Bridport Old Books

 A wonderful find in Bridport Old Books, Dorset. Japanese prints by Hiroshige from The Happer Collection and a beautiful little book of Thomas Bewick wood engravings.

A wonderful find in Bridport Old Books, Dorset. Japanese prints by Hiroshige from The Happer Collection and a beautiful little book of Thomas Bewick wood engravings.

Thomas Bewick - Wood Engravings

As we step through the entrance of this lovely old second hand bookshop we are told they are just about to close. On the table in the middle of bookshop I notice a small thin Penguin hardback of Thomas Bewick wood engravings by John Rayner. I turn the cover to reveal a large cut of a curly-maned lion taking his space on the end papers in front of a hilly landscape of palm trees. I turn to the back to find the end papers filled with a large engraving of an elephant with its curling trunk. Inside the book are engravings from The Quadrupeds, for which he is most well known. The book also includes his engravings for the History of British Birds and other nature inspired prints.

Well I do remember mounting the style which gave the first peep of the curling or rapid stream, over the intervening, dewy, or daisy-covered holme-bounded by the early sloe, and the hawthorn-blosssomed hedge, and hung in succession with festoons of the wild rose, the tangling woodbine, and the bramble, with their bewitching foliage; and the fairy ground, and the enchanting music of the lark, the blackbird, the throstle, and the blackcap, rendered soothing and plaintive by the comings of the ringdove.
— A Memoir of Thomas Bewick

I pick up the book and hurry over to the Asian Art section.

Hiroshige Woodblock prints - The Happer Collection

Tucked between two thick books is a thin hardback which turns out to be a catalogue presenting a list of Japanese colour prints to be sold for auction at Sotheby - Wilkinson & Hodge on the 14th June 1909. The first plate shows a memorial portrait of Hiroshige drawn by Toyokuni. Part of the inscription on the portrait reads: 

"He left behind a farewell sonnet : - "Dropping my brush at Azuma (Eastern capital) I go the long journey to the Western country (Buddhist Heaven is West) to view the wonderful sceneries there."

Over Toyokuni are the words:

"While thinking of him we shed tears."

The seal following Toyokuni reads:

"Ki en Ikku, a Buddhist phrase meaning Life is a mere puff of smoke, so short."

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The rest of the catalogue contains the full list with descriptions of each original colour print. All the plates in the book are black and white so I have to imagine, for now, how they would look in full colour. The book is tatty and pages are crumpled but I take it home to enjoy Hiroshige's beautiful scenes of mountains and moons, towns and temples, boats and seas, wind and rain, snow and sunsets, birds and blossom.

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Thank you Bridport Old Books for waiting a few more minutes.