Honzô zufu, Japanese flora

Treasures of the Historic Library
19th century
Paper, woodprint
Image d'un livre illustré de plantes médicinales

Photo (C) RMN-Grand Palais (MNAAG, Paris) / Thierry Ollivier

Alert title Currently not exhibited

The Honzo zufu (Illustrated book of medicinal herbs) is a botany work owed to Iwasaki Tsunemasa (1786-1842), a Japanese botanist, zoologist, and entomologist, as well as a Samourai. 

He dealt with flora by following the Bencao gangmu plants classification by Li Shizhen, published in China in 1596. The vast sum includes over 90 volumes published between 1830 and 1844. The project began in 1828 according to the preface, the first volumes were block books with illustrations occasionally coloured by hand. Successively, the fascicules, manuscript, came out at the rate of 3 to 4 volumes a year over a quarter of a century (the ensemble would be reedited in 1920). The illustrations were highly appreciated by contemporaries, notably for the care given to documenting the entire life cycle of the plants.

Our library’s copy, in excellent condition, belongs to the first almost complete edition (87 volumes). It comes from the collection of the Navy physician Ludovic Savatier. A botany enthusiast, Savatier largely contributed to the exchange of botanical knowledge between France and Japan, in particular by acclimatising foreign varieties in the two countries.

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