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Thomas Carlyle from the series Legends of Great Westerners

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

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

Thomas Carlyle

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. #1970

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 depicts a distraught Thomas Carlyle, the English writer, historian and philosopher, rushing towards his burning manuscript, the first volume of his history of the French Revolution, while his dog looks on.

While the wording on the print blames the burning of the manuscript on his dog knocking over a candle, it was in fact John Stuart Mill's maid who thought the manuscript was trash and used it for kindling.  Carlyle would go on to rewrite the first volume and complete two more volumes, publishing the three-volume work The French Revolution: A History in 1837, and establishing his reputation and one of the great intellectuals of the time.

It is suggested that many of the woodblock prints in this series used the Chinese translation of  “Chambers’s Information for the People", 1842 by William and Robert Chambers for their source material.  Chambers describes the incident depicted in this print as follows:
An accident of a somewhat similar kind [referencing .....] happened to the manuscript of Mr. Carlyle's first volume of his "French Revolution." He had lent the manuscript to a literary neighbor to peruse. By some mischance, it had been left lying on the parlor floor, and become forgotten. Weeks ran on, and the historian sent for his work, the printers being loud for "copy." Inquiries were made, and it was found that the maid-of-all-work, finding what she conceived to be a bundle of waste paper on the floor, had used it to light the kitchen and parlor fires with! Such was the answer returned to Mr. Carlyle; and his feeling may be imagined. There was, however, no help for him but to set resolutely to work to re-write the book; and he turned to and did it. He had no draft, and was compelled to rake up from his memory facts, ideas, and expressions which had been long since dismissed. The composition of the book in the first instance had been a work of pleasure; the re-writing of it a second time was one of pain and anguish almost beyond belief. That he preserved and finished the volume under such circumstances, affords an instance of determination of purpose which has seldom been surpassed.

Given that there is no mention of a dog in the above description, suggests that perhaps the information on the print is from a different source.

Sources: website of Slate, "19th-Century Japanese Prints Showing the Trials of Western Inventors" by REBECCA ONION  JULY 17, 2014 https://slate.com/human-interest/2014/07/history-of-invention-japanese-prints-showing-the-trials-of-western-inventors.html
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.

A loose and summarized translation of the below tells us that a dog knocked over the lamp on the table which held Carlyle's important papers that he worked on for many years.  His manuscript caught fire and to ashes.  Carlyle became very depressed, but in the end he worked diligently to rewrite the manuscript and everything work out well.


About the Series "Legends of Great Westerners"
This series of fourteen prints is referred to by various names including "Great Western Inventions," 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.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description Thomas Carlyle カーライル
 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
 Seal of Artist none
 Publication Date
 Publisher Ministry of Education (Monbushō 文部省)
 note: missing the Ministry of Education publishing seal reading 文部省製本所発行記 [published by Ministry of Education]
 Impression excellent
 Colors good
 Condition fair -  large stain on bottom right of print
 Genre ukiyo-e; kyōiku nishiki-e [full-color educational prints]
 Format oban
 H x W Paper 
 13 3/4 x 9 5/16 in. (34.9 x 23.7 cm)
 H x W Image 13 1/2 x 9 1/8 in. (34.3 x 23.2 cm)

 Collections This Print
University of Tsukuba library http://www.tulips.tsukuba.ac.jp/lib/ja/collection/rare-kyoiku-nishikie
last revision:
1/17/2019 (created)