Dôjin zasshi (同人雑誌) or coterie (dôjin) magazines (zasshi) were, generally, privately issued and often short-lived art/literary magazines sponsored by artists or publishers. Despite small circulations, dôjin zasshi were widely distributed among woodblock-print aficionados. Exemplified by an independent spirit and experimentation in layout and content, they were critical to the development and sustenance of sôsaku hanga (creative prints: 創作版画), providing for many artists the only venues to show their work. Pasted on sheets and tied together by cord or string, or compiled as loose prints within envelopes, the magazines featured, on average, about 10 prints per issue, of which 70-80% were hand-printed (some were machine-printed from woodblocks or photomechanically). Dôjin were issued from the beginning of the twentieth century to the early 1970s, although nearly all were active only before World War II. Early examples include those found in the literary magazines Hôsun ("One's Ideas" or "Square Inch," 35 issues, 1907-11) and its shorter-lived predecessor Heitan ("Flatness," 5 issues, 1905-06).
HANGA ("Prints," whose romanized title was always written in all caps; 版画) was published from February 1924 through April 1930 in 16 quarterly issues (nos. 9 and 10 combined) under the direction of Yamaguchi Hisayoshi for the firm Hanga no Ie ("House of Prints") in Kobe. The purpose of the magazine was to publish, exhibit, and encourage appreciation of sôsaku hanga. A total of 65 different artists contributed to the various issues.
Merritt and Yamada (see reference below) make a useful distinction between a dôjin zasshi and a series of prints: "Series were generally preplanned in their entirety with artists and themes predetermined, whereas magazines came out more or less regularly as long as their sponsoring groups could manage the production and financing."
The frontpiece has a mokuhan kikai zuri (machine woodblock print: 木版機械摺) image of a landscape by the pioneering sôsaku hanga artist Yamamoto Kanae (1882-1946) — see image on the right. The remaining ten prints, all hand-printed from woodblocks and hinged ("tipped in") at the top of each print to the respective support page, represent the complete selection offered in the penultimate issue of Hanga. Many prints are accompanied by commentaries from the artists.
The artists who contributed the ten tipped-in prints are listed below in order of appearance (in the photo montage above, the order is right-to-left and top-to-bottom):
- Kawakami Sumio, 1895-1972 (woman in European dress under tree)
- Kamei Tôbei, 1901-1977 (self-portrait in mirror)
- Azechi Umetarô, 1902-1999 (dried sardines)
- Sugatô Kasen, 1891-1955 (landscape out of town)
- Hiratsuka Un'ichi, 1895-1997 (pomegranate)
- Ono Tameo, actice 1920s-1930s? (tarô)
- Kobayashi Kiyomitsu, active 1920s (landscape)
- Kitamura Imazô, 1900-1946 (fields)
- Shimoyama (later called Shimozawa) Kihachirô, 1901-1984 (Enoshima)
- Shimizu Kôichi, 1895-1936 (landscape)
Complete issues of Hanga with all the prints in very good to excellent condition, as is the case with our example, are distinctly rare and highly desirable among collectors of early sôsaku hanga. The blending of well-known artists with printmakers who are mostly unfamiliar to us today offers an important opportunity to study and collect this genre of prints during its formative years, when virtually everything produced was in one way or another experimental and innovative.
References: Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada, Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1992, pp. 202-203; Amy Reigel Newland (ed.), The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints. Amsterdam: Hotei Publishing, 2005, vol. 2, p. 428 [text written by John Fiorillo]