ehon 絵本
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Lit. picture book.

1 In the broad sense of the term, the Edo period ehon referred to any woodblock printed book in which pictures take up a greater proportion of the page than text. However, books of collected paintings known as *gafu 画譜 which were used as copybooks *edehon 絵手本 or illustrated story books known as eiribon 絵入り本 were often considered to represent a separate type. The boundaries between them remain unclear. In the narrowest sense of the term, Edo period ehon are picture-centered books which present the reader with educational and entertaining material. The Edo period ehon were usually printed in black ink but there are examples with light hand-colouring, and some are printed in brilliant colors. The ehon is thought to have developed from *emaki 絵巻, *nara-ehon 奈良絵本, *tanrokubon 丹録本, and eiribon, becoming an established form by the 1670's. Numerous ehon were produced by *ukiyo-e 浮世絵 artists especially in Edo including Hishikawa Moronobu 菱川師宣 (ca.1618-94) and Katsushika Hokusai 葛飾北斎 (1760-1849). Moronobu made a major contribution to the establishment of ehon. His students, as well as Sugimura Jihee 杉村治兵衛 ( and Torii Kiyonobu 鳥居清信 (1664-1729) continued to produce ehon, and the ehon became recognized as work of ukiyo-e artists by 1700. A notable early example from the Kyoto-Osaka region was the SHIDAREYANAGI しだれ柳 by Oomori Yoshikiyo 大森喜清 (fl. 1701-16) which was published in 1702. Nishikawa Sukenobu 西川祐信 (1671-1751) produced more than 60 ehon in the early 18c and ehon became popular also in the Kansei 関西 area. It is noteworthy that ehon had a considerable influence on the development of compositions and printing techniques in ukiyo-e.

2 In recent times, an ehon has come to mean a book for young people which centers on pictures.

3 Also written 画本. In the Muromachi period, an ehon was a model used for producing a painting, thus the term was synonymous with edehon. Documents record that Chinese paintings loaned out to painters from the governmental library were referred to as ehon.


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