The Tale of the Wandering Monk, Kyōka Izumi, illustrations by Setsuko, Limited Editions Club, 1995

Simply put, you are about to see a beautiful book.  Classically designed, stunning illustrations, hand-made Japanese paper, traditional hand binding, etc.  The ‘make-up’ of this book is an excellent example of what can be done at the pinnacle of fine press book-making.

The Tale of the Wandering Monk (from Koya Hijiri, or Saint of Mt. Koya), Kyōka Izumi’s most acclaimed work, is a tale about a monk’s journey through a mountainous wilderness where he experiences unsettling, mysterious and inexplicable happenings (Izumi often used supernatural elements in his works).

As mentioned in the prospectus for this edition, Kyōka Izumi (1873-1939) was renowned as the supreme romanticist of the Meiji period in Japanese literature, which lasted from 1868 to 1912, coinciding with Japans emergence from a feudal society. Kyoka vividly depicted in this novel that our visible world is surrounded by the supernatural. Kyoka is known for rich prose and complex plots.

Setsuko (b.1943, full name Setsuko Klossowski de Rola) is an accomplished Japanese painter and writer. Her work for this book are among the most beautifully done that I have ever seen in the world of book illustration. Just look below — the work is mesmerizing.  The color, the life, the soul just exude from the paper. Setsuko’s husband was the internationally acclaimed artist Balthus, whose own work graced the pages of LEC’s Sight and Touch, Sonnets to Orpheus and Wuthering Heights.

{Ed. Note:  My understanding is that Limited Editions Club does have a few copies of The Tale of the Wandering Monk still available to order. You can call Jeanne Shiff at 212-737-7600 or 800-701-8870 to inquire about price and to order, if interested.}

About the Edition

  • Published in 1995
  • Translated by Charles Inouye (the first and only into English)
  • Setsuko’s four paintings, converted into wood blocks, as many as 30 per illustration, printed on finely-textured, hand-made Japanese mulberry paper
  • “Pouch Binding” or Fukuro toji, os the traditional Japanese binding
  • Pages securely “bound” across an open spine with bookbinding thread, in a pattern that suggests a delicate Japanese screen
  • Front and back covers are covered with deep violet Japanese cloth
  • Hinged, fabric covered portfolio box
  • 14 point Centaur with four points of interlinear leading
  • Presswork performed at Michael and Winifred Bixler’s Wild Carrot Letterpress
  • Binding done by Barbara Kretzmann and Winifred Bixler
  • 14″ x 17″
  • Limited to 300 copies
  • Each signed by Charles Inouye and Setsuko

Pictures

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The Tale of the Wandering Monk, Limited Editions Club, Slipcase
The Tale of the Wandering Monk, Limited Editions Club, Cover
The Tale of the Wandering Monk, Limited Editions Club, Cover
The Tale of the Wandering Monk, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
The Tale of the Wandering Monk, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
The Tale of the Wandering Monk, Limited Editions Club, Sample Illustration #3 with Text
The Tale of the Wandering Monk, Limited Editions Club, Sample Text
The Tale of the Wandering Monk, Limited Editions Club, Colophon
The Tale of the Wandering Monk, Limited Editions Club, Monthly Letter

4 thoughts on “The Tale of the Wandering Monk, Kyōka Izumi, illustrations by Setsuko, Limited Editions Club, 1995

  1. I agree with your comments on the illustrations Chris – they are simply breathtaking and when I realised that they had been printed from blocks, I was amazed. This is one of the most beautiful books you have featured on Books & Vines.

  2. What a beautiful book! I love these kind of posts, but I wish you would go into more detail about the binding, binding material, and how the label for the solander and book were made.,

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