1921. Item #85463
[EHON] Itô Chûta. ASHURA CHÔ Dai Go-kan. Tokyo: Kokusui Shuppansha, (Arata Eisuke), Taisho 10 . 5 volumes complete. Bound in printed cloth over [25.6 x 21.4 cm] boards with thongs. Entitled (roughly) "Demon Sketchbook". The Asuras of the title are the warrior gods of Indian religion, condemned to constant strife. The book is a deeply bitter and ironic look at the politics and social scene of the World War I era, not only in Japan itself, but around the world. As such it is an amazing slice of life during and after the world war from the unique perspective of a Japanese humanist given to Swiftian excess. The author (and illustrator), Ito Chûta, was an architect and gifted caricaturist. The printer/publisher was a bit of an ironist himself, as the closing note mentions that his "National Purity Publications" ["Kokusui Shuppansha"] did not quite embody the usual "National Purity" which was being bruited about. Obviously this work is a product of Taisho liberalism. Ten or so years earlier or later, it would have never reached the light of day in a less tolerant political atmosphere. There are 500 pages of plates, each is one-half color woodcut caricature and one-half wry commentary in a combination of letterpress and woodcut calligraphy. Well-printed and interesting, the full set of 500 plates in five volumes - with the original clasped cases - is quite a find, as one only occasionally finds even odd volumes. The cases are a bit chipped, the outer boxes very unusual, the contents are quite clean, in very good overall condition.