This album, including thirty-three Kyosai drawings, was a gift to David Murray (1830-1905) from the Japanese goverment around January 1879, when he left Japan. Murray was professor of mathematics and astronomy at Rutgers College from 1863 until 1873. During these years he became a mentor to the first Japanese students in the United States who had been sent to Rutgers in 1866 under the auspices of the Dutch Reformed church. The experience marked the beginning of his lifelong interest in Japan and the education of its people. In 1873 he was hired as top-ranking foreign adviser to the Japanese Ministry of Education to establish a modern public education system. He lived in Tokyo for nearly six years as superintendent of schools and colleges. Among his important contributions was his advocacy of women's education. In 1876 he was a commissioner for Japan's participation in the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. He helped draw up plans for the establishment Tokyo University and recommended the establishmentof the National Museum. He was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun by the emperor of Japan in 1878.
There is a group of 80 paintings by Kyosai of very similar subjects (demons, hell scenes, fantastic animals and the like) in the British Museum. They were commissioned in 1878-79 by William Anderson (1842-1900), head of the Naval Medical College in Tokyo from 1873 to 1880 (see Timothy Clark, Demon of Painting: The Art of Kawanabe Kyosai [London: British Museum Press, 1993], especially nos. 11-80). Anderson was one of many foreigners who were drawn to Kyosai, a lively practitioner of traditional painting styles with an open, welcoming manner. Kyosai, though not a western-style painter, enjoyed the company of foreigners, including Ernest Fenollosa, Frank Brinkley, Edwin Baelz and Josiah Condor among others.