Manpuku wagojin [trans.: Gods of Myriad Conjugal Delights]
by HOKUSAI, artist & author
Seven single-page & 18 double-page color-printed woodcuts. 11; 10; 10 folding leaves. 8vo, orig. decorated wrappers (very rubbed), remains of orig. block-printed title slips on upper covers, new stitching. [Japan: Postface datable to 1821]. First edition of a very rare erotic book; "the supremacy of Hokusai in all the forms of book art in the nineteenth century so far discussed is no less marked in the erotic field…They include several [and Hillier lists the present book] that take their place among the masterpieces of the erotic art of Japan…all have astonishing prints within their covers."-Hillier, The Art of the Japanese Book, p. 894. Hokusai's erotic books were issued in two phases, the first from about 1782 to ca. 1794 and the second from 1811 to 1822. The books produced during the second period rank amongst the finest in the genre. The Manpuku wagojin represents an important step in the development of the illustration of Japanese erotic books: "In the early nineteenth century shunga books came to be produced increasingly with full-colour printing. The most important work to mark this shift was Manpuku wagojin…full-colour printed…of 1821 by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849). Both text and pictures are thought to be by Hokusai himself and the book was innovative in the way in which it constituted one complete story, which continued in pictures and text throughout all three volumes… "The tone is light-hearted, in the manner of popular illustrated fiction; just before this catalogue of sex toys are a number of comic images of personified male and female sex organs which represent manifestations of the deity of conjugality (wagojin)… "The story relates the contrasting sexual histories of two young women, Osane ('Miss Clitoris'), the daughter of a wealthy family, and Otsubi ('Miss C-nt'), the daughter of a poor family. The book begins with pictures of them aged thirteen and ends with them aged thirty. By the last picture their wealth and poverty have been reserved and the book ends with an appearance by the deity of conjugality to explain why this has happened… "The catalogue of sex toys brings together all of the toys that have appeared in the course of the story."-Clark et al., Shunga. Sex and Pleasure in Japanese Art (British Museum: 2013), pp. 117 & no. 84 in the catalogue (with a long account of each sex toy and its use). Very good set. All the volumes display the usual finger-soiling in the lower outer corners which accompanies books of this nature. Many of the illustrations, printed using the nishiki-e method, display karazuri (blind embossing or impressing a pattern into the paper), the application of mica, and the use of tsuyadashi, a technique in which portions of the image have been lightly oiled to render a certain "shine." The first leaf of the second volume is a little frayed in the lower margin, just touching the image and the fourth leaf has two natural paper flaws resulting in small holes (one marginal, the other in the blank portion of the image at outer lower corner). The first leaf of the third volume has two natural paper flaws in the lower outer margin. There are occasional minor stains. ❧ Hillier, The Art of Hokusai in Book Illustration, p. 179-"In all these books [of the later period], Hokusai continued to display astonishing creative powers and a realism that tends to make us feel close voyeurs of the most intimate scenes between men and women, or of women in lesbian acts, or masturbating alone"-(& reproducing several illustrations from our book).
(Inventory #: 6221)
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