Tokyo: Jihei Tanaka, 1889-1890.
First and only edition. 2 vols. Oblong Large Octavo (ca. 16x23 cm). Vol. 1: t.p., 28 leaves, with 16 double-page and 17 single-page woodblock illustrations in text.; Vol. 2: 28 leaves, with 19 double-page and 13 single-page woodblock illustrations in text. Text and illustrations within single border. Original Japanese fukuro toji bindings: brownish paper covers with hand coloured woodblock vignettes and titles on the front covers; leaves sewn together with strings. Ink manuscript kanji on the bottom edges and back covers of both volumes. Red ink stamps on the first illustration in each volume. Covers and title labels slightly rubbed and soiled, otherwise a very good set.
Attractive collection of views of Far East and South-East Asia, from Japan to Singapore, depicted by noted Japanese artist Kubota Beisen during his eight-month voyage to the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889. The book was originally intended to be published in one volume, but due to a high public demand, the second volume was published the next year (1890). Since the volumes were published separately, with a one-year gap, the complete set is scarce. The views show Kiyomi beach (Shizuoka prefecture, Japan), Nagato Bakan (Shimonoseki, Japan), Shanghai (Suzhou Creek, East Gate market, and others), Guangdong, Hong Kong (including the town of Kowloon), mountains of Annam, Mekong River; there are also portraits of Chinese soldiers, prisoners, women with children, rickshaws, palanquin carriers, barbers, opium smokers, actors (and an interior of a Chinese theatre), house boats, local birds and animals, Vietnamese villages, and a series of views of Singapore (the harbour, several street scenes, a market, a group of hunters with a killed tiger), et al. Each volume houses the first page of the printed pink wrappers and a table of contents, the first volume also has a calligraphic title page and a one-page introduction. The front cover of the fukuro toji binding of each volume is decorated with the image of a steamship under Japanese flag sailing in a bowl of water.
“Kubota Beisen <…> is one of the most celebrated artists of Modern Japan. He was born at Kyoto, the ancient capital and well-known seat of fine arts; but unlike the works of so many artists from that city, his creations are characterized rather by bold design and lightness of touch that by elegance and elaborate finish. We may say that he is the first painter in the Japanese style who has freed himself from the fetters of the old rules. A gold medal was awarded to him by the committee of the Paris Exposition of 1889. In the Columbian Exposition, also, he received a first-class medal. During the late war [First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95] he went to the battlefields with the Japanese army. After his return from the front, His Majesty the Emperor was pleased to order him to draw in the Imperial presence, which is a favour very rarely accorded to an artist in this country. Since 1892 Kubota Beisen has been, and still is, attached to the Kokumin Shimbun, each number of that daily newspapers being richly illustrated by his work. It was in his capacity as special art correspondent of the Kokumin Shimbun that he was allowed to accompany the expeditionary forces” (The Far East: An English Edition of the Kokumin-No-Tomo. Vol. 1. No. 1. February 20th, 1896, Tokyo, p. 29).