Tales of the Floating World – Kibyôshi

Kibyôshi - two books side by side - Attributed to Utagawa Kunisada (1786 - 1865).

This posting is a bit of a departure from the “photoblog” theme, but being the old ex-Art major that I am I’ll probably venture into non-photographic excursions from time to time.

Hokusai, The Great Wave

My sister in law has a good eye for art and a weakness for eBay. Fortunately for me! She shared some (ok a lot…thanks Melissa!) recently and a couple of antique Japanese comic books were included. These were printed by woodblock around 1850 in the genre called Ukiyo-e. The fellow she bought it from claims these to be by the artist Kunisada (who was generally irritated by my question when I contacted him — how dare I doubt him!). In my not-so-extensive Google research I found that Kunisada was a younger contemporary of Hokusai (1760-1849), the artist of the most famous Japanese woodblock print with the awesome as well as gnarly wave framing Mount Fujiama. In his time Kunisada was more popular than Hokusai.

Click here for Volume 1 (issuu - view)
Click here for Volume 2 (issuu - view)

I wanted to scan the documents to further study the fragile booklets. I found a great way to show the documents, using a service at issuu.com, that takes PDFs (and a couple of other formats too) and converts them to a very slick online document that simulates the page turning of an actual document. This functionality can be integrated into wordpress.org blogs, but alas, not the free wordpress.com blog such as this one. Regardless — click on the links to the side to check out. Once you click on the link you should also be able to fullscreen the view. It’s pretty intuitive. Let me know if you have any trouble viewing.

When I first saw these books I thought, “oh, early manga”, but most sources I found said otherwise.

Here are a couple of modern video takes on Ukiyo-e (the floating world), the tradition that these books come from. The first (sublime) a very well done montage of Ukiyo-e images, the second (ridiculous) of a pachinko game with Ukiyo-e imagery. Cheesy but fun!



References and more information

The Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

A History of Manga – by Matt Thorn

A History of Manga – Wikipedia style

issuu.com – A great free way to post and view documents.


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