Economic Botany

, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 87–97 | Cite as

An Unusual Xylotheque with Plant Illustrations from Early Meiji Japan

  • Toshiyuki Nagata
  • Ashley DuValEmail author
  • Hans Walter Lack
  • George Loudon
  • Mark Nesbitt
  • Michaela Schmull
  • Peter R. Crane


An Unusual Xylotheque with Plant Illustrations from Early Meiji Japan. Two unusual wood collections, reported previously in the collections of the Botanical Museum at Berlin-Dahlem and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, take the form of framed plant illustrations painted on boards made from the wood of the species illustrated. We present new finds of very similar wood collections in the Economic Botany Collection of the Harvard University Herbaria, a private collection in the U.K. (Loudon collection), and at the Koishikawa Botanical Garden of the University of Tokyo. A stamp on the reverse of the boards links all five collections to Chikusai Kato, an artist working at Tokyo University (now the University of Tokyo) in early Meiji Japan, under the direction of the preeminent nineteenth century Japanese botanist Keisuke Ito. New evidence from contemporary historical accounts indicates that more than 100 boards were ordered in June 1878 by Hiroyuki Katō, the first president of Tokyo University, most likely to support the early teaching of Western-influenced botanical science in Japan. However, while the boards had clear value for teaching, especially about useful plants, their unusual fusion of Western and Japanese influences also made them desirable craft objects that were collected and given as gifts during the early Meiji era.

Key Words

Botanical illustration education Chikusai Kato Keisuke Ito Meiji Japan wood collections University of Tokyo 





We thank Judith Warnement and Lisa DeCesare for their assistance with the Harvard collections, and Kathrin Grotz and Sarah Bollendorff for kindly facilitating access to and photography of the collections in the Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem. We also thank Mio Kitayama for help with Japanese translations, and we are deeply indebted to Professor Jin Murata, Director of the Koishikawa Botanical Garden, for access to the Koishikawa collection and for permission to publish an image of the Chikusai Kato illustration of Ginkgo biloba. We thank Dr. Tetsuo Ohi-Toma for providing the images of the Koishikawa boards. This paper benefited enormously from constructive comments by two anonymous reviewers.

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Toshiyuki Nagata
    • 1
  • Ashley DuVal
    • 2
    Email author
  • Hans Walter Lack
    • 3
  • George Loudon
    • 4
  • Mark Nesbitt
    • 5
  • Michaela Schmull
    • 6
  • Peter R. Crane
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of Bioscience and Applied ChemistryHosei UniversityTokyoJapan
  2. 2.School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-DahlemFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  4. 4.LondonUK
  5. 5.Economic Botany CollectionRoyal Botanic Gardens, KewRichmondUK
  6. 6.Harvard University HerbariaCambridgeUSA

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