"READ EAGERLY BY WOMEN AND MEN": MID 19TH-CENTURY JAPANESE PILLOW BOOK WITH FIVE DOUBLE-PAGE COLOR EROTIC ILLUSTRATIONS
ANONYMOUS. Pillow Book. No city: circa 1860. 12mo, original stab-bound decorative paper wrappers; custom slipcase and chemise. $1800.
Mid 19th-century Japanese pillow book, graphically depicting erotic material, with color frontispiece and five double-page, full-color woodblock illustrations.
The art of shunga—erotic Japanese woodblock prints—flourished in Japan from the 17th through 19th centuries, reaching its greatest artistic heights in the capital city of Edo (Tokyo), and were most frequently sold as albums (enpon). Smaller "pillow books" were often given to new brides or newlywed couples and were read by all societal classes. While some of the most celebrated artists of the day created enpon as a highly lucrative supplement to their income, the government forbade their sale, resulting in some secrecy. Consequently, such albums are often not signed. These prints, featuring men and women in various erotic positions, are exquisitely detailed and in a rainbow of colors (with each different color necessitating a different woodblock). Shunga takes its origins from Chinese medical manuals and dates from the Japanese Heian period (794-1185 A.D.), reaching its peak during the Edo period (1603-1868 A.D.). Japanese sexuality was heavily influenced by Zen, which "added delicacy, softness, and mental refinement to the importance of the erotic and sexual relationship between a man and a woman. Based on the well-known Chinese erotic writings, scrolls adorned with magnificent illustrations as well as piquant erotic writings appeared in Japan, and were read eagerly by women and men" (Norton, Shunga, 7). With 12 pages of woodblock calligraphic text.
Slightest soiling to interior and light rubbing to paper wrappers. A beautiful copy of a Japanese rarity.