COLORFUL AND PICTURESQUE
Polychrome Woodblock Printed Books
Given the labor- and capital-intensive process of block cutting and color registration, it was not until the late 16th through 17th centuries that woodblock printed books in more than 2 colors became available. Among the early examples of multi-color printed books, the Ten Bamboo Studio Manual of Calligraphy and Painting (1st print edition, 1633) and Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting (1st print edition, 1679-1701) are the finest with regard to their artistic and aesthetic value. The Ten Bamboo Studio manual uses two unique techniques: assembled block printing (饾版) and hand-wiping overprinting (套印), resulting in a color gradation very similar to brush painting. These techniques were further developed by the Mustard Seed Garden (publisher) to achieve greater precision and variation of color registration as shown in the Mustard Seed Garden manual. Both works were designed by scholar-artists and produced by highly skilled craftsmen. They were regarded as sought-after Chinese painting handbooks, embodying the Chinese literati culture. As a result, they were reproduced and imitated first in Asia, and later in Europe and North America until the late 20th century. In particular, the motifs in these manuals, such as that of birds and flowers, were well received in Japan, as is shown in the Bairei Picture Album of One Hundred Birds and Keinen Picture Album of Birds and Flowers, both published in the late 19th century when lithography started to gain dominance over polychrome woodblock printing.
Chinese Painting Manuals:
Japanese Painting Manuals: