40 KOTO SONGS

MS 5332
Text
  1. KOTO MUSIC, COLLECTION OF 40 KOTO SONGS COMPOSED BY MIJI SHINSHI TO POETRY BY OSAWA YAMATOSHI AND YATSUHASHI KENGYO
  2. YAMADA SHOKOKU: THE KOTO INSTRUMENT, BUILDING, TUNING AND THE ART OF PLAYING IT

From the introduction: "The Koto music makes men and women excited, and clear the clouds, and make the water run, and make the birds fly, and makes the fish dance –––"

Description Blockprint in Japanese on paper, Edo, Japan, 1811, 6 vols. (complete), 27x17 cm, (25x29 cm woodblock size), vols. 1-5 in 6 columns of Koto music notation, poems at top of the page, up to 26 columns in Shodo (calligraphic cursive script); vol. 6 in 5 and 10 columns in Shodo and 10 columns of 19 Kanji (Chinese characters) each, woodblocks unsigned, but numbered, 21 illustrations of the Koto instrument, its parts and making, 3 red owners’ seals: 2 in seal script and 1 very large (diam. 6 cm) illustrated, seal script.
Binding Edo, Japan, 1811, blue paper covers, stitched on 4 stations (Xian Zhuang).
Context This is the 3rd edition of this classical Koto song collection which was first printed in 1779.


Provenance 1. Private owners, Japan (19th c. - 20th c.); 2. Kimio Koketsu, Ohya-Shobo Ltd, Tokyo.
Commentary The Koto notation is written vertically in columns in a combination of numbers and characters divided by 3 different circles, while the corresponding Guzheng notation in China is notated horizontally with numbers, dots, lines and at times with some graphic notation added. The instrument is about 180 cm long with 13 strings across 13 movable bridges. Tuning is made by moving the bridges before playing, using 3 finger picks on thumb, forefinger and middle finger to pluck the strings. The Koto came to Japan around 700 from China via Korea, largely deriving from the Chinese Guzheng with 21 strings. In Korea there are 5, 10 and 12 string versions. In Japan there is also a 17 string bass Koto. The Koto was initially played only in the Imperial court, this changed primarily because of the influence of the blind Yatsuhashi Kengyo (1614-1684), who invented a new plain tuning (hira joshi) to play the common people’s songs more naturally. He composed songs that are still irreplaceable staples of the Koto repertoire to-day, of which several are included in the present books.
Place of origin Japan
Dates 1811

Location