Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/44

This page has been validated.



most brilliant period of the national art of Japan, when the ancient chivalry shone in full radiance and the Imperial court was at the height of its magnificence. All these paintings were executed in water-colours and were kept rolled up in a separate building (which was also the library), near the dwelling-house. Painting was also employed for the decoration of screens, fans, albums, and so forth.[1]

As to the Japanese book, it may be remarked that the extreme unpretentiousness of its exterior contrasts with that of the European book; it generally appears in the shape of a thin tract with a plain limp cover, either as an octavo approaching quarto size or else as a folio of medium dimensions. The sheets, which are ready cut to the size of the book, are folded only once, printed only on one side, and then sewn together with the fold outwards. The first page of the Japanese book is the last according to our method; the writing runs down the page in vertical lines, beginning in the right-hand top corner, and continuing towards the left margin. The pictures when in oblong form are continued across the pages of the book as it lies open; and although each half is enclosed in a border line, the careful adjustment of the sewing to the inner margin ensures continuity. Brinckmann points out that the Japanese, unlike many modern European printers, were never in the bad habit of inserting oblong pictures vertically in their books.[2]

The methods of producing the woodcuts are very similar to those formerly in vogue in Europe, the drawing in both cases remaining in high relief as the remainder of the block is cut away. Nowadays wood-engraving is usually treated like copper-engraving, and the lines of the drawing are incised. One essential difference, however, is this, that the Japanese never draw directly on the block itself, as was generally the case in Europe, but always make use of a sheet of thin or transparent paper,

  1. Cf. Madsen, p. 7 ff.
  2. Brinckmann, i. 222-25.