Page:Japanese Wood Engravings.djvu/78

This page has been validated.
64
JAPANESE WOOD ENGRAVINGS

used for the purpose of embossing portions of the design, as an aid to the effects of colour-printing. The latter resource is seen in the works of Nishimura Shigénaga, executed about 1730, and was perhaps employed at an earlier date.

The effect of printing from two or more blocks was obtained in some cases by preparing a single block with ink of different colours, or with different shades of the same colour. This appeared as early as 1740 in some landscapes in the Gwako senran, where the distance is represented by pale ink, against which the dark foreground stands out in bold relief; and in the Sōshiséki gwa-fu (1769–70) and the Keisai so-gwa (1832) (Figs. 26 and 27) chromatic effects are produced by similar means. Sky and water gradations are effected in like manner in colour-prints, the superfluity of colour being removed, where the lighter shade is required, by the simple process of wiping the inked block with a brush or cloth according to directions previously given by the engraver.

In the ordinary colour-prints the effects are obtained by the use of a number of additional blocks engraved in series from copies of the impression taken from the first or outline block. The correctness of register is secured by marking the angles of the original block outside the lines of the engraving with incisions made in a certain direction. The angles are printed off upon the sheet bearing the first outline, and are repeated in facsimile in the cutting of all the subsequent blocks, the corner marks left upon the paper after contact with block No. 1 thus being made to serve as a guide for the accurate apposition of the sheet upon each successive block, the printings being all effected by hand pressure. The process is simple, but the rarity of faults of register in Japanese chromoxylography proves that it is efficacious.

The technique of the Japanese woodcutter is interesting, partly in its analogy to that of the early woodcutters of Europe and partly as an example of the perfection that a skilful artisan can attain even with the simplest and cheapest appliances. An authoritative account of the details of the process and materials will be found in Audsley's Ornamental Arts of Japan, and more lately a valuable monograph, written by Mr. T. Tokuno, the chief of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing of the Ministry of Finance in Tokyo, has been printed by the Smithsonian Insti-