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Hiroshige: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo Hardcover – October 1, 2010
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"... this is a knockout. The binding itself is a pleasure: from the toggles to the odd, folded pages. Inside is the wonderful portrait of a lost city... the wonderfully graphic and affectionate scenes by Utagawa Hiroshige range from day and night, from summer to winter, each explained in succinct text. "
About the Author
Before taking her doctorate in Far Eastern art history at the University of Heidelberg, Melanie Trede worked at the Gakushuin University in Tokyo. She was assistant professor at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University from 1999 to 2004, since which time she has been Professor of Far Eastern art history at the University of Heidelberg.
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My one issue with the book is nitpicky - the font they use for the case and front cover is very, very tacky, like something you'd see in a "quirky" Microsoft Word-made invitation to a baby shower. If you're annoying about fonts, this might bother you, but the book is still such a fantastic value that I have to give it 5 stars.
Ando Hiroshige’s 100 Famous Views of Edo, first edition, was published in 1859. There would be many subsequent editions. (The series actually contains 119 prints, but the “100” number was better suited for marketing purposes. Don’t want to get into those weeds here.) The collection was an immediate best seller, and today ranks with the artist’s 53 Stations of the Tokaido as his most familiar work.
As with most Japanese prints of the era the idea for this series originated with a publisher, who may have been thinking of the “Illustrated Guide to Famous Views of Edo”, published about 20 years earlier. Regardless, Hiroshige delivered a masterpiece. Views sweep across the landscapes, waterscapes and cityscapes of Edo - from an eagle’s view high above frozen tundra to spectacular fireworks over the famed Ryogoku bridge, to merchant quarters dominated by a looming view of Mount Fuji. Hiroshige’s brilliant, inventive mind permeates every print.
The thing about Edo era prints is that early editions are almost always far superior to those which followed. Once print best sellers proved their marketplace mettle, publishers were prone to cut corners. Maybe save time and money by not being so fussy about colors specified by the artist, or worked out by the original printer. Maybe don’t worry about repairing broken or worn out lines carved in blocks that should have been retired or patched up much earlier. Hey, by the 10th edition who’s to know?
That’s hardly an issue here. As one measure of the care with which this book was designed, the authors elected to photograph a complete first edition - from the Ota Memorial Museum of Art in Tokyo. Colors are exceptionally rich, and well saturated into the handmade paper’s plant fibers.
The complete package consists of an inner volume encased in a removable hard cover, on which is imprinted Hiroshige’s splendid “Plum Orchard in Kamada”. For a wonderful, tactile sensation run your fingers lightly over the inner volume’s soft, silky cover.
I also mentioned binding. In keeping with tradition the inner volume is stitched with thin silky cord. And the hard cover - really more of a casing than a cover - is secured by two traditional clasps.
You or your giftee can spend many a pleasurable hour with Hiroshige’s magnificent achievement (as did the likes of Whistler and van Gogh).
2. The narrative in the book that links the prints and the minutiae of Hiroshige's work to how the Japanese social system worked at the time is an education in itself.
3. The larger version though contains more in the way of discussion than this one, and for persons looking to learn about Japan that version may have more interest.