The Insect Art of Kurimoto Tanshū

Senchufu cover

The 19th century court physician Kurimoto Tanshu (栗本丹洲) (also known as Kurimoto Masayoshi) was also an accomplished naturalist, and in 1811 compiled the beautiful 3-volume work entitled Senchu-fû, which roughly translates as the Thousand Insects Manuscript. Its pages are packed with detailed illustrations of insects, arachnids, crustaceans, and just about every invertebrate that was known in Japan, along with a healthy amount of amphibians, fish, and other biological curiosities.  This whole work is worth taking a look, and not least for the glorious parasite centerfold pics!

In 1826 Kurimoto teamed up with the influential physician and naturalist Philipp Franz von Siebold, and shared his illustrations and observations of crustaceans and invertebrates with Dutch naturalists. The resulting work, Fauna Japonica, was the first European work detailing the wildlife of Japan.  While Kurimoto’s illustrations may not be as scientifically accurate, they are beautiful compositions of information and observation, every one.

The images come from the incredible digital archives at the National Diet Library of Japan. The entire danged three-volume collection of Senchu-fû can be viewed here. Even if you don’t can’t read Japanese it’s worth the trip.z end

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