In 1814, the great Japanese artist and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) published the first volume of a handbook of his sketches: Hokusai Manga. Originally designed as a reference for his students to emulate, it surpassed all expectations and became a bestseller, eventually expanding to 15 volumes and over 4,000 images.
This three-volume edition is an extensive selection of Hokusai’s sketches, which present all the themes, motifs and techniques found in his art. Although they are not based around an ongoing narrative, the caricatures, satirical drawings and multi-panel illustrations can clearly be seen as a forerunner of manga as it is understood today.
Volume 1 explores Edo Life, the everyday world of the city that would later become Tokyo, featuring people from all walks of life at work and at play. Volume 2 is devoted to The Wonders of Nature, including animals, birds and fish as well as landscapes, weather and scenes of natural beauty. Finally, volume 3, Flights of Fancy, is packed with mythical creatures, supernatural beings and all sorts of weird and wonderful imagery from the master’s imagination. This collection has enchanted and inspired artists and art-lovers for two centuries and is now ripe for rediscovery.