Other Seals on Yoshitoshi Prints

This page lists other kinds of seals which can be found on Yoshitoshi prints. It is currently in a very draft state, and we will be exending it considerably as we get more prints online.

One very common kind of seal found on most Yoshitoshi prints is a date seal; they are described in detail below.

A rarer seal is a price seal; an example is given further below.

Seal Readings

When seal readings are given, following the usual standard, the Chinese reading(s) are in uppercase, and the Japanese in lower. Characters are separated by '_', and alternative readings are given separated by '/'.

The character numbers, which identify the characters in the seal, are given from:

    Andrew N. Nelson, "The Modern Reader's Japanese-English Character Dictionary",
	Charles E. Tuttle, Rutland, 1974
which is a standard Japanese dictionary.

Censor/Date Seals

Prior to the reforms of the
Meiji Restoration all woodblock prints sold publicly had to have a censor seal. These are small round seals (approximately 1 centimeter in diameter). These censor seals all included a date, with year and month given in the Asian zodiacal calendar, and the Japanese lunar-solar calendar, respectively. Up to 1872, these censor seals included the character aratame (, literally 'examined'), and the year and month. Between 1872 and 1875, the seal includes only the year and month.

After 1872, a variety of date indications are found, but they all use the nengō date system, in which the Emperor's nengō is combined with the ordinal year of his reign to date the year. Thus, 'Meiji 1' (明治   一) would be 1868, the first year of the Emperor Meiji's reign. Dates in this system will be given as the nengō, a number, the character nen (, 'year'), another number, the character gatsu (, 'month', also 'moon'), a final number, and the character ka (, 'day', also 'sun').

Beginning in 1876 prints were required to carry the exact day. month and year of publication. If a print is seen which omits the date and/or month, this is probably a later printing, after the initial one had sold out.

Table of Sample Date Seals

Seal(s) Type Characters Date Reference Comments
Censor with zodiac date 1464 13 #2 1865/2 Self, pp. 188-193 The seal reads: Aratame (on the left) Ox (right top) 2 (right bottom); since it dates from the period 1859-1872, when this particular type of seal was in use, reference to the table of zodiacal years shows that the Ox year in question must be 1865.
Round nengō 2110 2528 #11 188 (right) #1 2169 #4 2097 (left) 1385 ?? (center) 1878/1/4 Stevenson, pg. 68 The seal reads: Meiji 11 year, 1st month, 4th day; since the Emperor Meiji's first year was 1868, this is from 1878. The meaning of the two characters in the center is still uncertain.

Table of Sample Price Seals

Seal(s) Characters Comments
548 #2 4851 #5 823 The seal reads: KA/atai 2 SEN 5 RIN. Ka () means 'price'; the sen (, written here with ) and rin () were introduced in 1871 in the monetary reforms of the Meiji Restoration; a rin was one-tenth of a sen, which was one-hundredth of a yen. The sen and rin have now fallen out of use due to inflation, particularly after World War II.


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© Copyright 2009 by J. Noel Chiappa and Jason M. Levine

Last updated: 26/Feb/2009