Album of striped cotton textile samples in a lacquered paper storage box

On an auspicious day in the new year of 1860, the owner of this then-pristine notebook inscribed its cover with the year Ansei 7 and the term shojiki, “record of various matters.” After lengthy use as an all-purpose memo book constructed from sturdy kozo paper, it was expanded and repurposed as a sample book (mihoncho) for textiles. Said to have come from a family in the Tokyo textile business, the sample book may have been prepared for a traveling salesman representing the firm. The neatly trimmed and mounted samples show a range of handspun, indigo-dyed, handwoven striped and checked cotton textiles.

Another textile sample album that recently entered the Sackler collection (S2016.6) is similar in structure as a repurposed notebook dated Meiji 38 (1905). Side by side, the two albums document shifting tastes over half a century. The introduction of European chemical dyes and mills to spin cotton were contributing factors to these changes. Other recent additions to the Sackler collection include a patchwork work jacket, two patchwork quilt covers, and a length of cloth (S2016.3, S2016.4, S2016.5, S2016.7). Together, these objects show how such indigo-dyed textiles were used or reused.

Albums relating to textiles provide insight into modes of interaction with textiles and textile records. The earliest acquisitions in the Freer collection relate to two painting mounters from the Miura family studio in Kyoto. Charles Lang Freer worked with them to prepare Japanese and Chinese paintings in his collection for display in his anticipated museum. The Miura family apparently made one album in Japan (F1917.429). The other two albums (F1917.430, F1917.431) were prepared in the United States and might preserve samples of textiles removed from Freer’s paintings during remounting. The Study Collection houses two paper notebooks (FSC-T-3, FSC-T-4) in which the Miura brothers documented Charles Lang Freer’s fabric choices for remounting his paintings.

A lavish collector’s album of 394 samples of Chinese and Japanese textiles ranging in date from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century is a recent gift to the Freer collection (F2017.11.1). Assembled in the nineteenth century, the album was catalogued in the late 1940s by Yamanobe Tomoyuki (1906–2004), the textile curator at the Tokyo National Museum. A working notebook of color samples from a silk dyer’s workshop (FSC-T-28) offers the other extreme of practicality.



Album page with woven blue fabric stripsAlbum of striped cotton textile samples, in a lacquered paper storage box
Japan, Edo period, 1860 (Ansei 7) or later
Paper, woven cotton textiles, lacquered paper
Gift of Jeffrey P. Cunard
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, S2018.56a-b