Hokusai Manga at Marquand Library

Marquand Library will be exhibiting volumes from Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai’s famous 19th century manga series, (Denshin kaishu) Hokusai manga [(Transmitting the Spirit and Revealing the Form of Things) Random Drawings of Hokusai] through the end of November. When we hear the word “manga” today, we think of graphic novels, but the literal meaning of the term in Japanese is “curious” or “whimsical drawings.” This was the 19th century understanding of the word when publication of Hokusai’s books, more commonly known as Hokusai manga, began in 1814. Originally, only one volume was planned, but when it became the all-time bestselling book in Japan, fifteen were published over the next sixty-four years.

Within the pages of Hokusai manga we see the artist’s early experiments in portraying Mount Fuji, years before his most famous print series, “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” was conceived (1826-1833). In the West, the images in Hokusai manga helped to define Japan when German physician, Phillip Franz von Siebold quoted many of them in lithographs for his 1831 Nippon: Archiv zur Beschreibung von Japon. In 1854, it was also Hokusai manga that first introduced artists like Édouard Manet and the early Impressionists to Japanese art. These random sketches were therefore not only admired in Japan, but were to have a profound and lasting influence on the Western art tradition.

Access to Marquand Library is by Princeton University ID or Library Access Card. Others wishing to see the exhibit,  please email marquand@princeton.edu.

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