Illustrated Manual of Medical Plants


This book is considered the first full-scale botanical art book in Japan. It was published in the late Edo period and comprises 92 volumes (volumes 1−4 remain incomplete), including more than 1,900 varieties of plants. The author, Iwasaki Kan’en (1786−1842), was a shogunate vassal. The work contains colored illustrations of wild species, garden species, and imported species, captioned with taxonomic names, and includes biological explanations and other information. The plants are classified and arranged according to the 16th-century Honzō kōmoku (Bencao gangmu in Chinese), a Chinese book of medicine of the Ming dynasty. Kan’en originally intended to publish the entire series in wood-block prints, and the first four volumes (5−8) came out in this form in 1830. However, possibly due to a funding shortfall, after a five-year hiatus, the form of publication was changed to handwriting and hand coloring. The series was completed in 1844, after Kan’en’s death.

Last updated: February 12, 2016