Page 24-25 - H&W Brochure #3

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. Album of 1200 Japanese Matchbox Labels.
Japan: various publishers, circa 1920-1940. Oblong folio, 11 x 14.5 inches, flexible silk
brocade boards. 48 pages, each featuring 25 mounted matchbox labels for a total of
1200 images. Light wear to binding, labels fine. $8500.
Extraordinary collection of matchbox labels from the 1920s and 1930s, offering
a rich visual survey of Japan between the wars.
After the First WorldWar, the Japanese match export industry faced increasing
foreign competition. Manufacturers redoubled their efforts at home, advertising
all manner of local goods and services on brightly printed matchboxes. Some of
these advertisements were familiar: tea and sushi, sake and rice, kimonos and hot
springs. Some were not, thanks to the rise of a postwar youth culture devoted to
new kinds of fun: jazz bands and cocktails, record players and movie theaters,
pool halls and mini-golf links. A new generation of independent
girls”) and their boyfriends were colonizing the cities of Japan: flirting, dancing,
and smoking the endless cigarettes that kept the matchboxes coming.
For a few brief years, geishas and flappers occupied the
same popular iconographic space, the past and future in
counterpoint as Japan sought to define its new global role.
In these matchbox labels, traditional Eastern design
elements mix, in surprising ways, with modernist styles
imported from the West: “Futurism, Expressionism,
Cubism, Dadaism. . . . these tiny posters were signposts and
examples, a vocabulary of the avant-garde” (Hohle,
The economic depression and militarization of Japan in the 1930s
put an end to the cosmopolitan world celebrated in these pages: jazz
was officially labeled “enemy music,” and dance halls were banned.
While the compiler of this album is unknown, the high quality of all
1200 labels and the meticulous composition of each page testify to
the seriousness of the collection, which is accompanied by a modern
English translation. Spectacular.