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The Wisdom of Gassendi [Proving that the Clouds Move, Not the Moon]

Raikō (Yorimitsu) Enters the Treasure Mountain from the series Sketches by Yoshitoshi

Japanese Color Woodblock Prints 

The Wisdom of Gassendi 

[Proving that the Clouds Move, Not the Moon],

1888 (orig. 1883/1884)

by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi

Ikina from the series Instructive Models of Lofty Ambition

IHL Cat. #1304

About This Print

In this print, re-printed in 1888 and originally created in 1883 for volume four of the six volume elementary school morals textbook Nishikie Shūshindan ("Brocade Pictures for Moral Education"), Yoshitoshi portrays the French astronomer, mathematician, philosopher and priest Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655) as a child proving to his friends that the moon remains stationary while the clouds move.  The print's large cartouche (see detail below) provides an explanation suitable for a child of elementary school age to understand.

For more information about shūshindan (moral education) and the prints included in, or associated with, these textbooks see the article Brocade Pictures for Moral Education on this site.

To see the original print bound into Nishikie Shūshindan ("Brocade Pictures for Moral Education") see IHL Cat. #1541.

Explanatory Cartouche

click on image to enlarge

Pierre Gassendi and the Anecdote the Print is Based Upon

Born in France, Pierre Gassendi was a prodigy who attended college at a very young age. He is noted for his contributions to astronomy, mathematics and philosophy.  While he was an ordained priest he was also the leader of a Parisian group of free-thinkers.

The print is based on an anecdote demonstrating how the young Gassendi used his powers of observation to settle a dispute among his friends over whether the moon or the clouds were moving in the night sky. By having his friends stay stationary beneath a tree and site the moon between a set of branches, he pointed out to them that while the moon was steadily visible between the branches, different clouds were passing by in succession.

The Illustrations and Prints in the Textbooks

Yoshitoshi designed twelve aiban-size color prints along with all thirty-three black and white illustrations for the six volumes of Brocade Prints for Moral Obligations, issued between March 1882 and July 1884. Between one and three of Yositoshi's color prints were inserted, each print being folded in half, in the front of each book. 

Many of Yoshitoshi's black and white illustrations later became the basis of single-sheet oban-size color prints designed by a number of his students, as is explained in the notes to the print titled Tame/reject wildness/violence with the sincere spirit of a filial child (IHL Cat. #430) by the artist Kobayashi Toshimitsu (active 1876–1904), a student of Yoshitoshi's‎.

Most, if not all, of the twelve color prints Yoshitoshi designed for the textbooks were reprinted in 1888 and sold as individual sheets.

Left Margin Details from the 1888 Re-print

 Right Column:
明治十六 年九 月二十六 日板權免許 
Meiji 16th year, 9th month, 26th day [September 26, 1883], publishing rights license

Left Column:
同年十月出版 年十一 月三日 再版
Meiji 16th year, 10th month [October 1883], publishing 同廿一
Meiji 21st year, 11th month, 3rd day [November 3, 1888], reprinting (second edition)
 Right Column:
編輯兼出版 compilation and publication
東京下谷区練塀町十四番地 [publisher's Tokyo address]
熊本県士族 (Kumamoto ken shizoku) meaning a descendant of a samurai in Kumamoto prefecture. 
辻敬之  Tsuji Keiji [Tsuji Keiji, of the publishing house Fukyūsha 普及舎]

Left Column:
發兌 issued 同所 at the same place [by] 普及舎 Fukyūsha

Comparison of original 1883 textbook edition and 1888 re-printed edition

Comparison of print as inserted in textbook (on left) with the reprinted version.
click on image to enlarge

A Little About the Publisher
Source: Principle, Practice, and the Politics of Educational Reform in Meiji Japan, Mark Elwood Lincicome, University of Hawaii Press, 1995, p. 81-82.

Tsuji Keiji, an alumnus of the Tokyo Normal School and the author of several textbooks, was intensely committed to the dissemination of developmental education. To that end, in 1882 he established his own publishing house, the Fukyūsha (fukyū means “disseminate”), which published numerous books incorporating the principles of developmental education.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog#1304
 Title Wisdom of Gassendi
 Series originally included in Volume 4 (巻四) of the textbook Nishikie Shūshindan  錦絵修身談 (Brocade Pictures for Moral Education)
 Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892)

應需芳年画 Ōju Yoshitoshi ga 

 Seal 芳年 Yoshitoshi in seal script as shown above
 Date Reprinting date November 3, 1888
 Publisher 普及舎 辻敬之 Tsuji Keiji of Fukyūsha
 Impression fair - loss of some detail due to wear in blocks
 Colors good
 Condition fair - soiling; stray printer marks
 Genre kyōiku nishikie
 Miscellaneous Keyes 454-3
 Format horizonal uncut ōban sheet
 H x W Paper 10 1/8 x 14 3/16 in. (25.7 x 36 cm)
 H x W Image
 8 1/16 x 9 11/16 in. (20.5 x 24.6 cm)
 Collections This Print National Diet Library Call Number 特35-408; Philadelphia Museum of Art 1987-47-321
 Reference Literature

last revision:
1/26/2017 (created)