Eiri Genji monogatari (絵入源氏物語)

Eiri Genji monogatari (Illustrated Tale of Genji) is a printed book of The Tale of Genji which was published during the Edo period. During the Edo period, many printed books of The Tale of Genji were published, and among them, Eiri Genji monogatari was published the earliest and circulated widely.

Since its completion during the Heian period, The Tale of Genji until then had all existed in the form of manuscripts, and it was a time-consuming work to compile one manuscript because a person had to transcribe it one by one, therefore ordinary people could not obtain it easily.
(Many people who could not buy manuscripts got to know the tale through various kinds of digest of The Tale of Genji called 'kogaisho.')
Among them, Eiri Genji monogatari was the first text which was produced for many common people as an easy reader.

Eiri Genji monogatari had been published many times over a long period of time, the contents being changed little by little, and the book published in 1653 circulated most widely, which is generally called 'Keian-bon, the third year of Joo era version.'
The editor was Shunsho YAMAMOTO, who was a poet, but made a living as a makie (Japanese lacquer sprinkled with gold or silver powder) craftsman.

Many characteristics of Eiri Genji monogatari were generally preserved in the printed books of The Tale of Genji which were published subsequently such as "Shusho Genji monogatari" (Tale of Genji with Headnote), "Kogetsu-sho Commentary," and so on, and it became the basic form for many printed books of The Tale of Genji since then.

Eiri Genji monogatari consists of 60 volumes and its contents are as follows.

54 chapters of the main text of The Tale of Genji, 54 books
Genji Meyasu (Commentary on key words and phrases in the text), three books
Hikiuta (Index), one book
Keizu (Genealogy), one book
Yamaji no tsuyu (Sequel of The Tale of Genji), one book

The text of Eiri Genji monogatari is largely the same as the text of Aobyoshi-bon line, especially it is close to the Sanjonishike-bon line manuscript. It is because this line of manuscript were considered important and often used in those days.

It also contains some devices to make it readable, adding voicing marks, commas, phonetic transcriptions in kana, side notes, and so on. These devices are so elaborate that readers can understand The Tale of Genji through only this book, and do not need to see other references.

As the name of 'Eiri' (Illustrated) suggests, Eiri Genji monogatari contains illustrations to help readers understand the meaning of each scene, and the number of the illustrations reaches 226. All the block copies of these illustrations seem to have been drawn by Shunsho YAMAMOTO, an editor and a makie craftsman.


As a part of 'the original manuscript text database' project by National Institute of Japanese Literature, the books on CD-ROM are sold.

"The Tale of Genji (Illustrated)" (Iwanami Shoten, Publishers, July 28, 1999) ISBN 4-00-130093-1

[Original Japanese]