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Japanese Fish Illustrations

  Path: Digital Library Projects  :  East Asian Projects : Japanese Fish Illustrations

Shūrin tekagami  or Shurinzu (衆鱗手鑑)

An illustrated book of fish and aquatic animals (461 species) compiled by Matsudaira Yoritaka, the Lord of Takamatsu in 18th century Japan. He was interested in industrial development and employed painters and compiled illustrated books on other creatures such as birds and flowers in addition to fish. These illustrated books became well known.

Upon request from shogunate, Shūrin Tekagami was compiled and donated to the 10th Shogunate, Tokugawa Ieharu on January 29 of Hōreki 12 [1762].  The story goes that the labels adhere to each illustration of fish were names of fish in Chinese characters calligraphed by Matsudaira himself. Fish names only in Chinese characters were not found any other illustrated books except Shūrin Tekagami.  Unfortunately this valuable item was mysteriously lost from the Edo Castle.

An American scholar, Bashford Dean (1876-1928) had acquired the book of illustrated fish around the 1890s and brought it back to the US and gave it to Columbia University (School of Biology?).  The illustrations were then believed to be done by Nishikawa Tōkichi who graduated Tokyo Univesity in 1897 and worked for the Misaki Marine Biological Station.  The illustrations are take into a part and put into frames.  The framed illustrations were put on the Wall of the Biology Department in Schemahorn Hall before the department moved to the current building. When the department was on move to this new building, these framed illustrations which were left Columbia were placed in Art Properties.

In 1979, Mr. Hideshi Kobayashi, then former Director of the Misaki Marine Biological Station of the University of Tokyo visited Columbia (Biology Science) and received four frames of the above mentioned fish illustration (the illustrations below are the four frames which were given to Mr. Kobayashi by Columbia). 

Prof. Isono Naohide, who is Professor Emeritus of Keio University and a aquatic animal scholar, studied many pre-modern illustrated aquatic animal illustrations.  Recently he examined the fish illustrations at the Misaki Marine Biological Station which used to be at Columbia.  Based on characteristics of these illustrations such as the fish name only in Chinese characters and the illustration of fins – “< “shape, he assumes these illustrations are from long lost Shūrin Tekagami.




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Last revision: 09/11/09
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