Tokyo: Daitokaku, 1926. Single volume measuring 10.25 x 7.25 inches, publisher’s full dark grey cloth, front board and spine lettered in gilt, light blue abstract design stamped in blue on front board and spine, pictorial endpapers depicting Egyptian hieroglyphs in green, publisher’s brown paper stapled slipcase lettered in black. Title page printed in purple and black, ten pages printed in multiple colors, others printed in single colors or in black, ten pages of roman lettering examples at rear. Wear to slipcase, obscuring the first kanji of the title on the front board, book spine gently toned, embrowning to endpapers, offsetting of images throughout text, binding slightly shaken.
First edition of this influential introduction to the graphic hand-drawn letterforms popular in Jazz Age Japanese advertising. A modernized Japan, eager to compete both militarily and culturally with the West before the Second World War, struggled to advance the aims of consumer capitalism using the traditional Japanese writing system: unlike Western letterforms, Japanese characters were difficult and expensive to adapt into eye-catching, modernist type designs. This pattern-book was partially a response to the call for “new letterforms to fit modern commodities” made by Tokyo Imperial University professor Takeda Goichi, who argued that “beautiful typography is the most effective way of promoting the worth of a commodity” (Weisenfeld, “Japanese Typographic Design and the Art of Letterforms.”) Graphic designer Taichi Fujiwara worked in advertising in Osaka, and coined the term “design letters” (zuan moji) to describe the newly expressive hand-drawn letterforms used in his field. While promoting a revolutionary new aesthetic, his book follows the structure of traditional Japanese pattern-books, offering sources to be used by artists, designers, and advertisers. The typographic spreads illustrate a variety of letters, some practical, some whimsical; many reflect or incorporate actual images of their subjects, from songbirds to record players. OCLC finds no copies in American institutions. A very good copy of an innovative modern pattern-book, positioning the typographer as the mediator between art and commerce.