Picture books in the years from the 1730s through the 1750s – General For much of this period, Nishikawa Sukenobu and Okumura Masanobu play a major role, Sukenobu ranking first with eighteen titles in the 1730s, and Okumura Masanobu ranking third, with only three titles. In the 1740s, Sukenobu is still holding the first position, now with twenty-nine titles, Masanobu following in the second position, indeed more seriously, with eighteen titles. Third is the Sukenobu pupil Hasegawa Mitsunobu with seven titles. In the 1750s, both Masanobu and Sukenobu are no longer to be found in the first three positions – Sukenobu dies in 1751, at the age of 81 years old. Hasegawa Mitsunobu, whom we saw in the third position in the 1740s, now leads with fifteen titles, and then we see some new names in the second position, such as Ishikawa Toyonobu (1711-1785, act. 1730s-79) and Kitao Tatsunobu (act. 1747-72), each with twelve titles, followed by the Osaka artist Tsukioka Settei (1710-1786, act. 1751-87) with ten titles in the third position. Anyway, the strong representation from the Kansai region that started with Sukenobu’s breakthrough in the 1710s is not over yet, and its lasting influence on Edo imagery is still to come.
Looking at the number of works of an erotic nature, in the 1730s there are only six titles (4 by Sukenobu, 1 by Takagi Sadatake [act. 1720-52], and 2 by Masanobu), versus nineteen of non-erotic content (14 by Sukenobu, 4 by Sadatake, and 1 by Masanobu). For the 1740s, these figures would be fifteen for erotic works, all by Masanobu, versus thirty-nine non-erotic works (29 by Sukenobu, 3 by Masanobu, and 7 by Mitsunobu). And for the 1750s, we can only identify six erotic works (5 by Toyonobu and 1 by Settei), versus forty-three non-erotic works (15 by Mitsunobu, 7 by Toyonobu and 12 by Tatsunobu, and another 9 by Settei).
As a consequence, we must conclude that works of an erotic nature make out only some 26% of the picture books issued in the years from the 1730s to the 1750s – remember, this was 77% in the 1710s. This might suggest that the Kyōhō Reforms did have some impact. If so, this would at least be temporarily, as the 1770s would see their greatest flowering in the eighteenth century – in numbers that is, percentagewise we will have to wait and see, this may well be different. It is also interesting to note that quite a number of designers seem to abstain completely from designing enpon, such as, for example, Nishimura Shigenaga, Torii Kiyomasu II, Hasegawa Mitsunobu, Torii Kiyonobu II (1706-1763, act. 1726-60), Takagi Sadatake, Torii Kiyomitsu, and Torii Kiyotsune.
Most interesting is yet another development that we can observe from the 1750s: the modest beginnings of professionals illustrating popular novels. The first, admittedly still weak sign of this, we can see in the circumstance that the eleven illustrated novels for the 1740s – with Yamamoto Shigeharu (act. 1740s-50s?) illustrating one aohon novel and three kurohon novels, Torii Kiyomitsu (1735-1785, act. 1752-78) doing the illustrations of two kurohon novels and one aohon novel, and Nishimura Shigenaga illustrating one novel of the ukiyosōshi type – are easily being doubled to twenty-five illustrated novels in the 1750s – with Kiyomitsu being responsible for illustrating two novels of the kurohon genre and three aohon novels, Torii Kiyomasu II (1706-1763, act. 1728-60) illustrating three kurohon novels and one aohon, and Torii Kiyotsune (act. 1758-80) two more aohon novels.
Figures such as eleven illustrated novels in the 1740s, or more than the double in twenty-five for the 1750s may still seem quite unimportant, but then they really more than quadruple and become like 114 in the 1760s. Indeed, Kiyotsune and Kiyomitsu would then be responsible for illustrating forty-three and forty popular novels respectively, and that still hardly compares with Tomikawa Ginsetsu Fusanobu (act. 1756-81) who would in the same 1760s illustrate no less than 126 popular novels – “Illustrated a few small books” is the comment in Roberts, p. 27, with many more to follow in the 1770s. — At some point, I will go into more detail in regard to the illustration of popular novels of various kinds.