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JAPANESE WOOD ENGRAVINGS

size, but they were soon followed by others of a less imposing and more popular type. One set of these, consisting usually of semi-historical stories, were of oblong shape and duodecimo size, embellished by whole-page or two-page pictorial woodcuts; the other was a still smaller publication issued on very thin fasciculi, each with an ornamental wrapper and bearing cuts on every page. These novelettes, or Kusa-zoshi as they were called, were essentially popular literature—heroic, tragic, or humorous—and they were characterised by the strange admixture of text and illustration upon the same page, the lines of the text occupying the spaces in the picture that would usually be filled with background or accessories. The personages introduced into the scene were moreover distinguished by little character labels, generally placed upon some part of the dress, in order to relieve the reader from any difficulty in interpreting the compositions (Fig. 21).

A very early specimen, dated 1662, is now in the British Museum Collection. This contained roughly executed illustrations that bore a slight resemblance in style to the play-bills of the commencement of the eighteenth century, but in more recent books of the same class the work of the engraver and printer was more carefully done, and the list of artists included all the best names in the popular school, including those of Torii Kiyonobu, Torii Kiyomitsu, Nishigawa Sukénobu, Torii Kiyonaga, Torii Kiyotsuné, Tomikawa Ginsetsu, Kitawo Masanobu (Kioden), Rantokusai Shundō, Kitagawa Utamaro, Utagawa Toyohiro, Utagawa Toyokuni, Yeishi, and Hokusai. The quaint little Kusa-zoshi is now extinct, and its place is taken, sad to say, by commonplace volumes printed in the European style with movable metallic type on machinemade paper, and illustrated by process blocks.

About the beginning of the nineteenth century the publishers reverted to the octavo form, and the first volume or fasciculus of each work, or section of a work, was usually prefaced by a few introductory plates printed from two or three blocks. These stories were of formidable length, sometimes filling sixty, eighty, or more volumes, and the sentiment of the text and pictures was apt to run in a rather fierce strain, bringing before us such an assemblage of ghastly murders, bloody combats, and ghostly visitations, intermingled with such feats of superhuman strength and ideal heroism that it was difficult to imagine that the books were created by and