This copy of Lafcadio Hearn
's Chin Chin Kobakama
is so stunning that I have to describe it as "jewel-like."
Composed of woodblock prints, this and other Hearn titles in the Fairy Tale series were pressed on paper that was then creped. The result is a book, bound in Japanese style, that feels like silk and shimmers with jewel-like color.
Lafcadio Hearn was born in Greece and as an adult lived in Dublin, Cincinnati, and New Orleans. Though he is now closely identified with Japan and Japanese culture, he is the author of La Cuisine Creole, and as a journalist he wrote extensively about New Orleans.
In 1890 he traveled to Japan as a newspaper correspondent, but became a middle school teacher in Matsue. He married a Japanese woman and adopted the name Koizumi Yakumo.
Five translations in the Japanese Fairy Tale series are Lafcadio Hearn's. This copy of Chin Chin Kobakama was printed in 1903 in Tokyo. The 1923 earthquake destroyed the publisher's workshop, woodblocks, and possibly all of the printed leaves of the Fairy Tale series that were stored at that site.
The series is so bibliographically challenging that Hearn's entry in the Bibliography of American Literature begins with "A Note on the Japanese Publications." The indefatigable Jacob Blanck writes:
Study of the complex problem of identifying the earliest printing of each of the five translations contributed by Hearn to the Japanese Fairy Tale Series inescapably leads to the conclusion that the problem is insoluble.
The colophons are reproduced in the Bibliography of American Literature ("BAL" or "Blanck" to those in the trade)
Lafcadio Hearn died in 1904 in Okubo, Japan, just one year after this jewel of a book was printed. Over 100 years later it still shines brightly.