Books and Cards

Artist: Reisai (Japanese, 18th–19th century)

Date: 18th–19th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Polychrome woodblock print (surimono); ink and color on paper

Dimensions: 7 x 6 1/2 in. (17.8 x 16.5 cm)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929

Accession Number: JP2187


This limited-edition New Year's greeting card (surimono) has a playful, symbolic-laden composition. The image shows a set of woodblock-printed books, the Kogessho, which is an annotated edition of the Tale of Genji published around 1673. Next to it, scattered playing cards depict two chapters from the Tale of Genji: the Kobai (Rose Plum) and the Wakamurasaki (Lavender), both illustrated with not only their usual pictorial depictions, but "Genji-crests" (Genji-mon) as well. The two chapters are related to the incense culture and the Genji-crest is a symbol used in the Genji-ko incense game. The poem on the print mentions the two chapters and the dawn of the New Year in Edo. Classical literature, incense, poetry, and the traditions of the incense game are all captured in one composition.