5 Color Collotype Plates
Believed to by by K. Ogawa

 
The Laughing Geisha
An image of the "Laughing Geisha"

 
This is a unit of 5 color collotype plates. I do not know the original source of the plates but based upon key characteristics, I am confident they are collotypes extracted from a book produced by K. Ogawa.

  • Type of Printing. Based upon inspection under magnification, they are clearly color collotype plates.
  • Lettering on Plates. Ogawa was perhaps the only printer in Japan at the time with the capability of printing titles onto collotype plates and all five plates have titles.
  • Plate Paper and Size. The plates measure 11  3/4 x 14 1/4 in (30 x 36 cm). The horizonal size has obviously been reduced some. The vertical size appears unmodified. The paper, which is of thickness similar to a thin index card, is the stock type typical of Ogawa's "Types and Views" books (see below). I note that an 1897 Ogawa book, The Hanami, contains plates of very similar size (11  3/4  x  15  in - 30  x  38  cm - untrimmed state) and paper type also.
  • Dating the Plates. I date the plates ca 1900. The plate of the "Waitress" features a lady who image was often used in the early 20th century. She is sometimes referred to as the "Laughing Geisha" as she alway seems to have a smile.

For information on Kazumasa Ogawa, click here.

 

A Waitress

 
Mother Says,I Must Neither Talk, Listen or Look

 
Stone Idles at Nikko

 
The Inland Sea of Japan

 
The Pleasure Boat at Mukojima Tokyo

 
"The Laughing Geisha" - Close Ups and More Information

 
The lady in this image titled "A Waitress" is frequently seen in photographs from the turn of the 19th century. In Souvenirs from Japan by Margaita Winkel, 1991, three different photographs of the woman above are shown. The author characterizes them as "Laughing Geisha" and notes "The Jovial young girl of these photographs was apparently quite popular as she is encountered frequently in similar poses in tourist albums." (pages 111-112). You often see this lady on picture post cards canceled in the 1900-1905 period.

 
Winkel, Margarita:
Souvenirs from Japan, Japanese photography at the turn of the century, London, Bamboo Publishing Ltd, 1991, oblong 8vo (8 1/2 x 9 3/4 in - 22.5 x 26 cm), 171 pictures (including front and back cover - approximately 1/3 in color), 160 pp. Preface by Professor Willem R. van Gulik. A comprehensive illustrated review of photography in Japan in the 19th century. The author discusses various facets of photography in 19th century Japan (methods, noted photographers & subjects) with a focus on how these were applied in the "Souvenir" photographs produced for sale to foreigners and export out of Japan. The discussion is supplemented with 171 reproductions of these "albumen" photographs (many of which were hand colored) from the renowned collection of R. Shilling. ISBN: 1-870076-58-3 (paperback) and 1-870076-18-4 (cloth).


 

Common Characteristics of K. Ogawa's
"Types and Views" Series, 1892-1896

 

During the period from 1892 through 1896 Kazumasa Ogawa produced a series of photographic books with collotype plates which have several common characteristics. Because of these common characteristics, I call them the "Types and Views" series. This is not a series name that Ogawa used.

Individually, each of the books represent the work of a master photographer executing the results of his labor through a then state of the art high quality printing process. Considered as a series, these books form an amazing pictorial mosaic of Japanese life, customs, cultural treasures and scenic places, recorded as Japan emerged from relative isolation to the outside world and entered into the 20th century.

  • Size & Format. Large 4to/Small Folio (11 3/4 x 16 in - 30 x 40.5 cm) size in Western style horizontal format reading from front to back. Crepe paper books are smaller.

  • Covers and Bindings.

    • Front and back covers.

      The covers are made from a thick card stock type paper. On the outside they are lithographed in colors (gray/beige background with black, white, light and dark green and silver) with a repeating pattern of concentric overlapping half circles, stylized clouds with leaves inside and breaking waves in silver. The inside of the covers have a two color butterfly pattern.

       
      Variety Covers


      One book has been examined (Views of Tokyo, 1895) which is a variant from the norm. It is roughly 90% of the width and approximately 55% of the length (10 1/8 x 6 3/4 in - 25.5 x 17.4 cm) of the regular versions.

       

    • Double string ties. The covers have two double string type ties that are usually tied in a cross type pattern in the front. The crossed ties end in tassels. Occasionally the ties are not crossed in the front and these do not have a tassel.

    • Spines. Thicker books have a fabric type covering protecting the entire spine. On the thinner books there is sometimes a fabric strip (usually dark blue) covering approximately 2 1/2 inches at the head and foot of the spine. These spine covers are delicate and breakup easily and the norm is for them to be missing or badly deteriorated.

    • Title. The book title is lithographed in bamboo stylized lettering in a title box on the front cover which is framed by two silver lines. "K. Ogawa" is identified as the photographer, "Tokyo, Japan" is the location and the titles generally state "In Collotype & From Photographic Negatives Taken by Him." If the book has descriptive text, the author of that text is identified. Where not all the photographs were take by K. Ogawa it merely states "In Collotype." Some books were distributed by "Sole Agents" and that is stated along with the name and location of the agent.

  • Collotype Plates.

    • The plates were manufactured by the collotype process. This is a high quality mechanical process capable of creating sharp images with a wide variety of tones. For more information on the collotype printing process, click here.

    • Black and White versus Color Images. As a general rule the plates are printed in black and white. Occasionally they are hand colored. I am unaware of a book of this type where the plates were actually printed mechanically in color using a multi pass collotype process as you see in the Ogawa flower collotypes in the Brinkley books of 1897-1898. The few color plates found in this series of books are hand colored.

    • Descriptive Titles. Plates generally have a descriptive title in English placed at the foot of the image. In some cases the descriptive title is printed on the tissue guard protecting the plate and not on the plate. The descriptive titles on the plates were applied in a separate letter type printing process from the collotype process that created the actual image on the plate. On the back you often see the indentations where the title was impressed on the plate.

    • Paper Color and Thickness. The paper color of the collotype plates in this series is brown/tannish. The thickness is similar to a thin index card. While the paper is not limp, it bends very easily. Below is a relative color comparison of various papers found in this and other Ogawa collotype plates.

      1. Types and View books
      (1892-6)

      2. Landscape Gardening Supplement (1893)

      3. Sights and Scenes in Fair Japan (1910)

      4. Bright white paper for comparison

      Composite view

     

  • Collotype / Phototype. The titles generally state the plates are "In Collotype" but with some books the term "In Phototype" is used. Occasionally, the same book can be found (Celebrated Geysha of Tokyo, 12 plate version, for instance) where covers with either of the terms are found. In the context of Ogawa books "collotype" and "phototype" are synonymous. The term "phototype" is the French word for the collotype. The term was used primarily in Europe but collotype quickly became the preferred designation. I suppose it is possible that for books intended for export to Europe the title used the term phototype.

  • Colophons. Except in cases where a book had an author who wrote the descriptive text, colophons are generally not found with the books. However, I believe that most of the books were actually issued with Japanese language colophon slips inserted loose at the back of the book. The lack of these slips is what makes these books hard to date precisely. These colophon inserts are on thin paper and most of them probably became separated from the books over the years. I have seen one slip that was actually tipped to the inside back cover. Below is an example of a colophon insert slip.

    Costumes & Customs in Japan, Vol I and II

    Printed: Meiji 28(1895).6.21
    Distributed: Meiji 28(1895).6.25

    Books where there is an author who wrote the descriptive text generally have a Japanese language colophon printed on the inside back cover. Below is an example of this type of colophon.

    Sights and Scenes on The Tokaido

    Meiji 25(1892).5.11

  • Color Wooblock Inserts. Infrequently the larger format books (11 3/4 x 16 in - 30 x 40.5 cm) are found color woodblock inserts giving the title. These measure (12 x 15 3/4 in - 30.5 x 40 cm). They are placed in loose at the front of the volume. Since these inserts are wider than the book, they are folded on the right side 1 1/2 inches to fit under the covers. These inserts are printed on high quality paper. They are double fold with the paper sealed in the middle at the back. They bear a color woodblock image of a cherry tree in bloom. The name of the book is printed at the middle left. The inserts are found with and without the Kelly & Walsh imprint and address (No. 61, Main Street, Yokohama) and the statement "Sole Agents.". I have confirmed these inserts in editions of Japanese Life (Kelly Walsh imprint), and Customs and Costumes, Vol II (No Kelly Walsh imprint). It is my experience that these inserts are seldom found with the book. Below are examples of these inserts.


  • Crepe Paper Books. During the period from 1892~1918 Ogawa published a series of books all titled Illustrations of Japanese Life. There were four different books with the same title. These books were on crepe paper and contained color collotype plates. These books have covers patterned along the same lines as the standard types and views covers found on the non-crepe books. Below is a picture of a cover from one of these crepe paper books.

    For more information on these books, click here.


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