-pea, aquilgia, aster, iris, sempervivum, buttercup, bamboo, gardenia, nasturtium, amaryllis, jasmine, morning glory, dicentra, clematis, begonia, oxalis, lilium, violet, euphorbia, toad-flax and bellflower. The technique used combines the use of light washes (generally for the stems) with the heavy application of body colour (for the leaves), then, using a very thin brush, this body-colour is overpainted wtih lines to suggest details (of leaf veins or petals). The looseness of some of the drawings suggests that these were not albums prepared for sale, but rather the private collection of an artist of great ability. (7)