Exhibition: From Japan…to Japan

Kuniyoshi, 1798-1861.
Nichiren in Snow. Ise-ya Rihei, oban yoko-e [ca.1835-36]
J67 Rare Books and Special Collections – Japanese Print Collection

By Raynald Lepage
Japan as seen in maps and prints, “made in Japan”, in the Nineteenth Century

Maps of Tokyo (1879), Nagasaki (1821), Kyoto (1883) and Yokohama (1868) and prints of the works of artists as well known as Hiroshige, Hokusai and Toyokuni; and, no less remarkable, Eisen, Kunisada and Kuniyoshi were selected from the holdings in Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University. Maps and prints share the same printing techniques: woodblocks.                                                                               

Europeans had limited access to Japan for nearly two centuries, from early 17th C. to mid 19th. C. Americans broadened the access in the years 1852-1854, soon followed by the British and other nations. In 1886, Canadian Pacific Railway Co. provided a new route to Japan for Europeans across Canada through its transcontinental railway and, on the sea, with its fleet of ships.  One of their passengers, Lafcadio Hearn, translated Japanese fairy tales into English. The modern traveler could buy souvenir postcards or take photographs.

A book of Japanese decorative paper specimens closes the exhibit, completing the circle: the tradition of fine printing continues.

The exhibition is on view in the fourth floor lobby, McLennan Library Building, November 2012-February 28, 2013

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