Mai no hon: kowakamai rokushu (Ballad Dramas: Six Kinds of Recitative Dances)

[Japan], 1624-43.
Six volumes: Large 8vo, orig. blue semi-stiff boards, remains of woodblock-printed title labels on upper covers, new stitching.


Six woodblock-printed and illustrated kowakamai, a distinct literary genre of dramas accompanied by dance. Kowakamai were developed in the late Muromachi period of the 15th and 16th centuries, featuring, for the most part, historical war tales based on military conflicts between the Taira and Minamoto clans, the two leading warrior families who fought for political hegemony in the late 12th century. As battle tales, kowakamai extoll the virtues of valorous warriors and glorify honorable death, filial piety, and loyalty to one’s masters. Therefore, kowakamai was a form of entertainment favored by the warrior-class families. Thes six separate works, part of a larger set of 36 volumes, include the following: 1. Kiso gansho [Kiso’s Supplication]. Four full-page woodcuts. Eight folding leaves. 2. Yume awase [The Portent of Dreams]. Six full-page woodcuts. Ten folding leaves. 3. Uma zoroe [The Assemblage of Horsemen]. Four full-page woodcuts. Ten folding leaves. 4. Hamaide [Beach Outing]. Five full-page woodcuts. Seven folding leaves. 5. Tokiwa mondo [Tokiwa’s Dispute]. Six full-page woodcuts. 15 folding leaves. 6. Tsurugi sandan [Laud of the Sword]. Six full-page woodcuts. 12 folding leaves. The first four fall into the category of Minamoto Tales, the fifth within Yoshitsune Tales, and the final within Soga Tales.
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