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BRINKLEY'S 1897, 10-Volume (+2) EMPEROR'S Edition of JAPAN: DESCRIBED AND ILLUSTRATED BY THE JAPANESE -- Published by the J. B. MILLET COMPANY of BOSTON | by Okinawa Soba (Rob)
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This caption discuses the 10 and 12-Volume FOLIO-SIZED "BRINKLEY SETS" of 1897.


Although most Brinkley Sets are comprised of 10 volumes, some (such as the set pictured) consisted of 12 volumes.The subscribers, whose names were printed in the books, had to wait a a few years for the last two ART volumes to appear. The personal inscriptions of the last two matched the first 10 volumes, but the contents were devoid of hand tinted photographs. Instead, they were illustrated with numerous tipped in halftone gravures depicting works of art, done up in various shades of ink printed on various tissue papers. Those interested in the photographic portion of the Brinkley Sets need only concern themselves with the first ten volumes.


[NOTE: This caption will probably appeal to dealers, collectors, and researchers who have a set of these books---or even some loose volumes---and want to know more about them].




The above photo shows the finest of the many Brinkley editions published by the J. B. MILLET COMPANY of Boston. Beside the English text translated from articles written by the Japanese themselves, there are over 300 hand-finished illustrations. These labor-intensive embellishments consist of 260 hand-tinted real albumen photographs, 10 beautiful flower collotypes, and over 30 other works of art inserted among the pages --- and that's just the first 10 volumes !


Of all the Editions containing real photos, the EMPEROR'S EDITION averaged the best photographic content in terms of richness of the prints, and quality of hand tinting. Although other Editions occasionally had scattered prints that exceeded the quality of particular images in the EMPEROR'S EDITION, among the numerous sets collated, the EMPEROR'S EDITION always had at least 75% of its photographic content exceed the quality of the next best Edition (such as the MIKADO, EMPRESS, YEDO, DeLUXE, and other numerous editions).


Back in 1991, DENISE BETHEL of Sotheby's Auction House in New York published what remains the best description of these sets ever written. Her 20-page report appeared in the VOLUME 34, NOS. 1-2, Spring/Summer issue of IMAGE magazine published by the GEORGE EASTMAN HOUSE INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM OF PHOTOGRAPHY.


However, a typo slipped in resulting in the pictured EMPEROR'S EDITION getting demoted to a "lesser" quality edition. In spite of that, Bethel's work is still an amazing read on how the above volumes packed with real photos and art came into being --- and how (and why) the publishing world has never been able to repeat such a thing to this day.


While Ms. BETHEL'S highly detailed essay focused mainly in the business side of getting this major work published, the Okinawa_Soba caption below deals with new information that has come to light during the past 20 years --- especially information of a photographic nature.


To begin with, we now know that Yokohama photographer KOZABURO TAMAMURA was the one charged with coming up with a mountain of hand finished photographs to be pasted into the volumes of these silk-covered sets, and he called upon his Japanese photographer friends and acquaintances to bail him out !


His first order from the Boston publisher called for over 180,000 prints !!!!! This unbelievable order for photographs was so astounding, it made news in the Japanese papers of the day.


But, that was only the beginning.


Some sources have said this order was eventually increased to 1,000,000 hand-colored prints --- all for the same publisher ! Although I have not been able to track the "million" number down to a primary source, I have made some basic calculations based on Bethel's list of editions of this set (and some not on her list), and came up with way more than double the first installment of 180,000 prints --- actually well over 400,000 hand-made albumen photos (just for starters) !


There were also numerous editions that have no press-run figures, and the publisher also issued ART FOLIO sets that were filled with nothing but loose, mounted prints --- these two categories of Brinkley publications alone could have added tens (or hundreds) of thousands of more albumen prints into the mix.


Although an accurate final figure might be impossible to obtain, the numbers so far certainly indicate the incredible amount of early Japanese photographs that came out of Yokohama during the 19th century.







Tamamura had not been a student of K. Ogawa as Enami had been, yet he was drawn into their profession circle, and, like Enami, maintained a close and friendly relationship with Ogawa --- and apparently the illustrious Kimbei Kusakabe as well.


The camera craft of these four men would occasionally be found together in both domestic and international works of photographic art — the most well known being the multi-volume Brinkley sets under discussion here.


In these large folio volumes seen in the photo above, it is unfortunate that only K. Ogawa is given distinct credit for his photographic contributions --- the beautifully colored collotype frontispiece images of flowers.


However, it was the unnamed Tamamura who was responsible for organizing the effort to edit and supply the proverbial one million (!) hand-colored albumen photos, all to be used over a several-year period as tipped-in illustrations for the body of the various Brinkley editions — the better ones requiring 260 of these real photos to be pasted in by hand.


Tamamura needed help from the better-known photographers mentioned above to supply other images in addition to his own. In the end, not only were these other photographers called on, but also a staff of over 350 sun-printers and colorists was hired on and kept busy at the studios --- and no doubt at make-shift workshops set up for the occasion.


Although we know that K. Ogawa, Tamamura, Kimbei (and surely others) provided images, I will focus on T. ENAMI'S photographs for the moment....


Enami's photographs form a substantial part of both the larger matted images, as well as the smaller views pasted directly onto the text pages. Interestingly, the leading full-size matted photograph in all of the sets — the volume-one scene of Mt. Fuji with boaters in the foreground — is by T. Enami, being one of his earliest 1892-95 images (View no.310 in Enami's Print and Lantern-Slide Catalog)


Here it is, showing part of the green paper mount :


Interestingly, Denise Bethel's 1991 article in IMAGE Magazine (described in the first caption section above) also utilized an Enami photograph for one of the four full-page illustrations. Although it appears as a black & white illustration in IMAGE, you may see it here in full color :


On a technical note, although there were many "Editions" produced by the publisher, the "better sets" all contained 60 large, hand-tinted and matted albumen prints such as the Mt. Fuji scene above, and 200 smaller "postcard" size, hand-tinted albumen prints tipped into spaces prepared for them on the printed text pages. However, during production of the sets, many images were "switched out" using photos made from both (1) close variants, and (2) totally different negatives having content that conformed to the fixed captions already pre-printed on the pages.


Except for only one paragraph in the Introduction that was altered between many of the editions, the main body of the text was printed from the same page blocks for all of the editions. For the cheaper halftone editions, only the captions were changed, and halftone photos were placed within the same spot that had been formerly left blank in the better editions to allow for the pasting in of the hand-colored, albumen photographs.


I have personally seen and collated the hand-tinted albumen images in about ten different complete sets (and there are many more Editions that I have not examined). Making comparisons where I could, I discovered that 333 different negatives were variously used to fill the 260 positions reserved for the photographic illustrations in the best editions.


However, if we include the 192 new photographs (out of 198 total) used to make the black and white half-tone illustrations for the cheaper editions, the total image stock used by the publisher rises to 530 photos !


These numbers can only be expected to grow as more sets are carefully compared.


To date, almost 50 of these large and small images have been identified as those from the studio of T. ENAMI, making his work the largest body of verified, photographer-attributed images in the "Brinkley sets". This number is also expected to rise as more of Enami's verified images become available to match with the Brinkley content.


As work is now in progress to nail down as many KIMBEI and TAMAMURA images as possible (many are already known in these sets), a clearer picture of the photographic talent behind the Brinkley JAPAN sets will finally emerge --- after over 110 years.


FINALLY.... in my personal opinion, the pressure put upon these great photographers to come up with so many photographs in so short a time caused quality to suffer --- in all areas of printing, fixing, washing, and tinting. Although there are still fine examples of richly printed and tinted images that have survived well in the books, a great number of images have begun to show the effects of time, and fading of many of the prints has resulted in the less-than-careful tinting now standing out in a distracting way against badly-fading prints whose former richness helped swallow up the too-quick (and sometimes too sloppy) application of color.


Strangely, it is the 200 or so black & white half-tones of the lesser editions that remain universally rich in contrast, showing us what the negatives and albumen prints they worked from 110 years ago really looked like --- all rich and spectacular.


For more on ENAMI, TAMAMURA, and the BRINKLEY Sets of Old Japan (along with more samples of Enami's photography contained in the sets), scroll halfway down the page until you hit the BRINKLEY section here :


For a sampling of about 60 images from across a range of the various Brinkley sets, see :


Plenty more Enami pics HERE :











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Taken on January 6, 2007