From the 17th through 19th century the ehon or “picture book” was one of Japan’s most important art forms. It was in these heavily illustrated volumes that some of the most famous woodblock print artists of the day began their careers, experimenting with the compositions, color, and printing techniques that we find in their later Ukiyo-e masterpieces. Unfortunately, because of this pedigree, many ehon have been unscrupulously cut so that dealers could reap greater profits selling the pages as individual prints. The ones that remain are extremely rare.
Marquand Library is fortunate to have a small, but growing, collection of Japanese “picture books” and has begun a digitization project that will allow students and scholars unprecedented access to these beautiful, but often fragile, books online. With the expense of color printing, one rarely finds more than a single image from an ehon in books or serials, and by digitizing complete volumes, the library is offering a rich and unique resource to people working in a wide range of disciplines.
Browse the collection: Japanese ehon