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Benjamin Franklin from the series Legends of Great Westerners

Picture of Mitsui Group's Western-style Three Story House at Surugacho, Tokyo

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

Benjamin Franklin

from the series Legends of Great Westerners

attributed to the school of Utagawa Kuniteru II, 1873

Picture of Mitsui Group's Western-style Three Story House at Surugacho, Tokyo

IHL Cat. #2054

About This Print

One of fourteen prints in the series of color woodblock educational prints Legends of Great Westerners issued in 1873 by the Ministry of Education (文部省 Monbushō). This print describes how to make Benjamin Franklin's lightening conductor to protect a building in a storm. Inside this steepled building a couple can be seen reacting to the violence of the storm by covering their ears.

In 1750, two years before his famous kite and key experiment which proved lightening to be a form electricity, Ben Franklin had "theorized that lightning might be preventable by using an elevated iron connected to earth to empty static from a cloud."1

May not the knowledge of this power of points be of use to mankind, in preserving houses, churches, ships, etc., from the stroke of lightning, by directing us to fix, on the highest parts of those edifices, upright rods of iron made sharp as a needle...Would not these pointed rods probably draw the electrical fire silently out of a cloud before it came nigh enough to strike, and thereby secure us from that most sudden and terrible mischief! - Benjamin Franklin2

Source: University of Tsukuba Library http://www.tulips.tsukuba.ac.jp/exhibition/bakumatu/nisikie/ijinden.html#ca
Note: The below transcription follows the line breaks on the print, includes hiragana either to the left or right of the Kanji on the print and uses the new Kanji character forms.

The prints give us instructions for building Franklin's lightning rod to protect a 

北亜米理加仏蘭克林(ふらんくりん)と云人夏の日驟雨(ゆふだち)の起る を待て
我家の屋上(やねのうへ)に建て雷電の越歴(ゑれき)と同物たるを知れり 是防
鉄の柱地より高きこと三丈位。銀を鎔(とか)して尖端(とがりさき)を包 み離ざるやうに
拵へ其尖の銀より針がねのくさりにても上に絵の具をぬり錆(さび)ぬやう にすべし

About the Series "Legends of Great Westerners"
This series of fourteen prints is referred to by various names including "Great Western Inventions" and "Great Western Inventors".  The University of Tsukuba which has a collection of near 100 educational prints issued by the Ministry of Education, titles the series 泰西偉人伝, which I have translated as "Legends of Great Westerners." 

The series consists of fourteen prints as follows: 
Ministry of Education Full-Color Woodblock Prints
The newly formed Ministry of Education issued full-color woodblock prints for childhood education between 1873 and 1885.  In addition to prints issued by the Ministry, color woodblock educational prints were also issued by private publishers, such as those of the series Brocade Pictures for Moral Education (錦絵修身談 Nishiki-e shūshindan), a collaborative effort of the artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), his students and the Tokyo publishing house Fukyūsha, issued in 1883 and 1884.

For more information on the color woodblock prints issued by the Ministry of Education see the article Educational Color Woodblock Prints (issued by the Ministry of Education) on this site.

1 website of the Franklin Institute [accessed 4/14/19] https://www.fi.edu/history-resources/franklins-lightning-rod

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description Benjamin Franklin 仏蘭克林 (ふらんくりん)
 Series Legends of Great Westerners 泰西偉人伝 
 Artist Utagawa Kuniteru II (1830-1874) [attributed to the school of]
 Signature unsigned but attributed to the school of Utagawa Kuniteru II by multiple sources
 Seal of Artist none
 Publication Date
published by Ministry of Education
Note: the seal of the Ministry of Education [Monbushō] reading 文部省製本所発行記 is not present on this print
 Impression good
 Colors good
 Condition poor -  extensive paper abrasion; dirt; toning
 Genre ukiyo-e; kyōiku nishiki-e [full-color educational prints]
 Format oban
 H x W Paper 
 13 3/4 x 9 3/16 in. (34.9 x 23.3 cm)
 H x W Image 13 7/16 x 8 7/8 in. (34.1 x 22.5 cm)

 Collections This Print
University of Tsukuba library http://www.tulips.tsukuba.ac.jp/lib/ja/collection/rare-kyoiku-nishikie
last revision:
4/14/2019 (created)