aratame-in 改印
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Also *kiwame-in 極印. The printed censor seals that appear on an *ukiyo-e 浮世絵 print. The Kansei 寛政 reforms instituted by Matsudaira Sadanobu 松平定信 (1758-1829) included a requirement, dated 11/1790 that the preliminary drawings *hanshita 版下, for woodblock prints be submitted for inspection at the office of the Edo City Magistrate, machibugyou 町奉行. Permission for publication was granted by the impression of a small oval seal which, during the years 1791-1842, included the character 'kiwame 極' (examined). This seal was carved into the key block, sumi-ita 墨板, and in effect became part of the design, and so appeared on all prints. Actual inspection seems to have been carried out by officials, gyouji 行事, selected on rotation from members of the publishers' guild, jihon soushi ton'ya 地本草紙問屋; thus publishers were self-regulating. On some prints published between 1811 and 1815, the personal seals of individual gyouji appear in conjunction with the kiwame seal. In addition, date seals containing the zodiacal character for that year (eg. rat; ne 子, ox; ushi 丑, tiger; tora 寅, etc.) plus the number of the month in which the print was published (eg. one; ichi 一, two; ni 二, three; san 三, etc.) sometimes were impressed along with other seals. Date seals were used in the years 1805-10, 1814, and 1852-75, in particular. Censorship of woodblock prints was further tightened during the Tenpou 天保 reforms and from 1843 on. In place of the kiwame seal, personal seals of individual censoring officials, nanushi 名主; a higher rank than gyouji, were used in various combinations. In 1853 the system was again changed. The seals of individual nanushi disappeared, to be replaced by a single seal containing the character 'aratame 改' (inspected) which was often used in conjunction with (or incorporated inside) the type of date seal described above. In 1875 the use of censor seals was discontinued, from which time the date of publication and the name and address of the publisher appeared in the margin of the print. The various combinations of censor and other seals can be a valuable guide to the dating of a particular woodblock print.


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