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.
View plain title list.

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