This nō libretto transmits the text for the play Bashō by Komparu Zenchiku (1405–1468?). It is one of a number of printed deluxe editions produced by Suminokura Soan (1571–1632), a wealthy Kyoto merchant. Soan underwrote printed productions by Kōetsu and Sōtatsu, which have the generic name Saga-bon, because the merchant lived in Saga, an area just northwest of Kyoto.
In the late sixteenth century, partly influenced by Western printing technologies, movable wooden type was used to produce librettos and other classical texts. As someone deeply involved in international trade, Soan likely had access to these new technologies. Kōetsu provided the templates for the calligraphy’s distinctive curvilinear style. The combinations of Chinese characters and hiragana (written symbols for Japanese syllables) were achieved with both single type pieces and those that joined together several hiragana syllables. The overall effect suggested the natural rhythmic flow of the individual hand.
Kōetsu utai-bon (Nō libretto)
Tawaraya Sōtatsu (act. ca. 1600–40)
Hon’ami Kōetsu (1558–1637), calligrapher
Japan, Edo period, early 17th century
Book with two signatures; woodblock printed
Ink on mica-decorated paper; paper covers
Purchase—The Gerhard Pulverer Collection, Museum funds, Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries and the Harold P. Stern Memorial fund in appreciation of Jeffrey P. Cunard and his exemplary service to the Galleries as chair of the Board of Trustees (2003-2007)
Freer Gallery of Art, FSC-GR-780.98