poetry prints are among the finest examples of Japanese woodblock printmaking of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Consisting of witty poetry combined with related images, surimono
were often designed by leading print artists and were exquisitely produced using the best materials and most sophisticated printing techniques. Unlike the ukiyo-e
prints of actors, courtesans and landscapes that were being commercially published around the same time, surimono
were never intended for sale to the general public. Instead they were privately published in limited editions by members of poetry clubs, to present to friends and acquaintances on festive occasions, especially at the New Year. This book introduces over forty surimono
in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum and provides readers with an insight into the refined and cultivated Japanese literati culture of the early nineteenth century. As well as exploring the customs, legends, figures and objects depicted, it presents new translations of the humorous poems (kyoka
) that lie at the heart of surimono
, and highlights the intricate relationship that existed between the poetry and accompanying images. This will be the first time that the Ashmolean's collection of surimono
, mostly from the Jennings-Spalding Gift and containing a number of rare and previously unpublished prints, has ever been catalogued.