Shokuba Ko, 1856

It’s been a while since I had a chance to write on the blog, so I figured now would be a good time to highlight one of our most distinctive treasures in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. The book is called Shokuba Ko, which translated from the original Japanese means, “How to Ornament Horses.” It’s part of the John H. Daniels Collection.

The book is bound with thread, and was published around 1856, just after Matthew Perry's landing spurred the tumultuous "Bakumatsu" period where Japan reopened to the West.
The book is bound with thread, and was published around 1856, just after American Captain Matthew Perry’s landing spurred the tumultuous “Bakumatsu” period in which Japan reopened to the West.
The Japanese were very familiar with the horse as a means of military transportation. This volume explores the ceremonial attire for horses on parade.
The Japanese were very familiar with the horse as a means of military transportation. This volume explores the ceremonial attire for horses on parade.
The book is an example of Japanese woodblock printing, and the colors are still vibrant almost 160 years after publication.
The book is an example of Japanese woodblock printing, and the colors are still vibrant almost 160 years after publication.
Each piece of tack is listed and described.
Each piece of tack is listed and described.
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The saddle (lower right) and saddle-blanket (upper right).

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The horses in this image wear Chinese-style stirrups, which were ring-shaped.
The horses in this image wear Chinese-style stirrups, which were ring-shaped.
The book was written by Katsumi Matoba. The first volume is text, and the second volume contains illustrations.

 

On the lower left are Japanese-style stirrups: sandal-like cups attached to chains.
On the lower left are Japanese-style stirrups: sandal-like cups attached to chains.

Shokuba Ko is a favorite on tours of the Library. It doesn’t appear on every tour, but it comes out often. I hope you’ll come to visit the Library soon, and maybe you can see this and many of our other printed treasures up close!

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