Japanese Illustrated Books from the Edo and Meiji Periods

detail of a Japanese color print showing a small frog leaping into the water, with lilies and reeds

The Freer|Sackler Library's collection of illustrated Japanese rare books includes over 1,000 volumes previously owned by Charles Lang Freer. Often filled with color illustrations, many are by famous artists such as Andō Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai.  These beautiful woodblock printed works of art were published during the Edo and Meiji periods (1600-1912).  Another group of Japanese rare books more recently added to the Library's collections consists of 67 volumes of illustrated Meiji-period books collected by Robert O. Muller who also formed a superb collection of Japanese prints from the same period which he bequeathed to the Arthur M.Sackler Gallery. Both library book collections are ideal complements to the world renowned Gerhard Pulverer Collection of Illustrated Japanese Books which was acquired by the Freer Gallery of Art in 2007. The Pulverer Collection has been completely digitized and is available online. Unlike the European and American books on our website, Japanese rare books are scanned as two-page spreads to more clearly show the construction of the book and seamlessly display images which span two pages.

You may notice some pages and covers which seem to have white or light-colored decorative patterns behind the text. This is mica that has been applied to the paper. When holding the book, the mica will sparkle and be less and more noticeable depending on how the book is positioned relative to a light source. In person it would not appear to be uniformly light as shown in the digital images.

The Library’s digitization project was generously funded by the Anne van Biema Endowment Fund.


Cover of "Zeshin iboku tairyūkyo gafu"

Zeshin iboku tairyūkyo gafu

Shibata, Zeshin; Shibata, Ichitarō
Yoshida Kyūbē
Meiji 40 [1907]
Cover of "Zōge chōkokuhō"

Zōge chōkokuhō

Sōma, Kuni'nosuke
Cover of "Zōho shoshū butsuzō zu"

Zōho shoshū butsuzō zu

Daimonjiya Yosabē
Kansei 8 [1796]
Cover of "Zōho shoshū butsuzō zui"

Zōho shoshū butsuzō zui

Yamaguchiya Sashichi
[Meiji period, 1868-1912]
Cover of "[Byōbu kakemono ezukushi]"

[Byōbu kakemono ezukushi]

Hishikawa, Moronobu
Genroku 14 [1701]
Cover of "[Denshin kaishu Ippitsu gafu]"

[Denshin kaishu Ippitsu gafu]

Katsushika, Hokusai
Cover of "[Ehon Ogura no nishiki]"

[Ehon Ogura no nishiki]

Okumura, Masanobu
[publisher not identified]
[after Genbun 5 [1740]]
Cover of "[Ehon seirō bijin awase]"

[Ehon seirō bijin awase]

Suzuki, Harunobu
[publisher not identified]
Cover of "[Ehon yotsu no toki]"

[Ehon yotsu no toki]

Kitao, Shigemasa; Tani, Sogai
[publisher not identified]
[An'ei 4 [1775]]
Cover of "[Hokusai gashiki]"

[Hokusai gashiki]

Katsushika, Hokusai
[publisher not indicated]
[after 1819 before 1868]
Cover of "[Kanze-ryū utaibon"

[Kanze-ryū utaibon : Kanze Dayū Oribe shōku shinpon]

[観世流謡本 : 観世太夫織部章句真本]
Cover of "[Kanze-ryū utaibon"

[Kanze-ryū utaibon : Kanze Dayū Oribe shōku shinpon]

[観世流謡本 : 観世太夫織部章句真本]
Cover of "[Kōchō gafu v. 2, c. 2"

[Kōchō gafu v. 2, c. 2

Ueda, Kōchō
Cover of "[Kyōka ressen gazōshū"

[Kyōka ressen gazōshū

Katsushika, Hokuga; Katsushika, Hokusai Goshatei Kizan Hōkien Kōkō
[publisher not identified]
[19th century?]
Cover of "[Rakuyaki] =  [Raku pottery]"

[Rakuyaki] = [Raku pottery]

[楽焼] = [Raku pottery]
Cover of "[Sakai Hōitsu gajō = Sakai Hōitsu painting album]"

[Sakai Hōitsu gajō = Sakai Hōitsu painting album]

[酒井抱一画帖 = Sakai Hōitsu painting album]
Sakai, Hōitsu
[publisher not identified]
[between 1800 and 1912]
Cover of "[Seirō bijin awase sugata kagami]"

[Seirō bijin awase sugata kagami]

Kitao, Shigemasa; Katsukawa, Shunshō
Cover of "[Setoyaki chaire] = [Seto ware tea container]"

[Setoyaki chaire] = [Seto ware tea container]

[瀬戸焼茶入] = [Seto ware tea container]
Cover of "[Toryū moyō hinagata tsuru no koe ]"

[Toryū moyō hinagata tsuru no koe ]

Nakajima, Tanjirō
Cover of "[Tōki chaire] = [Ceramic tea containers]"

[Tōki chaire] = [Ceramic tea containers]

[陶器茶入] = [Ceramic tea containers]
Cover of "[Tsuba, saya zuanshū = Sketchbook of designs for sword guards and sword fittings]"

[Tsuba, saya zuanshū = Sketchbook of designs for sword guards and sword fittings]

[鍔・鞘図案集 = Sketchbook of designs for sword guards and sword fittings]
Cover of "[Yamato jinbutsu gafu]"

[Yamato jinbutsu gafu]

Yamaguchi, Soken
Cover of "[Yōdō jizu]"

[Yōdō jizu]

Utagawa, Kuniteru; Utagawa, Fusatane
Cover of "[Yūjo no zu] = [Portraits of courtesans]"

[Yūjo no zu] = [Portraits of courtesans]

[遊女図] = [Portraits of courtesans]
Okumura, Masanobu
Kodera Chōbei
Genroku 15[1702]