TOKYO. Edo Meisho Zue [Famous Sights in and about Edo]. Twenty Volumes. Illustrated with ca. 600 woodcuts by Hasegawa Settan. By Gesshin Saitô et al. Small 4to., 260 x 185 mm, bound in original Japanese pale blue paper with paper title labels on front covers, stitched and bound accordion style with Japanese folded pages with silk-thread. In Japanese chitzu protective cases. [Tokyo: Suharaya Mohe, Tenpo 5-7 (1834-1836)].
Edo Meisho Zue describes the city of Tokyo and its surroundings, block by block, town by town, in a manner reminiscent of a walking tour with stops at famous sites along the way. The text includes information about the origins of the place, a particular site's name and its history, as well as quotations from well-known works of literature.
Edo (Tokyo) was almost completely destroyed in the great Meireki fire of 1657; 60-70% of the city was burned and over 100,000 lives lost. These volumes record the rebuilding of the city from 1660 to 1836 under new guidelines formed under the military and administrative direction of the Shoguns, who controlled Edo while the Emperor and his Court remained in Kyoto.
The twenty volumes are illustrated with over 600 woodcuts by Hasegawa Settan (1778-1843), renowned painter, calligrapher and ukiyo-e woodblock cutter. His masterpiece most certainly remains the corpus of woodcuts he provided for this book. In fact, the fame of the Edo Meisho Zue owes more to Settan's exceptional illustrations than it does to the vast descriptive text.
Agricultural farms set against rivers with out-buildings to house laborers and equipment, merchants transporting cargo along rivers in hand-paddled skiffs, numerous double-spread views of religious temples and sub-temples with their elaborate Japanese gardens, monks visiting shrines, tea ceremonies, celebrations under the cherry blossoms, laborers harvesting rice, military camps, and the noteworthy homes and estates of wealthy residents outside Edo, serve as subject matter for the volumes describing the environs of Edo. In the city of Edo itself Settan brings to life the hustle and bustle of the crowds. There are scenes of street festivals and fairs, markets and store fronts of the various Edo shopping districts, religious processions, street musicians and performers, performances at the theater, a seller of sake (shown in the often reproduced print of the Toshiyama Sake House in 1836 with large crowds blocking the entrance and happy clients celebrating outside), and scenes from the Yoshiwara quarter Geisha houses (to list but a few!).
The Saito family required over forty years to compile the information for this indispensable record of the "Capital of the Shoguns." The main author was Chosu Saitô (1737-1799), who is thought to have begun work on the massive Edo Meisho Zue around 1791, but died long before the project was finished. Then his son-in-law Yukitaka Saitô (1772-1818) took over, adding new sites and gathering more information on Edo and the surrounding region; but he, too, died before he could complete his task. His son, Gesshin Saitô (1804-1878), finally managed to bring all the research, writing, editing, and correcting to fruition in 1834. A fine copy of a very scarce and important work. Overall, a fine copy in original condition.
Kerlen, Catalogue of Pre-Meiji Japanese Books and Maps in Public Collections in the Netherlands # 224.
Item nr. 165084