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The Birth of the Japanese Illustrated Book

The Birth of the Japanese Illustrated Book: Screen Painting and the Kōetsu Sanjūrokkasen (“The Kōetsu Thirty-Six Immortal Poets”)

Public Lecture by Dr. Jun Suzuki, National Institute of Japanese Literature

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 4:00 - 5:30PM
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Room 38 & 39 (Basement Level)


The eighteenth-century book Kōetsu sanjūrokkasen ("The Kōetsu Thirty-Six Immortal Poets") in the Freer Gallery of Art Library is believed to be the very first poetry book focusing on illustrations rather than text. But was it originally a book? Two other copies of this work (in the New York Public Library and Tenri University Library) were produced in different formats--as a scroll and as a set of loose sheets.

Paintings of the Sanjūrokkasen ("The Thirty-Six Immortal Poets") were traditionally appreciated as framed pictures or as decorations on sliding doors or folding screens. Japanese painting traditionally had a close relationship with screens, and there was a huge demand for painted screens. Consequently, many painting manuals or sample books for painters were produced, and these might have served as an impetus for the development of illustrated books.

In this lecture, Dr. Suzuki will explore the relationship between screens and illustrated books in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Please be advised to arrive early for the lecture to use lockers. All Beinecke library visitors are required to store their baggage in lockers to enter the facilities.

This lecture is organized by the Yale University East Asia Library, with generous support from the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library and the Council on East Asian Studies Title VI National Resource Center Grant from the United States Department of Education.