50 Edition I-a
50 Edition I-b

青梅に子雀 (初夏)

ao ume ni ko suzume (shoka)

Green Plums and Young Tree Sparrows (Early Summer)

青梅に子スズメ (初夏)

Original Number


Currently Documented Edition Signature and Seal Markings:
Edition I-a, I-b: 楽山居 Raku-zan Kyo + Seal A

[For illustration of seals listed by seal code letter, see the Seals article. For edition characteristics applicable to this series as a whole, see the Edition article.]

Design History:
This woodblock print was produced from an original painting on silk dating from the late 1920s whose current location is unknown. The indentification of this design as number 50 is original to Rakusan who published the print as the 50th design in his series of one hundred woodblock prints called 楽山花鳥畫譜 Rakuzan Kachou Gafu, lit. 'Rakusan's Flower and Bird Print Series'.

Edition I-a: First edition I printing and publication of about two hundred copies of 50 was in May 1931 (or perhaps slightly later) in installment twenty-five (of fifty). In adapting design 50 onto wooden printing blocks several errors of interpretation were made. As a result, when printing of the design was completed, in a few small areas the intended final colors remained unprinted, and either uninked paper or earlier underprintings remain visible. For the initial disribution three of these flaws directly in the center of the composition were corrected with green inks. In order to obscure these and the other discrepancies glitter has been added over all (omitting only the birds) using an overprinted glue block. This earliest version of 50 is called edition I-a and comprises about three quarters of the documented copies, including the first example illustrated above.

Edition I-b: At some later point (but still within the edition I period) Rakusan decided to stop correcting the small printing errors on copies of 50. The later-distributed uncorrected copies of 50 are called edition I-b and comprise about one quarter of the documented copies, including the second example illustrated above. The two most obvious errors are the leaves immediately on each side of the head of the lowest chick, which should be green (as they are on the edition I-a copies), and which instead show one of the yellow underprintings. The total numbers of both versions combined suggest that there were only two printings of 50 before mid 1933 when the series was completed and edition I printing ceased. It is unclear if the uncorrected version, edition I-b, was a separate, smaller reprinting, or if the later printing was only partially corrected.

50 (Edition I-a detail) 50 (Edition I-b detail)
[leaf faults repaired with green] [leaf faults not repaired; underprint yellow revealed]

No later edition printings of 50 are known, and currently all documented copies of 50 come from edition I. Aside from the treatment of the printing errors, the various colors of each of the edition I copies is essentially the same. Unfortunately, the best example copies were imaged under different lighting conditions, and therefore the colors appear more different here than they really are in person.

Copies in Public Collections:
Edition I (version unspecified): Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; (1951) 51.2483 [not illustrated online].

Species Illustrated:
Plum, Prunus spp., 梅, ume , is a favorite Japanese tree with many hybridized and selected varieties grown both for flowers and for fruit. Although Rakusan frequently illustrated flowering plums, 50 is the only design to show fruit. [Links to exclusively flowering plum designs can be found at number 4 in this series.] Here, 青梅, ao-ume, is literally 'green plum' where the descriptor means both 'green (unripe)' and 'green (color)'.

Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Passer montanus, is today written in Japanese ornithological texts as すずめ, スズメ, suzume, where it refers only to this species. However, the original kanji, 雀, suzume, remains a very common general name for any sort of small sparrow or sparrow-like bird in modern Japanese. Eurasian Tree Sparrow is one of only a few species which Rakusan included in two different designs in the 100 Series, in 50 and in 3 (see below).

The composition of 50 includes an adult sparrow who is feeding four chicks which have fledged and left the nest but are still non-volant and dependent on parental care. In the mouth of the parent sparrow is at least one insect. It is difficult to make out more than a segmented body and two potential legs. It is likely that closer identification of the prey is not possible. Plumage of adult birds is similar, so the sex of the parent is indeterminate.

Related Designs:
Other designs with sparrows:
3 110-5 113-3 116-1 122-1 133-2