Friday, March 22, 2013

A beautifully illustrated Japanese-to-English primer from 1887

These charming vignettes come from a Japanese woodcut by Kamekichi Tsunajima titled “Ryūkō eigo zukushi” or “A Fashionable Melange of English Words.” Created in 1887, it shows an activity or object for each word (with the occasional misspelling). The entire piece is shown at the end in high resolution in case you'd like to download and peruse it. The original artwork lives in the Library of Congress.
I love the insouciant cat! And of course the person writing. Which ones strike your fancy?


  1. Which ones strike your fancy?
    Give me a 'blank book' to fill up anytime.

    p.s. Interesting juxtapositions in the order the images are presented – you could make an intriguing children's book out of the 'swimming shoes,' 'writing wolf,' 'cricket song,' 'box rat,' 'fishing horse,' 'pig commandant,' 'monkey school,' 'snake bath,' 'crab dog,' and so on.

  2. In keeping with Maryland pride, I have to say I am quite a fan of the crab.

  3. I know enough Chinese to recognize the larger ideographs are Chinese, not Japanese. So this artwork is a trilingual glossary. The small script above the English is likely a pronunciation aid.

    The blue horse is a character of Chinese myth. (My theory is the blue is reflected skylight.)