Ebi Collection: Introducing Japanese Illustrated Books

These four virtual exhibitions are meant to introduce you to aspects of the illustrated book in early modern Japan.


The Ebi collection of woodblock-printed books combines the features of a research library with those of a museum collection. It provides an overview of the history of commercial publishing in early-modern Japan, with particular emphasis on illustrated books and books of illustrations. It is thus a valuable resource for the study the book as a work of art issued in multiples. The collection is also distinguished by the presence of multiple copies of a significant number of titles, which illustrate the histories of sets of printing block. Volumes in less than perfect condition and incomplete works are included for their bibliographic significance. At the same time the collection houses fine copies of many outstanding books.
The origin of the collection dates back to January 1978. It currently holds: 587 complete titles; almost as many incomplete titles; 26 manuscripts; some book pages; manuscript and printed sutra fragments; three maps; and a range of printed ephemera, including illustrated theatre programs, pilgrim guides, and astrological charts.
Holdings are particularly strong in the following areas: painting manuals (ehon 絵本, gafu 画譜 etc.) by artists of various schools; erotica (shunpon 春本); books Hokusai created between 1812 and his death in 1849; Kitao Masayoshi's 'sketching method' series (ryakugashiki 略画式); serial illustrated novels (gōkan 合巻); illustrated verse anthologies (e-iri kyōkabon 絵入狂歌本); calligraphy manuals (hōjō 法帖); manuscript copies of printed books; and a representative selection of woodblock-printed publications issued in the Meiji, Taishō and Shōwa eras (1868 to the late 1940s).

About US

The Ebi Collection, a private collection of Japanese woodblock printed books, is located in Europe. Permission for the use of images may be obtained through by the Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University.