Kōbe (Japan), Meiji period, ca. 1890-1900. Original string-bound pamphlet in card wrappers, measuring 17.5 × 13.5 cm, with two printed labels affixed to front wrapper; twenty-five leaves containing 500 tipped-in matchbox labels, predominantly color-printed, measuring ca. 3.5 × 5 to 4.2 × 6.5 cm. Light soil and wear to wrappers; still very good.
A collection of five-hundred samples of original matchbox labels, most likely issued by the manufacturer (Manfat, based in Kōbe, Japan) as a salesman catalog showcasing the range of motifs and colors offered by the company. Typically, one encounters albums compiled by collectors of matchbox labels, so-called phillumenists, but such sample catalogs by the manufacturers are far more scarce. “Among the industry leaders Japan was exceptionally prodigious, and the designs produced were various, plentiful, and consistent with the early twentieth-century expansion of the nation’s heavy industries. Commercial art played an important role, in general, as it developed brand recognition and sales for new industrial products. It put Japanese graphic designers at the forefront of what is now called branding. The designers were substantially influenced by imported European styles such as Victorian and Art Nouveau, (...) (and later by Art Deco and the Bauhaus, introduced through Japanese graphic arts trade magazines, and incorporated into the design of matchbox labels during the late 1920s and ’30s). Western graphic mannerisms were harmoniously combined with traditional Japanese styles and geometries from the Meiji period (1868–1912), exemplified by both their simple and complex ornamental compositions. Since matches were a big export industry, and the Japanese dominated the markets in the United States, Australia, England, France, and even India, matchbox design exhibited a hybrid typography that wed Western and Japanese styles into an intricate mélange. The domestic brands, however, were routinely designed in a more reductive – though typically Japanese – manner solely using Kanji characters” (see Steven Heller’s illustrated article “Phillumeny and Phillumenists,” https://www.printmag.com/illustration/phillumeny-and-phillumenists/).
Also included: Jacques Bussy, “Allumettes Japonaises” (Paris, Léoréca, 1977), a small volume containing 85 color reproductions of Meiji period matchbox labels.
Book ID: 50691