George S.Bonn Collection of Ukiyo-e in the Meiji period

This is a collection of over 860 Ukiyo-e from the final years of the Tokugawa Shogunate and Meiji period assembled by Professor George S. Bonn (1913-2003), who taught at Keio University.

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Introduction

 The “Bonn Ukiyo-e Collection” brings together over 860 examples of Ukiyo-e from the final years of the Tokugawa Shogunate and Meiji period assembled by Professor George S. Bonn (1913-2003), who taught at Keio University. The Japan Library School (the current-day equivalent is the Major in Library and Information Science, Faculty of Letters) was established in 1951 at Keio University. The establishment of the Japan Library School was planned by the United States after the war for the purpose of furthering academia in Japan, and Keio University was ultimately chosen as the best location for the school after tours of the other candidates, namely the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Waseda University, and Doshisha University.   It is said that the decisive factors in Robert L. Gitler, the director of the University of Washington's School of Librarianship's choice of Keio University after tours of each of the universities, were the impression left on him by the spirit of independence and self-respect as espoused in the English translation of the Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa, as well as the major role which Fukuzawa played in the modernization of Japan. Professor Bonn, who was one of five faculty members from the United States stationed at Keio, transferred from his position at the New York Public Library to the Japan Library School and lectured in library management theory and reference services theory between 1954 and 1955. After becoming interested in nishiki-e and picture books of the final years of the Tokugawa Shogunate and Meiji period after arriving in Japan, he continued to spiritedly collect these materials including during his subsequent visits to Japan. In 1986, this collection was donated to the Mita Media Center (Keio University Library).

 The mention of Ukiyo-e is perhaps most immediately evocative of the works of painters from the Edo period such as bijinga  portraying beautiful women by Kitagawa Utamaro; yakusha-e prints of Kabuki actors by Toshusai Sharaku; or the "Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji" by Katsushika Hokusai. However, Ukiyoe continued to be produced throughout the restoration period at the end of the Edo period through to the third decade of the Meiji period (starting around 1897) following their birth in the Edo period.  The Bonn Ukiyo-e Collection is focused on works from the final years of the Tokugawa Shogunate to the Meiji period. While the changing manners and fashions of the day are depicted in Ukiyo-e, the Ukiyo-e of the Meiji period would be increasingly evocative of their era, and continue to convey the vibrancy of this age through to today.