Tsuruya Kiemon (鶴屋喜右衛門) (publisher ca 1620 – 1852)

Kobayashi Kiemon (family name - 小林喜右衛門)
Senkakudō (firm name - 僊鶴堂)
Tsuruki (seal name - 鶴喜)


Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Chōki example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Shun'ei example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Shunchō example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Eizan example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Kiyomitsu I example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Shunsen example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Kiyonaga example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Harunobu example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Sadatsuna example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Sadahide example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Shunsui example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Toyonobu example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Shigenaga example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Kiyomasu II example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Kunisada example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Kiyonobu II example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Masayoshi example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Shuntei example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Utamaro II example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Kiyomitsu II example
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - Hiroshige example


Edo print publisher (Marks 553). Artists published by this house include Chōki, Eizan, Harunobu, Hiroshige, Hokusai, Kiyoharu, Kiyomasa, Kiyomasa II, Kiyomasu II, Kiyomine, Kiyomitsu I, Kiyomitsu II, Kiyonaga, Kiyonobu II, Kunisada, Kunimasa, Kuniyasu, Kuniyoshi, possibly Kyōsai, Masanobu, Masayoshi, Sadafusa, Sadahide, Sadakage, Sadatsuna, Shigenaga, Shunchō, Shun'ei, Shunsen, Shunshō, Shunsui, Shuntei, Sudatora, Toyokuni I, Toyonobu, Utamaro, Utamaro II and possibly Yoshiiku.

[Artists in the Lyon Collection who were published by this house have their names highlighted in bold type.]


Laurence Binyon in his Japanese Colour Prints refers to this house as one of the three most important producers of ukiyo-e in the An'ei (安永) period, 1772-81 and later.

"Two other publishers, who by their refined taste and business acumen, did much to foster Ukiyo-ye during this and subsequent periods, were Senkwakudō Tsuruya Kiyemon and Yeijudō Nishimuraya Yohachi. The former was the scion of a very old Kyōtō family of jōruri (kind of musical drama) booksellers, who established a branch in Yedo during the Yempō period (1673-1681) in the Ōdemrna-chō. One of the earliest known prints issued by this firm was a twelve-sheet composition showing the arrival of the Korean Embassy in Yedo, the 7th sheet of which is reproduced...

It was not, however, till the present proprietor took over the business that Ukiyoye prints were issued by him in large numbers."


"Tsuruya Kiemon was one of the longest active publishers. His beginning dates back to the 1620s when he first published books. In the 1670s, he published the first picture albums by Moronobu. From the 1720s Tsuruya produced prints by artists like Kiyoharu and Kiyomasu II. Over the years output increased and business boomed from the late 1780s until the 1800s.

Tsuruya engaged Chōki and Toyokuni to design actor prints. Utamaro designed beauties both in full length, seen in the series "Little Seedlings - Seven Stages in the Life of Komach" (Futabagusa nana Komachi), as well as in half length, such as "Elegant Sports of Four Seasons" (Fūryū shiki no asobi). The market craved images like this and Tsuruya was a versatile publisher who did not stay in one niche but served all kinds of interest.

In 1807 he was a member of the Picture Book and Print Publishers Guild (Jihon toiya) and members of the Book Publishers Guild (Shomotsu toiya). In the same year, Tsuruya issued the series "Twelve Hours of the Courtesans (Keisei jūni toki), the earliest known print [sic] by Kunisada. In 1811 and 1813, Tsuruya functioned as gyōji (censor) for the guild, following regulations by the government that attempted to control the market better. In 1817, he issued Toyokuni's important drawing manual for the leading actors of the time, "Quick Instructions in Actor Likenesses" (Yakusha nigao haya geiko).

"Tsuruya's shop is illustrated in teh first volume of the book "Gathering of Famous Views of Edo" (Edo meisho zue), issued in 1834. In the same year, the existing Tsuruya Kiemon who was born in 1788, passed away and the publishing house was continued by a new heir who inherited the name. Tsuruya Kiemon's by far most successful but fatal publication was the multi-volume novelette "A Country Genji by a Fake Murasaki" (Nine Murasaki inaka Genji), written by Ryūtei Tanehiko (1783-1842) and illustrated by Kunisada Tsuruya issued the first volume in 1829 and continued to put at least two volumes per year on the market until 1842. Volume 38 is the last that was printed, even though almost complete drafts for consecutive volumes exist. The reason for the halt was the Tempo Reforms, an attempt by the government to control publishing and the "Country Genji" was one of its victims. Tsuruya was summoned repeatedly to the authorities to be questioned about the matter. The blocks were confiscated and Tsuruya had to pay a fine. Ryūtei Tanehiko, the author, died shortly after or during the interrogation.

The "Country Genji" is considered to be the most successful serial novel of the Edo period. Its impact can be seen in other publications like books and prints but also the fashion at that time. In 1838, Tsuruya himself was the first publisher who issued a series of prints under the same name as the original book and by the same artist, Kunisada. Each sheet presents a full length portrait of one of hte main characters in the book. By the mid-1840s, other publishers picked up the new theme and also issued prints. Different sequels appeared of the novel and the interest in the "Country Genji" flourished well into the Meiji period.

The publisher Tsuruya was back in business by 1847, producing several books but only one print by Kuniyoshi is known from this time. In 1851 Tsuruya is listed as a member of the Old Faction (Motogumi) of the Picture Book and Print Publishers Guild (Jihon toiya) and member of the Torichō Faction (Torichōgumi) of the Guild of Book Publishers (Shomotsu toiya). However, he was not able to recover from the complications with the "Country Genji" until his business was taken over by fellow publisher Tsujiokaya Bunsuke in the fourth month of 1852. From this point on there are no more prints by Tsuruya, but books appear again starting around 1870 by Tsuruya Kiemon. In which way this Tsuruya is related to the previous is unclear. The Meiji period Tsuruya Kiemon operated from a new location in Nihonbashi Naniwachō and was also mentioned on Guild lists up to 1875. Beginning in 1876, the family name Kobayashi Kiemon appears and the location given in Nihonbashi Shinōsakachō 10-banchi. The new Tsuruya produced only books, with just a few of them illustrated by artists like Yoshiiku and Kyōsai."

Quoted from: Japanese Woodblock Prints: Artists, Publishers and Masterworks 1680-1900 by Andreas Marks, p. 190.