Re:- Censorīs seals-A Bit More

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Posted by Andy Watanabe on July 10, 2003 at 03:22:26:

In Reply to: Re:- Censorīs seals posted by Theo de Kreijger on July 09, 2003 at 20:49:23:

Dear Elisabeth and Theo,

As for the application of the censor seal to the drawing that is to become a print, there are several possibilities.

First, please keep in mind that there are different kinds of censor seals. In the case of the kiwame seal, this was a kind of self-censorship, that publishers put on prints to show that the print had been examined. It was, in a sense, the publisher himself announcing that he was taking responsibility for the print. So there was no actual "censor" stamping anything on a drawing.

In the case of the nanushi seals, the case is a bit different, and the original date of a block carving can be determined approximately by the name or combination of names on seals.

As Elisabeth suggests, however, the seals on a print, even the date seals, indicate nothing definite about the actual date of printing. They DO indicate the date of the carving of the block, however, and this is significant. (But also beware of modern reproductions that replicate the seals as well--somewhat less commonly found with nanushi seals but very common with kiwame.)

In the case of a Hiroshige print where the publisher's seal has been removed, this is almost certainly a later printing. The prints of Hiroshige's work made from the original blocks are rife in late Edo and early Meiji. Other factors that will tell you if the print is a later printing or not include the quality of the impression (late printings most often have broken, thin or muddy lines) and the colors (generally fewer, cheaper and less carefully applied in the reprints.)

As for the correspondence between the date seals on a print and the time of printing, generally, the connection is quite close. It's only in the case of very popular prints that one can expect to find printings being made long after the blocks were carved. I have seen some prints made from original Edo blocks in the Taisho Period though, and these are quite an anomaly--Edo carving with modern paper and pigments. When you get used to seeing the style of coloring in different periods and learn to distinguish the states of printing in the surviving print, it becomes easier to distinguish the late printing. With the exception of these, you can usually assume that a print was made around the time of the date seal. There are some additional exceptions--replugged blocks, inability to precede with the printing for financial or other reasons etc.--but the date seals are an approximate indication of date in most cases.

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