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From the Archives: The Kohana San Book

Before her marriage to Robert Woods Bliss in 1908, Mildred Barnes Bliss was a nascent collector of rare books and prints. This book, Kohana San (front and back cover shown below), is preserved in the Dumbarton Oaks Archives and has Mildred Barnes’s bookmark from her country house in Sharon, Connecticut. Twenty-two silk-tied pages with woodblock illustrations on double-folded, mulberry wood-based crepe paper (chirimen) tell in English verse the story of a Geisha of Kobe (Kohana San or “Little Flower”). This is the first edition of the book, published in 1892 by Takejiro Hasegawa, Tokyo. The binding is in the traditional Japanese style known as fukuro-toji (“pouch binding”) where sheets of paper are printed with woodblocks on only one side and then folded in half with the printed side out. The folded sheets are stacked together, and the unit is tied along the spine with two double-hole bindings of silk threads. A colophon in Japanese on the first page gives publication data and identifies the woodblock printer as Komiyo Sojiro. Hasegawa’s books were usually printed in editions of 500.

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