Shiisanmei Sashieshū [The 13th Sister or 13 Sisters] 十三妹挿絵集
Serizawa Keisuke 芹沢銈介
Showa 42 
50 prints and one title page approx 28 x 28cm, prints tipped in and matted to 34.6 x 32.5cm, are embossed with a number in the lower right hand corner of the mat. Housed in a 35 x 37.5cm wood box with centered title in red lacquer with red lacquer edges and internal fabric ties to lift out the loose sheets. The inside cover has 3 vertical lines of Japanese text with the artist’s name, number of prints and publisher’s name. Stored in an outer box of sturdy washi 38.5 x 36.5cm. A 15.5 x 20.2cm booklet with black and white prints of the designs is laid in. The booklet has olive green wrappers with a printed title slip, is bound Western style and opens Japanese style. It contains 50 numbered prints with a one line vertical description in Japanese text on the side and below it the chapter name and number as well as the number it was assigned in the 145 print version. Colophon on the final page gives a limitation of 180 copies. Printed colophon also on the backing board under the prints.
A selection of 50 katazome 型染 prints by Serizawa Keisuke 芹沢銈介 (1895 – 1984), a master stencil-printer and mingei artist who was named a Living National Treasure by the Japanese government in 1956. The stencil prints are in black and white and the rich, warm colors for which he was known. The designs were selected from a group of 145 illustrations that were done and appeared only in an edition of 15 copies.
The title of this work translates to “The 13th Sister” or “13 Sisters” and the illustrations are based on Ernü Yingxiong Zhuan 兒女英雄傳 (A Tale of Heroes and Lovers, A Gallant Maid), a classic and popular tale of heroic courage from the late Ch'ing Dynasty largely unknown in the west. It was written by Yanbei Xianren 燕北闲人 (also Wen Kang 文康) in 1878. There are classic and updated versions in Japanese as well, where it is known as Shijyo Eiyūden 児女英雄伝. These appear to be illustrating writer Takeda Taijun’s 武田泰淳 (1912-1976) 1966 version of the tale published by Asahi Shinbunsha. The main character is a young woman called He Yufeng 何玉凤, who is also called "The 13th Sister" 十三妹 Shiisanmei. He Yufeng, the lovely second wife of an official, is also an excellent swordswoman and a combination ninja-warrior-goddess who defends her husband and does battle in the underworld. She is an unusual heroine as she ventured into and succeeded in the male world, far beyond the domestic role assigned to women of that period. The novel thus celebrates the virtues of filial piety and duty to family as well as heroism and love.” [See p. 36, Oxford Dictionary of Chinese Literature by Taiping Chang.]
Some foxing and toning. A magnificent work in elegant containment.