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Tiger from Seihō's Album of the Twelve Calendrical Animals


 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Tiger from the series

Seihō's Album of the Twelve Calendrical Animals

(Seihō gahaku hitsu jūnishi jō)

by Takeuchi Seihō, 1903

Boar from Takeuchi Seihō's Album of the Twelve Calendrical Animals

IHL Cat. #1576

About This Print and Seihō's Album of the Twelve Calendrical Animals

Picturing a tiger with his prey, a parrot, in his mouth, and representing the third sign of the zodiac, this print was published on January 1, 1903, as dated in its left margin.  As this print has a centerfold, it may have been issued as part of a folding album with the other eleven prints representing the animals in the zodiac, or it may have been issued as a stand-alone print. As shown in the comparison below, the treatment of the background on this collection's print is different then in other editions of this print.

Each of the prints is essentially a woodblock facsimile of what must have been an original watercolor created by Seihō, a painter rather than a print maker. In describing an earlier book of prints by the artist, also published by Unsōdō Publishing, Jack Hillier notes that the Meiji print-makers responded to the challenge of reproducing Seihō's watercolors, with "marvelous interpretive skills" and goes on to say “There is, in truth, a complete abnegation of the medium qua woodcut; its own virtues of bold line and flat wash are sacrificed in the cause of a facsimile rendering of a water-colour: this was a fundamental change in technique which led to incredible feats of reproduction…”1

The Entire Album - Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat/Sheep, Monkey, Cock, Dog, Pig/Boar

click on image to enlarge
image source: Metropolitan Museum of Art 2013.799

Dates of Publication
It is unclear when the twelve prints were originally issued.  Japan's National Diet Library lists their copy of the "bound book" (和装) as being published in 1900.  The British Museum lists their copy as published circa 1900. The Rijksmuseum lists their copy as being published between 1900 and 1915.2  The Metropolitan Museum of Art lists their copy as being published between 1905 and 1906. Several rare booksellers list their copies as being published between 1910 and 1912.  Unfortunately, neither the museums or the booksellers show the colophon from the book (if one was included), which would allow confirmation of the date of publishing.

In addition to the prints that were bound into folding albums, most, if not all, of the designs were issued at a later date (the Art Institute of Chicago suggests c. 1930s/1940s) as single sheets. These single sheet prints have a wider margin around them which is not present in most of the prints bound into a album and they do not have a centerfold, a result of these large dai-oban size prints being folded over when bound into an album.

Some, if not all, of the designs were printed in 1903 by Unsōdō, with some modifications to the background (see this collection's IHL Cat. 1576 Tiger as an example).  These 1903 prints were likely also issued as part of a folding album, as the examples I've seen all have a horizontal centerfold. The 1903 prints do carry a date of publication in their margin along with the publisher's copyright under the name of Yamada Naozaburō 山田直三郎, the founder of Unsōdō Publishing.  In addition, some, but not all of the twelve prints were re-issued (post-war II, I believe) by Unsōdō in shikishiban (square format).

Two different editions - this collection's print with a wash background on the right
click on image to enlarge

Tiger and the album cover to Seihō's Album of the Twelve Calendrical Animals

1 The Art of the Japanese Book, Jack Hillier, Sothebys Publications, London, 1987, p. 991.
2 The Rijksmuseum provides the following description of their copy of the album: "Light brown cover with mid-top white title strip with gold-colored splashes; 13 sheets: first page, title page; 12 prints with the animals of the zodiac: rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, swine; Last page, colophon. In green cover with white title strip." 

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #867
 Title or Description Tiger
 Series Seihō's Album of the Twelve Calendrical Animals [also seen translated as Seihō’s Album of the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac]
 セイホウ ガハク ヒツ ジュウニシジョウ Seihō gahaku hitsu jūnishi jō
 Takeuchi Seihō (1864-1942)
Seihō 栖鳳
 Seal of the Artist Seihō as shown above
 Publication Date January 1, 1903 
 明治三十五年一月一日 Meiji 35, 1st month, 1st day [as appears in left margin]
 Edition first edition
Unsōdō Publishing 
山田直三郎 Yamada Naozaburō [as appears in left margin]

publishing information in left margin, as shown left (click on image for enlargement):
明治三十五年一月一日 [Meiji 35, 1st month, 1st day]
印刷發行  複製不許 [print distribution all rights reserved]
京都市上京直寺町通二条南入一千五番戸 [publisher's address in Kyoto]
編輯兼發行者   山田直三郎 [edited and issued by Yamada Naozaburō (founder of Unsōdō Publishing)]
彫刻  北川英二郎  [Carver Kitagawa Eijirō (also seen written as 喜多川英二郎)]
印刷  山崎安太郎 [Printer Yamazaki Yasutarō]

 Carver Kitagawa Eijirō  北川英二郎
 Printer Yamazaki Yasutarō 山崎安太郎 
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition fair -  original vertical album fold but also multiple other vertical folds and wrinkling throughout; small discoloration above tiger
 Genre nihonga (also classed as e-hon, as the series prints exist as bound volumes)
 Format dai-ōban
 H x W Paper 14 7/8 x 20 1/4 in. (37.8 x 51.4 cm )
 H x W Image
 14 x 19 1/8 in. (35.6 x 48.6 cm)
 Collections This Print The British Museum has an earlier album of the 12 prints in their collection 1991,1112,0.52 (dated c. 1900) as does the Rijksmuseum RP-P-1993-138 (dated 1910-1915) and the National Diet Library Call Number 418-39 (entire album dated 1900; not shown); Metropolitan Museum of Art 2013.799 (entire album dated ca. 1905-6)
 Reference Literature
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