Chōjū ryakugashiki

By Special Collections, SOAS Library|28th March 2019|Collections & Research|0 comments

The first edition of this work (abbreviated drawings of birds and beasts), by Kitao Masayoshi (1764-1824) was printed in 1719, but this 1813 edition is still a superb impression (never judge a book by its cover!)

Chōjū ryakugashiki, Osaka, 1813 (c) SOAS

A pupil of Kitao Shigemasa, and  later Kano Yosen’in Korenobu, Masayoshi worked as an ukiyoe artist under the name Kitao Masayoshi. He then became official painter to the daimyo of Tsuyama and worked in the Kano style using the name Kuwagata Keisai.

After 1794, however, when he became painter in attendance to the Tsuyama fief, he switched mainly to paintings and printed albums. He was a pioneer of a new style of drawing manual called ryakugashiki, which marked an important point in the development of this style of illustration and he strove, in his work, to simplify forms and capture the spirit of the animals he was depicting.

Chōjū ryakugashiki, Osaka, 1813 (c) SOAS Library

The sketches of birds and animals, printed in six colours, show aspiring artists, amateur and professional alike, how to capture their various shapes with the greatest economy of line.

Chōjū ryakugashiki, Osaka, 1813 (C) SOAS Library

Masayoshi, departing from the normal repertory of ukiyoe, created a number of similar drawing books, all of which became extremely popular in the nineteenth century.

The volume has been digitised and you can view it here.

If you have any questions about the rest of our collections then please just get in touch. You can either email us at:, or give us a call on: 020 7898 4180.

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About Special Collections, SOAS Library

Broadly speaking, our collections reflect the British interaction with Africa, Asia and the Middle East over the last 250 years, and include archives of missionary societies, NGOs and campaign groups, and business organisations, as well as papers of individuals, including diplomats, campaigners, and academics. If you have any questions, or comments, please get in touch! email: tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4180

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