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Flowers of Japan and the Art of Floral Arrangements

cover signed Sokatei Yoshitoshi with artist's seal Sokatei

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

Flowers of Japan and the Art of Floral Arrangements, by Josiah Conder

first edition, complete; with front and back covers designed by Yoshitoshi; and with fourteen woodblock printed illustrations, including six of flower-viewing designed by Yoshitoshi; four illustrating interior views by Kawanabe Kyosui; four additional unsigned color plates of example flower arrangements; and sixty-six black-outline drawings and diagrams; the title page inscribed by previous collector in ink: Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, Yokohama - Nov 11th 1892; published by Hakubunsha, Ginza (Tokyo, Japan) and by Kelly and Walsh, Ltd. (Yokohama, Japan), 1891

14 1/8 by 10 3/8 in., 36 by 26.5 cm

This book, a collaboration between Josiah Conder (1852-1920) and the artists Yoshitoshi and Kawanabe Kyosui (1868-1935), the daughter of the famous Kawanabe Kyosai (1831-1889), is the first publication in a western language concerning the principals of ikebana flower arranging. Conder was an architect from London who was invited to Japan by the Meiji administration in 1877 (at the age of twenty-four) as a Professor of Architecture at the Imperial College of Engineering in Tokyo and attaché to the Ministry of Industry. He was a leading figure amongst the small but influential group of foreign experts hired by the Japanese government to westernize the country's public architecture and is considered by some to be the father of modern Japanese architecture. The book was inspired by a well-received lecture titled 'The Theory of Japanese Flower Arrangements' which Conder presented to the Asiatic Society of Japan in 1889. Yoshitoshi's six illustrations of flower-viewing accompany the first section of the book which organizes trees and flowers according to their appropriate seasons, providing detailed lists of Japanese flowers with translations of their names, a description, and important symbolic associations. The remaining sections pertain to ikebana practices from the Enshu School, the style of ikebana which Conder studied, accompanied by four illustrations of flower placements in interior views by Kyosui. Conder also studied Japanese painting for eight years with Kyosui's father, Kyosai, and wrote the English language monograph, Paintings and Studies by Kawanabe Kyosai, published in 1911.

This association copy was formerly in the library of Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, an American writer, journalist and photographer who was the first female board member of the National Geographic Society. She traveled extensively throughout Asia, writing travel journals, guides, and articles on a variety of topics including flowers and gardens. Scidmore is credited with coming up with the idea in 1885 of planting swaths of Japanese cherry trees in her hometown of Washington, D.C. - it took her twenty-seven years of lobbying before she saw it realized in 1912 with the gift of over 3,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo.

This lavish string-bound first edition with woodblock printed illustrations was followed by a revised edition in 1899 issued with western-style binding and illustrated by Ogata Gekko (1859-1920), a self-taught artist who was a contemporary of Yoshitoshi and at one point a teacher of Yoshitoshi's stepson Tsukioka Kogyo (1869-1927).

Among Conder's most famous buildings was the Rokumeikan ('Deer-cry Pavilion'), a residence for foreigners completed in 1883. Designed with the intention of creating a space comfortable for visiting dignitaries, it was largely used as a place where diplomats and western visitors could mingle with Japanese in a space they would regard as civilized. The building, and its use, was controversial. While some regarded it as evidence of Japan's modernization, others criticized it as a crude pastiche of European architecture. The western-style events, including elaborate banquets, concerts, and dance balls also invited scandal when stories arose concerning the behavior high-ranking Japanese officials who perhaps embraced the foreign concept of 'mingling' between men and women a bit to eagerly. The era of 'Rokumeikan diplomacy' was relatively short-lived: the building was sold in 1890 to a peerage association, and demolished in 1941.

Provenance:
Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore (1856-1928)

References:
John Stevenson, Yoshitoshi's One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, 2001, p. 58, color plates 56-59
Alice Y. Tseng, "Styling Japan: The Case of Josiah Conder and the Museum at Ueno, Tokyo," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 63 no. 4 (Dec. 2004), pp. 480-484
Hirano Akira, "Treasures of the Library: The Flowers of Japan and the Art of Floral Arrangement," Sainsbury Institute e-magazine issue 12 (sainsbury-institute.org), Summer 2015
The British Museum, accession no. 1988,0624,0.1

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