Tsuchiya Koitsu

Mystery Takemura seal unmasked!

Back in May of 2002, a somewhat rare Tsuchiya Koitsu chuban print appeared on eBay containing a quite unusual seal:

Koitsu - Tago Bay - Takemura chuban
Tago Bay (Shizuoka) Mystery seal

My good friend Tosh Doi was able to read the title of this print as "Tago Bay", and was also able to read the top right part of this mystery seal as being the kanji 'take' (bamboo) - the first character for the publisher Takemura. The 'trick' was the kanji character was written as a negative impression, i.e., red ink surrounds the darker kanji impression. Nobody was able to read the rest of the seal.

Well, the shin-hanga world is certainly full of surprises. Two more prints by Koitsu containing this very seal appeared on eBay a few weeks later (both were trimmed and badly damaged unfortunately):

Koitsu - Tago Bay - Takemura, chuban Koitsu - Arashiyama - Takemura, chuban
Tago Bay (Shizuoka) Arashiyama (Kyoto)

One of those two prints (Arashiyama) contained a clearer impression of this seal:

Takemura seal
Clearer impresion of the mystery seal

It suddenly dawned on me that this seal is a diagonally split "positive-negative" impression, with the lower-left triangular section being a positive impression of the kanji for 'mura' (meaning 'village' in English). Here is a clearer version (original seal on the left):

So it would seem that we have confirmed that the publisher for these two prints was indeed Takemura. Thanks to Tosh and Marc Kahn for help in unmasking this 'mystery' seal.

Addendum: Having viewed several more prints by the publisher Takemura it had become apparent that Takemura often used this style of "positive-negative" seal, though in a slightly larger size.

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