Hokusai's sketchbooks: the manga
Hokusai published twelve volumes of manga, or random sketches, during his lifetime, beginning in 1814 when he was 54 years old, until 1834, and an additional three volumes were published posthumously. The astounding variety of subject matter combined with fineness of observation and drawing create a multitudinous world, which can be overwhelming when the viewer first encounters it. The books were far more popular than such study-books usually were when they were first published, which led to reprintings, both during Hokusai's lifetime as well as after his death.

An excellent introduction from an avowed enthusiast in the West is James Michener's The Hokusai Sketchbooks (Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1958), which has been quoted from throughout the descriptions of the plates here. Further discussions, which place the manga in Hokusai's work as a whole, by a woodblock print scholar are to be found in Richard Lane's Hokusai: Life and Work (E.P. Dutton, 1989).

The plates were printed two to a sheet, folded with the images out, and bound on the cut edg. Thus diptychs or two-part pictures are not printed on the same sheet of paper, but formed from the right side of one sheet and the left side of the next. In a narrow vertical strip on the folded edge is printed the volume and page numbers. The paper is thin and the printing and tinting sometimes light, though images are all clear in their details. The prints here have been separatHed along the fold and mounted individually, or in pairs to form a single image or related group of images, as they originally appeared in each volume. Some volumes were well used and some pages show soil marks in the lower corners. All prints have the full original margins of the page.

Further prints are available and will appear here shortly. Inquiries are invited about specific prints or subject matter, and can be shown on the site within a short time on request.

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