The Vault

A Lovely 19th-Century Illustrated Book of Japanese Falconry

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has digitized the pages of this 1860s book of falconry in Japan, which is titled Ehon taka kagami, or An Illustrated Mirror of Falconry. The woodcuts by Kawanabe Kyôsai (or Gyôsai) depict equipment and training methods, as well as many beautiful Siberian goshawks, the species that 19th-century Japanese falconers favored.

Kyôsai was a printmaker and illustrator who exhibited work internationally in the 1870s and 1880s. This multi-volume book—copies of which are now quite rare—captured the specific style of Japanese falconry. The sport had been practiced by elites, and then samurai, in Japan beginning in the fourth century A.D. When Kyôsai published these volumes, social change in Japan was about to significantly diminish the practice of traditional falconry. 

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Some copies of Ehon taka kagami were printed with flecks of mica embedded in the paper, a difficult technique that lends sparkle to the feathers of the birds. 

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I first saw this book on the great blog BibliOdyssey.

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

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Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

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Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

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Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

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Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

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