Dôjin zasshi (同人雑誌) or coterie (dôjin) magazines (zasshi) were, generally, privately issued and often short-lived art/literary magazines sponsored by artists or publishers. Despite small circulations, dôjin zasshi were widely distributed among woodblock-print aficionados. Exemplified by an independent spirit and experimentation in layout and content, they were critical to the development and sustenance of sôsaku hanga (creative prints: 創作版画), providing for many artists the only venues to show their work. Pasted on sheets and tied together by cord or string, or compiled as loose prints within envelopes, the magazines featured, on average, about 10 prints per issue, of which 70-80% were hand-printed (some were machine-printed from the original woodblocks or photomechanically reproduced). Dôjin were issued from the beginning of the twentieth century to the early 1970s, although nearly all were active only before World War II. Early examples include those found in the literary magazines Hôsun ("One's Ideas" or "Square Inch," 方寸), 35 issues, 1907-11, and its shorter-lived predecessor Heitan ("Flatness," 5 issues, 1905-06).
Shiro to kuro ("Black and white": 白と黒), founded in February 1930, was published by the company Shiro to Kurosha under the management of the publisher and artist Ryôji Chômei. The first 50 issues (until August 1934) were all printed by hand by the artists with the prints pasted onto the magazine pages. For all subsequent issues, the images were mechanically printed. The first 22 issues were printed usually in editions of 100, afterwards usually in editions of 60. After the initial hiatus (Sept. 1934-May 1935), Shiro to kuro resumed publication in June through November 1935 (four issues) and finally fnished in March through July 1937 (five issues). Ryôji Chômei considered the magazine a venue primarily for amateur artists, but leading sôsaku hanga artists also participated.
Merritt and Yamada (see reference below) make a useful distinction between a dôjin zasshi and a series of prints: "Series were generally preplanned in their entirety with artists and themes predetermined, whereas magazines came out more or less regularly as long as their sponsoring groups could manage the production and financing."
In issue no. 34 of Shiro to kuro ("Black and white": 白と黒), the best known artists are Hiratsuka Un'ichi, Maekawa Senpan, Enami Shirô, and Taninaka Yasunori, who are accompanied by nine other print designers. The artists who contributed the 16 prints are listed below in order of appearance (in the photo montage above, the order is right-to-left and top-to-bottom):
- Hiratsuka Un'ichi (平塚運一 1895-1997): Bird
- Mori Dôshun (守洞春 1909-1985): Green-bean flower
- Hirokawa Matsugorô (広川松五郎 1889-1952): Grass
- Okuda Teruichirô (奥田輝一郎 dates unconfirmed): Hops
- Maekawa Senpan (前川千帆 1888-1960): Girl with insect net
- Takeda Shintarô (武田新太郎 1886-1957): Birch tree flower (signed "Shin" in block)
- Nakagawa Yutarô (中川雄太郎 1910-1975): "Small work" (reclining nude)
- Mutô Kan’ichi (武藤完一 born 1892): House by estuary
- Enami Shirô (江南史朗 born 1901): Chitose Riverside; Tokyo view #3 (signed in pencil)
- Kobayashi Asaji (小林朝治 1898-1939): Fly in winter (signed "Asa" 朝 in block)
- Taninaka Yasunori (谷中安規 1897-1946): "Fear No. 1" (male figure in boat with fish and bird)
- Taninaka Yasunori (谷中安規 1897-1946): "Fear No. 2" (nude male reclining below breasts)
- Ryôji Chômei (料治潮鳴 1899-1982): Kitchenware (bowl with ladle and cup)
- Ryôji Chômei (料治潮鳴 1899-1982): "Early spring: Good tastes" (vegetables)
- Ogawa Tatsuhiko (小川龍彦 1910-1988): "Still Life" (puppet heads/masks & arm; signed Tatsu 竜 "dragon" in block, pun on"Tatsu" 龍 in given name)
- Front and back covers: Okuda Teruichirô (奥田輝一郎 dates unconfirmed): Flower
The look and feel of a flimsy, delicate volume of Shiro to Kuro mirrors certain sôsaku hanga sensibilities — humble, accessible, understated, unprepossessing — somewhat akin to the aesthetic of wabi-sabi (simplicity and acceptance of imperfection: 侘寂) in the tea ceremony. The prints are often tipped-in slightly akilter on the pages, and the thin covers and interior pages of a Shiro to Kuro volume, full of paper inclusions and easily creased, rarely line up with their neighbors, either top and bottom or side to side. Unsurprisingly, posterity had not been kind to these particular dôjin — most are incomplete, as favorite prints were removed over the years — and it's somewhat remarkable to find a relatively clean, intact copy like this one.
Our copy of Shiro to kuro no. 34 retains all of its original prints in very good to excellent condition, a distinct rarity, marking it as a highly desirable volume for collectors of early sôsaku hanga. The blending of well-known artists with printmakers who are mostly unfamiliar to us today offers an important opportunity to study and collect this genre of prints during its formative years, when virtually everything produced was in one way or another experimental and innovative.
- Merritt, Helen and Yamada, Nanako: Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1992, pp. 202-203;
- Newland, Amy Reigel (ed.): The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints. Amsterdam: Hotei Publishing, 2005, vol. 2, p. 428 [text written by John Fiorillo]