Going back to single print production in the early eighteenth century, it is quite helpful to have a more realistic idea of production figures for the novel phenomenon of single prints, but it may even be more important to apply the 3.5 multiplication factor to the genre of prints of actors in role. The figure of 55 sugatae (姿繪) for the 1710s – as prints of actors were called at the time, if you would ask for yakushae, nobody in those days would understand what you were talking about – yields some 190 when multiplied by 3.5, as we have also done with the totals of single prints. Similarly, the 65 known prints of actors datable to the 1720s, could well represent a total of some 225, whereas the total of 103 for the 1740s gives a number of 360. Consequently, we are looking at an annual production of some nineteen prints of actors in the ten years from 1710 through 1719 – with mind you something like thirty-six main plays staged each year in Edo’s three kabuki theatres. In the 1720s, the annual production would amount to twenty-two and a half, and in the 1740s to an annual number of thirty-six. Although this might be one for each new production, we should also realize that the emphasis in these days is still just on prints after performances of the first and eleventh months, that make out some 67% in the 1710s, and some 80% in the 1730s. And please remember that these figures are the total of all designers making prints of actors in role in the first half of the eighteenth century, whereas we would probably easily find some thirty to forty designs annually for just one single designer of the Katsukawa tradition working in the 1780s. The beginnings of Japanese prints is, undoubtedly, a very slow process that would gradually lead to a first thriving only in the 1760s. Yet, let me add immediately that the real turning point is the year 1772, as we shall see, and not the year 1765, as is often erroneously maintained. However, before we get there, we still have to see what is going on in the 1730s, the 1740s, and the 1750s.

Another interesting aspect is how these designers see themselves. In the 1700s, Torii Kiyonobu uses the signatures Wagakō, that is Japanese Painter Torii Shōbei (和画工鳥居庄兵衛), and Yamato hippon eshi, that is Maker of Japanese Paintings Torii Kiyonobu (大和筆品画師鳥居清信). In the 1710s, Torii Kiyomasu uses the signature Nihon senkenga, that is Maker of Charming Japanese Paintings Torii uji, that is from the Torii Family, Kiyomasu (日本嬋娟畫鳥居氏清倍). And Okumura Masanobu signs some of his works Tōbu Yamato eshi, that is Japanese Painter from the Eastern Capital in Musashi Province Okumura Masanobu (東武大和画師奥村政信). And prefixes such as Yamato gakō (大和画工), Nihon gakō (日本画工), and Yamato eshi (大和画師), or Nihon eshi (日本繪師), all essentially meaning Japanese painter, are also frequently used in the 1710s and 20s by painters such as Okumura Masanobu, Okumura Toshinobu (act. 1717-49), and Nishimura Shigenaga (1697?-1756, act. 1719-56). Anyway, the clear message is something like ‘We are the real Japan,’ as we are not working in the Chinese based Kanō style of painting.

And there is one single reference only to what we have come to call ‘Pictures of the Floating World, Ukiyoe,’ a print by Masanobu, dating from 1726, that he signs Nihon gakō ukiyoe ichiryū, that is Japanese Painter of the tradition of pictures of the floating world Okumura Shinmyō Masanobu (日本畫工浮世絵一流奥村親妙政信). But then we have also seen – in 1722 and again in 1724 – the publisher Komatsuya dubbing himself ‘publisher of ukiyoe and member of the guild of fiction publishers,’ (ukiyoe hanmoto esōshi toiya 浮世繪板元繪双紙問屋).

The Annals of Edo in Musashi Province, Bukō nenpyō (武江年表), 1-120, remark for the Shōtoku Period (1711-1716) that Hishikawa Moronobu dies in Shōtoku at the age of 70+. Now Kaigetsudō (Ando, real name: Genshichi) is coming up. He is said to live in Asakusa Kuramae. For the Kyōhō Period (1716-1736), it mentions (I-139) Okumura Bunkaku Masanobu (Hōgetsudō) [奥村文角政信 (芳月堂)], Nishimura Shigenaga (Senkadō) [西村重長 (仙花堂)], Torii Kiyonobu [鳥居清信], idem Kiyomasu [同清倍], Kondō Sukegorō Kiyoharu [近藤助五郎清春], and Tomikawa Ginsetsu Fusanobu [富川吟雪房信, act. 1756-81].


1700s Prints: 1) Torii Kiyonobu [33]; 2) Torii Kiyomasu [6]. [Total 39]

1700s Picture books: 1) Nishikawa Sukenobu [6]; 2) Okumura Masanobu and Torii Kiyonobu [3]. [Total 23]

1710s Prints: 1) Torii Kiyomasu [51]; 2) Okumura Masanobu [15]; 3) Okumura Toshinobu [11]. [Total 77]

1710s Picture books: 1) Nishikawa Sukenobu [29]; 2) Okumura Masanobu [5]. [Total 34]

1720s Prints: 1) Okumura Masanobu [29]; 2) Okumura Toshinobu [27]. [Total 56]

1720s Picture books: 1) Nishikawa Sukenobu [9]; 2) Hasegawa Mitsunobu [4]. [Total 13]