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Circa 1920-1922
Stock Number: RW219/AUT13

Price: £16,500

An extremely rare complete set of 93 volumes (plus a 2 volume index) of Honzo Zufu by Iwasaki Tsunemasa, string-bound  Japanese style fukuro toji, the classic work of botanical classification, which was begun in woodcut, then continued in manuscript form during the mid 19th century, and finally edited by Shirai and published in final form, printed by colour woodblock with descriptions of species in Japanese, and a Japanese-Latin index, in 1920-22.

Iwasaki Tsunemasa, also Kan-en (1786-1842) was a Japanese botanist, zoologist and entomologist. He was also a samurai in the service of the Tokugawa shogunate.

This is an extremely rare set of these books and is the only complete set we have found to have come onto to market in recent times. Usually you see a single volume or sometimes a small number of volumes.

The best example of an important botanical work published in manuscript was the great collection of illustrations and  descriptions of Japanese plants by Iwasaki Tsunemasa which was begun as a printed work in 1828 and later continued by the distrIbution of a few hand-coloured manuscript copies at the rate of three or four volumes a year during a quarter of a century. It was first printed as a whole in 1920, when it appeared in 93 volumes, with 2 volumes of index, edited by Shirai.

The Yamato Honzo of Kaibara Ekken was the first work that could be looked upon as a flora of Japan but it was more inclusive than a flora, since it also dealt with animals and inorganic things. The Ka-i or “selection” of plants that was issued with  illustrations by Shimada Terufusa and Ono Ranzan was likewise a start toward a flora, and the latter was one of the three works that Savatier was able to find in Japan (about 1872) that he considered to contain records of plants so definitely identified as Japanese that they were cited all the way through Franchet and Savatier’ s Enumeratio.

The two works, Honzo Zufu by Iwasaki Tsunemasa and Somoku Zusetsu by linuma Yokusai were very much more inclusive ones. Savatier was the field worker in Japan who collected the botanical specimens and biblio-graphic materials upon which he and his co-author Franchet based their enumeration. They tell us that they had access to about 150 illustrated volumes of Japanese botanical books, of which 116 belonged to the three works that they considered important, and they do not even tell us what the others were. The Ka-i was in 8 volumes. They had a large part, 84 volumes out of the total of 93 (they and also Savatier say 96), of Iwasaki Tsunemasa’s Honzo Zufu , and a complete set of the 1856 edition of linuma Yokusai’ s Somoku Zusetsu in 20 volumes. This leaves only about 38 volumes which they had but did not consider important enough to mention by title or author.

The two more extensive works, according to Shirai, were the great pioneer floristic efforts of the late natural history period. They show European influence. Iwasaki had become acquainted with Von Siebold in 1826 at Edo. Iwasaki’s work (partly in print and partly in manuscript) appeared earlier but had singularly ineffective distribution in comparison with linuma’ s.

Before embarking on his flora, Iwasaki had written an 8 volume commentary on the Kyuko Honzo which was finished in 1817, but was never published. Next came his excellent work on plant propagation which alone would place him among the leaders in the horticultural history of Japan. Then in 1828 certain volumes entitled Honzo Zufu were printed, with uncolored woodcuts. Beginning in 1829 manuscript copies of a vastly expanded work under the same title and illustrated by water-colour paintings, said to have been in 96 volumes, were distributed at the rate of about four volumes a year until the work was finished at some time between 1844 and 1854. A set is said to have been presented to the Shogun in the latter year, but is also said to have been dedicated to the Shogun in 1844.

There were very few copies of this elaborate work, which appeared in a modern printed edition of 93 volumes in 1920, each volume of which had supplementary pages by Shirai and Onuma Kohei, giving the Latin names. It was followed in 1922 by an index in two volumes annotated by Shirai. Of the original printed work of 1828 (1830?) six volumes (perhaps all, but there may have been eight) are to be found in the Library of Congress, Shirai had said that the Honzo Zufu illustrated more than two thousand species of plants, chiefly of Japanese origin.

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