Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
[For illustration of seals listed by seal code letter, see the Seals article. For edition watermark characteristics applicable to this series as a whole, see the Edition article.]
This woodblock print was modeled on an original sumi ink sketch dating from the late 1920s. It would have been one of several created during the preparation of 楽山花鳥畫譜 Rakuzan Kachou Gafu,
lit. 'Rakusan's Flower and Bird Print Series'.
In the summer of 1929 Rakusan decided to make simple woodblock prints for use as advertising previews for each of thirty-six upcoming primary designs beginning with design number 11.
He selected a single, representative, alternate composition from among the preliminary sketches for each of those final designs.
Regrettably, all of these original sketches are believed to have been lost many years later when Rakusan personally destroyed all of his own sketchbooks.
Rakusan called these early experiments 素描 sobyou, lit. 'rough sketches'.
Printing of the preview sketch as a woodblock print was accomplished with only two impressions, an initial printing in half-tone gray, and a final one in black (for the details and outlines to remain crisp).
Rakusan probably expected the preview prints to be discarded by the recipients - much as most avertising is today. Somewhat surprisingly therefore the preview prints were printed full size on the same, relatively expensive, typical edition I watermarked paper used for the final version prints of the series.
The very poor condition of all of the surviving preview prints suggests that Rakusan may have been recycling a batch of damp-damaged paper unsuitable for its originally intended use but adequate for ephemera.
The preview prints were never sold as such but were distributed as free advertising to series subscribers and to early purchasers of prints from the first publication and first printing run of the primary series.
Therefore, only a single printing run of fewer than 200 copies of each once existed.
Most of those copies have not survived, but fortunately some clients appreciated these now very rare prints and preserved theirs carefully, even if Rakusan himself did not.
Since all preview sketch prints lack separate identifying numbers, each is distinguished here by the addition of 'alt' to the Rakusan-assigned number of its corresponding final version design.
This numbering is intended to emphasize the close connection between the two designs, and 12alt is to be understood as the alternate design preview sketch for 12.
12alt and a batch of at least several of the other preview sketches had been printed in August-September 1929 in anticipation of later use.
The distribution of 12alt was somewhat irregular, but the delivery documentation for installments five and six have been preserved; and we therefore know much of what happened.
Rakusan had planned to publish a different design in October 1929, and therefore the preview sketch for that other design was issued with installment five in September.
However in the intervening weeks, Rakusan encountered problems producing the previously announced design, and he substituted 12 in place of the unexpectedly delayed, initially planned design.
It was by then too late to use 12alt as a preview announcement, and atypically it accompanied the publication of its corresponding final version design on October 24, 1929 in installment six, rather than preceding it by a month.
The illustrated copy comes from a later-bound, center-folded album, but like all Rakusan woodblock prints, the sheet was originally distributed loose and without folds.
Documented title-captions of the preview prints are almost always identical to those of the final version prints of the main series.
However, unlike on those prints, the title-caption for a preview print was not woodblock-printed on the same sheet as the print itself.
Instead it was machine-printed on a separate label which was usually glued onto the delivery envelope - and hence typically discarded with the rest of the tempororary packaging.
Although the delivery documents for 12 and 12alt survived, because there was a last minute design substitution, there is no 12alt label and presumably none was ever printed.
Therefore the title-caption used here is inferred from the information documented for 12.
Copies in Public Collections:
Edition I: Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu, HI, USA; (1938) 10993 [illustrated online].
The bamboo and heron are the same varieties explained in more detail in the discussion of the final version of 12.