until, about the year 1765, the number of blocks was increased, and thereby the foundation laid for wood-engravings unrestricted as to colour effect. The period of transition from the primitive two-colour to the completely developed polychrome prints, which for us represent Japanese wood-engraving par excellence, was very short. It embraced not much more than the first half of the sixties.
The colour print, like Japanese art in general, was probably brought over originally from China. True, a statement is reported by Satow, in the Transactions of 1881, on the authority of an author named Sakakibara, that coloured prints of a likeness of the celebrated actor Ichikawa Danjuro, the founder of an actor-clan that still flourishes, were sold in the streets of Yedo in the year 1695. But this should doubtless be interpreted as referring to woodcuts coloured by hand. Prints in another colour than black seem to have been produced very early, although only quite exceptionally; at least, Strange cites (page 3) a book that appeared in the year 1667, containing patterns for kimonos (outer robes) which are engraved in pairs on one block, and printed alternately in black, olive-green, red, and a fourth colour (reprod. ibid.). Even granting, however, that we are not here dealing with a new edition of a much later date, there would still be no connection with the printing from several blocks successively adjusted, in which process lies the essence of the colour-print. It may be considered, indeed, that the deepening and softening of the tint on different parts of the
- Binyon (Painting, p. 232) mentions that there are Chinese colour-prints in the British Museum, representing bouquets, flowers, birds, &c, which were brought home from Japan by Kaempfer as early as 1692. They are printed from several blocks and their technique is already fully developed.
- In the Kokka Magazine we are informed that, according to the statement of the celebrated romance writer Kioku Ichio, a wood-carver, Kinroku, invented the colour print, but employed it only in the production of calendars (Deshayes in L'Art, 1893, ii. 10)—Compare Anderson, Japanese Wood-Engraving, pp. 22, 64; Strange, pp. 3, 4.