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/Gessekai Shinzou [= The true face of the moon]
[Tokyo: Usagiya, 1886. 8.5" x 9.75", pp. 62; 62 full page woodblock prints depicting an imaginary moon civilization; stab stitched in contemporary if not original cloth, contemporary inscription with a little over 100 characters; light worming, repaired and mostly on margins, covers soiled, very good, in a new folding case. Yoshitoshi Tsukioka is recognized as the last great master of ukiyoe. His body of work spans the era of rapid modernization in Japan, as traditional production methods were being superseded by new technologies, and his work reflects the Japanese desire to absorb and exploit their new connection with the West while maintaining a strong Japanese identity. While the traditions of ukiyoe style and subject matter are clearly recognizable in most of his work, Gessekai Shinzo represents a more radical departure of the art form. Its composition and line work reflects a clear influence from Western engraving practices and composition theory as understood through the lens of the Japanese tradition. The subject matter also is an innovation. It is in some sense a wordless story, with no clear narrative, but with each image depicting the artist's idea of what a civilization on the moon might look like. The architecture, landscapes, and people all seem to exist as a pastiche of Ainu, Russian, Japanese and Western (particularly biblical) culture. In a contemporary advertisement for the book in the Tokyo Nichinichi Shinbun, the "discovery" of these images is credited to a German scientist named "Professor Burendokon," who made use of the observatory in Berlin to produce this account and satisfy long-standing speculation about what might live on the moon's surface. The very first image in the book, representing the observatory itself, reaffirms that narrative, making Gessekai Shinzo an example of early Japanese science fiction. A remarkable book in both style and subject matter. Rare and little documented. Two copies in Japan, none elsewhere. See Urushiyama, Ehon Nenpyo vol.4 for citation crediting this work to Yoshitoshi.
      [Bookseller: Rulon-Miller Books]
Last Found On: 2018-02-24           Check availability:      Biblio    

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