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Marie Yasunaga, ASH postdoctoral researcher, salvaged original sketches of early modern urban landscapes of Edo, Japan (present-day Tokyo) in the depot of the Sanko Library. This find brings out the precious first-hand drawings from about two decades of the historical oblivion.
One of the sketches by Hasegawa Settan (© Sanko Library)

The Sanko Library, Tokyo, is once again showcasing the handscroll paintings Preparatory Sketches for the Illustrated Books of the Famous Places in Edo (Edo Meisho Zue Shitae) from January 5 to February 3, 2023.

The scrolls contain the original sketches and esquisse depicting the early modern urban space of Edo (present-day Tokyo) created by the painter Hasegawa Settan in the early 19th century as preparatory works for The Illustrated Guidebook of the Famous Places in Edo (Edo Meisho Zue, 20 vols, 1835/1837), a massive topography of the country’s capital during the Tokugawa period.


Marie Yasunaga, a postdoctoral researcher at the Freedom of the Streets: Gender and Urban Space of Early Modern Eurasia 1600-1850, salvaged the original sketches hidden in the library’s depot, bringing out the precious first-hand drawings from about two decades of the historical oblivion. Identifying 80 out of the 101 black sumi ink drawings with the corresponding book illustration, her close analysis unraveled the artistic production process and discovered significant evidence proving that there were cases where the depiction not only of the physical material aspect of the urban space but also of people appearing in the cityscapes did base on the artist’s direct observation of the reality. 

For the full discussion, see her latest article in the art journal Ukiyo-e Art (no. 184, 2022). Her online lecture was held as part of the lecture series to celebrate the library’s 120 years from foundation, which will become available online through the library’s YouTube channel in June 2023.