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Editions and Dating for the 36 Series

PART I - INTRODUCTION & QUICK KEY

Introduction
The 36 Series was developed from what was originally intended to be a sideline project which Rakusan called 篁子生畫選, 篁子生畵選, or 篁子生画選, Koushisei Gasen, lit. 'Koshisei's Print Selections'. Rakusan's business plan was for his second main sequence series to be another formal, large-format project comparable in every way to his first success, the 100 Series. What became the 36 Series was just supposed to make a bit of money in order to support that goal. The modest success of the series enabled Rakusan to continue studio operations but could not advance the main plan in the midst of the Great Depression. Although eventually embraced as his second main sequence series, the 36 Series remained overshadowed by its predecessor. Here is how the 36 Series fits within the Rakusan timeline:

1929-1933 100 Series Edition I first publications and reprintings
1933-1935 36 Series Edition I preparation, first publication, and initial reprintings
1935-1941
100 Series Edition II reprintings and 36 Series Edition I reprintings (as needed)
1941-1946 Studio closed
1946-1948 resumption of sales of copies from prewar printings of 100 Series and 36 Series
1948-1955
100 Series Edition III reprintings and 36 Series Edition II reprintings (as needed)
1955 Studio permanently closed
1976 Rakusan died
2020- ? 36 Series Edition III Unsōdō reprintings

In beginning the 36 Series Rakusan made several alterations to the printing methods used in publishing the 100 Series. The newer designs were produced as woodblock prints with the same professional level of care and skill, but the designs were smaller, simpler, easier, and quicker to produce than those in his first series. 36 Series prints are oban-size, half the size of 100 Series prints, and Rakusan scaled the proportions in a way that he could use half sheets of his larger size paper.

In publicising the 36 Series Rakusan had made no promises about limited editions. This relaxation of his earlier requirements meant that Rakusan could freely reproduce and sell additional copies whenever he wished. For printings and reprintings of the 36 Series Rakusan also abandoned the unwieldy two hundred copy print runs of the preceding 100 Series. Working from within the confines of his family home, Rakusan had found it quicker and more convenient to print fewer copies in each print run and to reprint more frequently. He also allowed more latitude in experimenting with color and technique variations so that copies from successive print runs of the same design can appear very different from one another.

Formal definition of editions for 36 Series prints is difficult and likely to remain problematic. Most critically, Rakusan made very few postwar edition II reprintings, and consequently edition II copies are only very rarely available for documentation and description. No potential edition II copies are currently known for nearly half of the 36 Series designs. The majority of the 36 Series designs have the same signature and seal markings on all documented copies, and for many of these designs these copies represent only the original edition I printings.


QUICK KEY
1. A 36 Series print still attached to its original embossed presentation sheet comes from a pre World War II edition I printing. No edition II copies have these presentation sheets. (Note that absence of a presentation sheet does not preclude edition I printing!)

2. A 36 Series print with untrimmed, wide (often uneven) margins must come from late edition I or edition II (after the original presentation sheets were no longer available); or from posthumous edition III. (Note that trimmed margins do not guarantee an early printing.)

3. A 36 Series print with a city-name stamp indicates a pre World War II edition I printing date. No edition II or edition III copies have city-name stamps.

4. Unless a design has a postwar edition II, a loose 36 Series copy with edition I markings (and no other clues to age) can only be dated approximately between the time of its first publication and the wartime closure of the studio in 1941.

5. A 36 Series print with a cursive romaji handwritten Rakusan signature within the image area was intended to be distributed through Foster during the period centering around the 1950s. Nearly all 36 Series examples of this signature are found on postwar edition II prints, and extremely few (currently only one example documented) on prewar edition I backstock. It does not occur on the posthumous Unsōdō edition III reprintings.

6. A 36 Series print with attribution markings differenced from those used in edition I is from edition II. There is no evidence that Rakusan ever returned to an earlier attribution marking once having made a change. (Posthumous edition III reverted to the edition I attribution marking; so this generalization still holds.)

7. A 36 Series print from the posthumous Unsōdō edition III reprinting resembles edition II copies in technique, but has Unsōdō publishing company markings in the lower left margin and no handwritten Rakusan signature.


PART II - DISCUSSION

PUBLICATION
Rakusan initially separately numbered the thirty-six 36 Series designs as 1 through 36 in the order they were first published. However, he had previously used those same numbers for the 100 Series. To avoid the confusion of duplicated numbering Rakusan soon decided to relabel the 36 Series designs as 101 through 136, thus continuing the consecutive numbering system used for the preceding 100 Series. This combined main sequence numbering system has been adapted also for the other major series and is used throughout the archive.

Although issued as a separate series, the 36 Series is intimately related to the Fan Series. These two series were produced and marketed at the same time as part of the same overall project. Each of the two series is arranged into the same thirty-six distinct, shared-subject, sets (here called themes). The designs were scheduled to be released in monthly installments, each including the designs in three themes which were published in the same order (and at the same time) in both series.

Remarkably, all two hundred sixteen 36 Series and Fan Series designs were created and first published within a period of only two years. Until the middle of 1933 the Rakusan studio was fully occupied in the production of the final designs in the 100 Series. The earliest securely documented sale of a complete set of the finished 36 Series was early September 1935, but delivery had to be delayed in order to reprint a few already sold out designs.

Some of the designs, including all of those in the first six themes, were actually created and carved in the latter half of 1933. However, the first installment was not printed and distributed until January 1934. The series was intended to be completed with the twelfth installment in December 1934, but because some monthly deliveries were skipped, the last few installments were not actually published until mid 1935. Rakusan continued to reprint 36 Series designs until he closed his studio for World War II in 1941. After the war he resumed reprinting many of them during the period 1948-1955.

The contemporaneous first six themes were distributed as the first two installments. The drawing styles, design inspirations, and signature and seal markings of the designs in the remaining thirty themes (ten installments) suggest that they were created within at least three sequential periods (see below). There is evidence that Rakusan was as usual developing the series as he went along, and he changed his mind several times about the composition and ordering of the subject themes. As a result, the order in which the 36 Series and Fan Series designs were created and carved is often not the order in which they were eventually first published.

The actual order the designs were first published follows a general progression of the seasons represented by their theme subjects. However, the themes were arranged so that the prints would be released a few months before their seasons. The first six 36 Series designs and their themes represent spring and summer designs. The subsequent installments follow through summer, autumn, winter, spring, and end with summer again into 1935.

ASSOCIATED MATERIALS: PRESENTATION SHEETS
Copies from the first print runs of the 36 Series and of the Fan Series designs were originally delivered tipped into the recessed wells of presentation sheets which are embossed in their lower margins with the series title:


Series Title from the Embossed Presentation Sheet
篁子生画選, Koushisei Gasen (reading right-to-left)

Rakusan continued to use these presentation sheets for 36 Series reprintings until his supplies ran out - probably sometime in the late 1930s. Thereafter he distributed subsequently reprinted copies loose or tipped onto plain paper. Because all early edition I prints once had these presentation sheets, a copy which retains its presentation sheet must have been printed during the middle to late 1930s. A limited number of leftover, earlier-printed, copies of some designs on presentation sheets were still being distributed shortly after World War II, but by then most designs were only available unmounted. Absence of presentation sheets is not diagnostic of later reprinting because many early prints have subsequently been detached from those sheets.

Many copies of 36 Series prints have narrow margins because they had been trimmed to fit within the recessed wells of the original presentation sheets. Some copies produced after the supply of presentation sheets had been exhausted have remained untrimmed; and copies with wider, often unequal, margins are from later reprintings. However, since a print could have been trimmed at any time for other reasons, trimmed margins (without an associated original presentation sheet) do not necessarily indicate that a copy is early.

ASSOCIATED MATERIALS: FOLIO ENVELOPES & COLOPHONS:
As he had done earlier with the 100 Series, Rakusan continued to deliver his print installments in red Manila-paper folio envelopes on which he had pasted various documentary labels. Unfortunately, these envelopes were usually discarded as packaging, and few have survived.

On the outside of the envelope was a woodblock-printed series title label based on Rakusan's own calligraphy:



Series Title from a Folio Envelope: 篁子生畫選, Koushisei Gasen (reading right-to-left)

Pasted onto the inside (or under the flap) was a machine-printed colophon label which included a table of contents for the current installment, a series description, printing and publication information, and a preview list of the contents of the next installment. Because the publication dates and theme titles were the same for each installment of both the 36 Series and the Fan Series, Rakusan was able to use the same format template, and their machine-printed colophons are nearly identical. On the colophons the 36 Series title is printed as 篁子生畵選, Koushisei Gasen (reading top-to-bottom).

PRODUCTION MATERIALS: PAPER & WATERMARKS
Almost all of the Rakusan studio printing of the 36 Series was done on washi paper without kanji watermarks which had been manufactured with vertical chain-lines 3 cm apart throughout the original large sheet. To print the 36 Series the sheet was cut in half and turned 90 degrees, and these chain-lines are horizontal on the finished woodblock prints. Like a kanji watermark the chain-lines can be seen by holding the paper up to the light, and are sometimes also visible on the surface of the print.

36 Series designs are typically printed on smooth, pale, creamy-white papers. These papers have a similar finish on both faces of the sheets, and in color and in texture they closely resemble the papers used in printing the earlier 100 Series. Many kinds of papers are too absorbent to be used for woodblock printing without adding a coating of surface sizing. On almost all Rakusan papers any sizing used is all but invisible - with at most a slight sheen when viewed at a low angle.

However, in the October and November 1934 36 Series installments the first print runs of at least five designs (119 through 123) were printed on papers coated with special sizings which are visibly different in color and texture from those on all of the other designs in the series. Note that these coatings cover the entire front surface of the paper including the margins - not just the area of the woodblock-printed image; and the reverse side of the paper remains untreated. Today the different surface treatments appear either silvery gray (119 and 121), pearly white (121), medium tan (120), or tea-brown (122 and 123); but it is uncertain if the current colors of these sizings are original or if they have chemically altered since being applied. Unfortunately, these coatings can be unstable and shed fine surface particles (especially silver glitter from 119). Because the sizing treatments are different depending on the design, it is likely that the Rakusan studio was selectively applying the various sizings to stocks of untreated washi paper rather than purchasing differently pre-coated papers. All of these particular 36 Series designs are of winter themes, and it is possible that Rakusan was trying to produce special effects suggesting ice or snow. These treatments are known to be early since they are primarily found in association with the embossed presentation sheets. Rakusan did not continue using these unusual treatments, and already by 1935-1936 there are documented sales of 121 and 123 also on presentation sheets but using the regular paper without the special coatings. The characteristics of each of the sizing versions are further discussed on the individual design subpages.


comparison of different paper surfaces
(all examples are on presentation sheets)
122 with thin, tea-brown sizing (top)

111 without special sizing (middle)

121 with thick, nacreous sizing (bottom)

During the postwar reprinting period Rakusan repurposed some sheets of dai-oban size paper previously watermarked for the 100 Series by cutting them in half and printing a 36 Series design on each half. On these 36 Series copies half of a 100 Series watermark turned vertically is visible on one side of the print. Each of these copies was presumably printed around the same time.

Rakusan left no records of the sources for any of his printing materials, including several different kinds of paper. For the posthumous Unsōdō 36 Series reprinting (see below) new washi paper was selected. This paper is identified as 越前生漉奉書紙, echizen kizukibousho-shi, 'Echizen student paper'. It is very similar in appearance to papers used by the Rakusan studio but was manufactured without chain-lines.

COLOR AND TECHNIQUE VARIATIONS: MORPHS
Although all copies of many 36 Series designs look very much alike, for several designs Rakusan repeatedly experimented with deliberate modifications to his ink colors and techniques, and successive print runs within only a few months can look very different. Some of these variations were repeated in more than one print run. Because print runs were small, it is all but certain that additional comparable variations will continue to be discovered and described.

The process of reproducing complex designs as woodblock prints almost always results in noticeable minor, unintentional differences among various copies. However, all copies produced in the same print run typically share suites of similarities in colors and production techniques which can potentially be used to identify uniquely the printing to which an individual copy belongs. Although easily distinguished, some variations, especially those involving difficult techniques such as bokashi shading, may be incidental to the printing process.

Because Rakusan promised an ambitious delivery schedule, the initial printings of the designs in his main sequence series were always produced under very limiting time constraints. Comparison with the model paintings reveals some of the modifications and adaptations necessary to print the 36 Series as woodblock prints within a short time frame. It also shows where Rakusan chose to change his colors and techniques when it came to reprinting under less demanding conditions later on. Some of these modifications were made to correct undesirable effects, some were clearly made to more closely approximate the intent of the original paintings, and others for no apparent reason.

Here each consistent suite of color and technique variations of a single design is called a morph. Different morphs are indicated with (a), (b), etc. after the design number. Where it has been possible to determine the chronological order in which particular morphs first appeared, these markings follow that same sequence. For other designs the markings are arbitrarily assigned. The characteristics of particular morphs may be restricted to a single print run or may have been deliberately repeated in successive printings. A few designs have more than one morph within a single edition, and for several designs morphs may be used to help define a different edition. These and other issues pertaining to the observed morphs are illustrated and discussed on the various subpages for the designs.


Edition I, Morph 117 (a)

Edition I, Morph 117 (b)
An example of a 36 Series design with two color morphs within a single edition is 117 (shown immediately above and discussed in greater detail on the subpage for 117). Note that the differences in morph colors as in these examples were originally printed that way. They are not the result of fading or other chemical alterations to the pigments. Designs with two or more morphs within the same edition include 111, 115, 116, 117, 121, 123, 124, and 130. (There are potentially a few other designs which might be added to this list.)

As war approached Rakusan found it difficult to obtain his accustomed supplies. Some late prewar prints prints lack metallic inks and may also have less or no metallic glitter scattering. These morph variations are noted where applicable and also may be used for dating individual copies.

EDITIONS

Edition I (1934-1941): Although considerable preparation for edition I of the 36 Series was actually completed in 1933, the first woodblock prints in the series were not printed and published until January 1934. Dates for the first print runs and initial publications can be established, but no dating records for reprintings have survived. Rakusan would only have made additional reprint runs as needed when stock ran low. All early edition I printings and reprintings were distributed on specially embossed presentation sheets (see above). Identical signature and seal markings usually appear on every copy of the same design, including some known to have been multiply reprinted over several years. Additionally, for some 36 Series designs there are no (or only very minor) variations in the printed image among all of the documented copies. Therefore, more precise dating of individual copies of those designs is not currently possible, and all are referred to the entire edition I period from the times of their first printings to the closure of the studio in 1941 for World War II which marks the end of edition I. The only complete edition of the 36 Series is edition I. (Note that edition I of the 36 Series corresponds in time to edition II of the 100 Series.)

Edition II (1948-1955): Reprinting of both the 36 Series and the 100 Series after World War II is strongly associated with Rakusan's business arrangements with Walter Foster, and postwar copies of these designs typically have the Foster era cursive Rakusan romaji signatures (see below). As with his edition III reprintings of the 100 Series, Rakusan decided to distinguish his postwar reprintings of the 36 Series designs, effectively creating a separate edition called here edition II. Although always identifiable, the alterations marking edition II are often quite subtle. There was no unified edition II reprinting effort, and individual reprintings would have been scattered throughout the period as stocks of prewar copies of those designs ran out. Other 36 Series designs for which sufficient backstock remained were never reprinted in an edition II. The scarcity of edition II copies suggests that for most of these designs only a single small print run of each was ever made. It is all but certain that additional designs also have edition II examples which remain to be discovered. (Note that edition II of the 36 Series corresponds in time to edition III of the 100 Series.)

1. If a copy of a 36 Series design has an embossed presentation sheet and/or a secondarily applied city-name stamp (see below), it cannot be from edition II.
2. If a copy of a 36 Series design has a secondarily applied Foster era cursive Rakusan romaji signature (see below), it is most likely from a postwar edition II reprinting. (There is only a single known exception, see below.)
3. An edition II copy of a 36 Series design will have attribution markings differenced from those used in edition I (or edition III) and/or a unique color and technique morph.

Currently, only about one third of the 36 Series designs have at least partially described edition II printings. Most of these have uniquely distinctive color and technique morphs. In addition to the secondary Rakusan romaji signature, the following attribution marking differences from edition I have also been noted for edition II:
Edition II of 101 has both a different seal and a different signature.
Edition II of 104 and 124 have a different seal but the same signature.
Edition II of 106 has a different seal but the same signature with both moved to a different postition.
Edition II of 108 and 125 have the same seal and the same signature with both moved to a different postition.
Edition II of 107, 116, 123, 124, 126, 130, and 136 have the same seal and the same signature, but the color of the seal is shifted from dark, brownish-red to clear, bright red.

Rakusan's 36 Series demonstration set (see below) had copies of an additional seven designs with secondary Rakusan signatures which have not yet been documented from other examples: 105*, 109, 110, 118, 127, 128, and 131. Unfortunately, without photographic evidence the descriptions of a potential edition II for each of these designs must be deferred. [* Currently, for the 36 Series this very exceptional copy of 105 is the only demonstrated occurrence of the Rakusan signature on an edition I copy, as well as the only co-occurrence of a city-name stamp and a Rakusan signature.]

Edition III (2020- ?): In 2015 the famous Kyoto publishing house Unsōdō Co., Ltd. (芸艸堂), bought all of the original Rakusan printing blocks and several example prints. In 2020 Unsōdō began issuing for sale reprinted copies of 108. These new copies were printed for Unsōdō using the original Rakusan blocks by the well-known contemporary Kyoto woodblock printer, 平井恭子, Ms. Kyōko Hirai. This new posthumous edition III is readily identifiable by the Unsōdō attribution markings printed in the lower portion of the left margin. The inscription reads: 芸艸堂版 摺 平井, unsoudou-ban suri hirai, 'Unsōdō edition, printing: Hirai'.

The edition III copies of 108 resemble those of edition II in overall technique. However, because Unsōdō would naturally not be able to include a secondary, handwritten Rakusan signature, the woodblock-printed Rakusan signature and seal has been returned to the original lower position used in edition I. Since many of the original wooden blocks for other designs had been damaged during previous storage, it will not be possible for Unsōdō to reprint similar edition III copies for all of the 36 Series designs. (Note that posthumous edition III of the 36 Series corresponds in time to posthumous edition IV of the 100 Series.)

PRIMARY ATTRIBUTION MARKINGS: WOODBLOCK-PRINTED SIGNATURES & SEALS

36 Series Signatures: The characters that form the signature are in black ink just above the red (or red-brown) seal and within the image area of the print. The only 36 Series occurrence of the single-name signature 篁子生, Kou-shi-sei, is on edition I of 101, the first print of the new series. 101 is also the only main sequence print where Rakusan did not somewhere use his primary art name, 楽山, Raku-zan. (Rakusan apparently decided that this break in naming continuity was unwise, and all subsequent prints in this series have signatures combining both art names.) Edition II copies of 101, and those of all other designs in the 36 Series regardless of edition, have the signature 楽山篁子生, Raku-zan Kou-shi-sei. Therefore except for 101, the signature is of no help in determining edition or dating of 36 Series prints.


Koushisei

Rakuzan Koushisei

36 Series Signature Distributions (Only designs with a described edition II are listed in that column.)
signature form edition I edition II edition III
篁子生 Kou-shi-sei 101 --- ---
楽山篁子生 Raku-zan Kou-shi-sei 102-136 101, 104, 106, 107, 108, 116,
123, 124, 125, 126, 130, 136
108

36 Series Seals
The production of Rakusan series woodblock prints is divided into sequential periods during which Rakusan almost always used the same seal. Rakusan invariably included a seal as an integral part of each distributed design. As a result, printing each new design required carving that seal into one of the wooden printing blocks. Repeatedly using the same seal streamlined that process as the carver became familiar with it. Note that these production periods characterized by use of a single seal reflect when the printing blocks for the designs were carved – not necessarily when the designs were created nor when they were printed and distributed. Including information from other series regarding use of the same seals has suggested the following seal use periods for the 36 Series:

Seal A is represented in the 36 Series only from edition I of the first six designs, but seal A had been the most used seal in the immediately preceding 100 Series. Continued use of seal A into the 36 Series therefore suggests carving dates falling in the late summer and autumn of 1933. However, the 36 Series designs with seal A were actually not printed and published until January and February of 1934 in the first two installments of the series.

Seal C is chronologically the next seal Rakusan used on new prints, and it was the predominant seal used when carving new designs in the last months of 1933 and into the first quarter of 1934. It was during this period that most of the Fan Series designs were created and carved. At least some seal C designs were used in each of the thirty remaining themes in order to set up the basic framework of the series. However, many themes still lacked Fan Series or 36 Series designs as the seal C period ended. In the 36 Series seal C appears only on eight edition I designs whose themes are scattered throughout the remainder of the series and continued to be published well into 1935. A few designs were reprinted in edition II with seal C in a brighter red color.

Seal D is a minor seal within the seal C period which was used in the 36 Series only on one design, 124. It first appeared in edition I in November 1934 and was also reused for part of the postwar reprinting of the same design in edition II.

Seal B increasingly began to replace use of seal C toward the end of the first quarter of 1934. In the Fan Series and the 36 Series seal B was used on whatever additional designs were necessary to infill any of the remaining thirty themes still lacking designs as time came to publish them. Seal B appears in the 36 Series on each of the other twenty-one edition I designs. Some designs with edition II reprintings use seal B – even if edition I had used a different seal. Seal B would remain the dominant seal for the rest of Rakusan's career.

[Note that the seal illustrations below are not to the same scale. See also the separate article on Rakusan Seals for additional seal illustrations and discussions.]


Seal A

Seal C

Seal D

Seal B

Unlike the 100 Series which typically has bright red seals throughout, the seals in the 36 Series show a range of reds from bright (as in the seal A example above) to a dark, brownish-maroon red (as in the example of seal C above). For almost all 36 Series designs the selected seal color is closely similar on all copies of the same design. However, as noted earlier, some designs with dark red seals on the earliest copies have bright red seals on later ones.

36 Series Seal Distributions *Note that 124 has two edition II versions which are differently marked.
seal code letter edition I edition II edition III
A 101-106 --- ---
C 112, 117-118, 120,
126, 130, 132-133
123, 126, 130 ---
D 124 124* ---
B 107-111, 113-116, 119, 121-123,
125, 127-129, 131, 134-136
101, 104, 106, 107, 108,
116, 124*, 125, 136
108

LATER SECONDARY ADDENDA: CITY-NAME STAMPS
Around the time of World War II, Rakusan was required to add a maker's stamp to his prints, but the details of exactly when and why are uncertain. The stamp consists of a vertical column of tiny machine-made characters (rather like a miniscule typewriter font) which read from top to bottom: 京都 土屋楽山, Kyouto - Tsuchiya Rakuzan (Kyoto, the city where Rakusan lived, and the Japanese form of his name). This stamp is always in red ink and is usually placed in one of the corners of the design within the image area.

36 Series designs known to have been distributed before 1941 never have this stamp. Rakusan souvenir prints (unrelated to this series) which were dated and distributed in 1947 have city-name stamps; but those from March 1948 on do not. It seems likely that 1947-1948 marks the end of the period that city-name stamps were required.

City-name stamps were applied to some 36 Series copies from back stock in anticipation of their sale during this interval. These include some early copies with presentation sheets. However, not all prints marked with city-name stamps were distributed during this time. Some were sold later, and others remained unsold.

Although relatively few edition II copies of 36 Series designs are known, none have been found with city-name stamps. It therefore seems likely that (as with the 100 Series) Rakusan did not begin postwar reprinting of the 36 Series until sometime after city-name stamps were no longer required. Therefore any copy of a 36 Series design with a city-name stamp should be assigned a pre World War II edition I printing date.

LATER SECONDARY ADDENDA: CURSIVE ROMAJI SIGNATURES
Rakusan added a secondary romaji signature to prints intended to be sold through Walter Foster. (See the Foster article.) These signatures consisted exclusively of the art name Rakusan hand-written in cursive Western script using a nearly dry brush and dilute black ink. It is always placed just inside the image area along the lower margin.

Rakusan used this particular method of signing prints only during the period when Foster was acting as his sales agent for woodblock prints in the USA, primarily in the 1950s and early 1960s. Typically, groups of prints were signed in advance in anticipation of being distributed through Foster. However, some signed prints from these lots were also sold directly to studio visitors during this period, and other copies with this signature were left over when the Foster arrangement was ended. These continued to be distributed from the Rakusan studio (often many years later), and others remained uncirculated.

The same Foster Rakusan signatures were occasionally applied after the war to 100 Series designs from pre World War II backstock (including a few copies illustrated in the Foster booklet). However, almost no similar examples on prewar 36 Series printings have yet been found, and it is probable that very few exist. Although Foster only advertised two 36 Series designs in the booklet (108 and 123), to date slightly over half of the 36 Series designs have been reported to have copies bearing these signatures. However, there are very few attested examples for any of those designs. Several 36 Series designs have particular color and technique morph variations which co-occur only with Rakusan signatures. The presence of Rakusan signature on a copy of a 36 Series print is almost entirely diagnostic of a postwar reprinting.

Rakusan maintained complete sets of his two main sequence series to show to studio visitors. The composition of these sets was not fixed, and Rakusan would sell copies from the demonstration sets to favored clients and then replace them with ones he considered of lesser quality. Subsequent to his death the 36 Series demonstration set had lost two examples and by 2005 contained only thirty-four designs. (Copies of designs 122 and 134 are missing.) The then surviving demonstration set had secondary Rakusan signatures on its copies of seventeen designs: 101, 104, 105*, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 118, 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 130, and 131. Of all of the 36 Series designs known to have other copies with Rakusan signatures, only examples of 116 and 136 are missing from the demonstration set. This set currently represents the only evidence for secondary Rakusan signatures on nine designs: 101, 104, 105*, 109, 110, 118, 127, 128, and 131. Unfortunately, although the attribution markings and any secondary addenda have been carefully recorded, no photographic evidence of copies in the demonstration set is available at present to assist in clarifying the characteristics of edition II.
[* Currently, this very exceptional copy of 105 is for the 36 Series the only demonstrated occurrence of this Rakusan signature on an edition I copy, as well as the only co-occurrence of a city-name stamp and a Rakusan signature.]

ASSOCIATED MATERIALS: FAN SERIES: As noted above, although the 36 Series and the Fan Series were produced as part of the same overall project, they were separately marketed. The polychrome 36 Series designs were well received by Rakusan's existing clientele and sold well enough to be reprinted several times. However, the demand for the Fan Series designs was more limited, and they were never reprinted. Rakusan routinely dismissed his monochrome designs and made no further attempts to market them beyond their original publication. Nevertheless, a number of Rakusan patrons bought both series. An original association of 36 Series and Fan Series designs in an old collection strongly suggests that those 36 Series prints also are first print run copies obtained by early subscribers. (See also the Fan Series.)

© 2012 (revisions © 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021) Dr Michael J P Nichols