Watanabe Publisher "Double-Sealed" Japanese Woodblocks

Subject Print of Hasui's 1929 "Evening at Beppu" Print (front and verso)

Subject Print of Hasui's 1929 "Evening at Beppu" Print

(Detail of:)      "6mm seal"          and margin-stamped "C-seal"


To help keep our readers up to date with other perhaps "oddly-sealed" or "double-sealed" Watanabe Publisher prints as we encouter them, we've decided to add this linked "sub-page" where we can accumulate our findings.

And, You Can Help....

Here, we can also use YOUR help. So, if you spot an "oddly-sealed" or "double-sealed" print that's got you scratching your head, please drop us an email and tell us about what you've found. We'd love to take a look, and then perhaps share such findings here with others.

Example #1

For our first example, please see the above set of 4 images of Hasui's 1929 "Evening at Beppu" print.


To give readers a better "feel" of our thoughts upon learning of this above print, we've decided to simply post some (slightly edited) comments below.

Our recent "May 5 and 11, 2003 Email" Comments to One of our Readers (slightly edited)

Hi M,

Thanks for the email--yes, we ARE very interested. Can you still find the eBay Item # of this recent "6mm/C-seal" combination???

We are very interested in studying this matter further, and would like to build further evidence or accumulate examples as they are encountered.....

(Then a few days later--after digitally viewing the above print.....)

Well, it seems to us that the only logical LEGITIMATE explanation would be that an old "C-sealed" print could then have later received a second 6mm seal in addition to its original earlier seal. That is--perhaps subsequently again RE-sealed years later with a "6mm-seal" by Watanabe's staff.

However, another "possibility" also exists. Vice-versa--as a means of fraudulently making an orignially-sealed "6mm print" to appear older, a dishonest seller could attempt to trick buyers by the recent addition of a much older "C-seal."

That said, ...this situation still then leaves the collector wondering "What to do??" So, to answer your question specifically: I guess if one wishes to be very careful, it might then be best to "assume" that such a print (in question) may perhaps be of the later "6mm vintage" (??) which has then perhaps been re-stamped later with a "fake 'C-seal.'"

Anything's possible..... However, as the "fake Watanabe" seal recently discovered on a DOI-published print proved, someone/somewhere is "playing around"--apparently attempting to "increase the value" of a few later-edition prints.

In closing, it's helpful to point out that some accumulated "hands-on" knowledge of what "old paper" looks like is also useful and guiding.

Certainly further study is needed.

Hope these thoughts help.

Talk again soon,


Example #2

Our example #2 comes to us from an old pair of "saved images" that struck us as a simply "bit odd" at the time. This "double-sealed" Hasui print was also seen in auction (again eBay, as we recall), perhaps about 2001 or so. Again, this second example is also certainly a "seldom seen" print, the 1938 Hasui image titled "Sanno Shrine After Rain" (N#301).

As can be seen, together in the print's lower corner appear both an "old looking" Watantabe "C-seal" (dating to the period 1929-42) along with a "fresher looking" (much darker) 6mm seal. Or course, the earlier "C-seal" is indeed the "appropriate seal" for this print to therefore be considered to be a "first-edition" printing. See images just below.

Hasui's 1938 "Sanno Shrine After Rain" Print      Detail: with "6mm seal" and margin-stamped "C-seal"

Andreas's Recently Recounted Observations

Hi Thomas,

In my German computer probably I keep the ".jpgs" of an additional "double-sealed" Watnatne/Hasui print which I saved many months ago--I check next time when I am back.
(Now shown above).

I'm additionally now recalling that at Mr. Nakajima's shop I once saw yet another Hasui print with two seals, and to my estimate, both seals clearly appeared to be "old."

My best guess is that existing prints with earlier "oblong seals" occasionally got re-stamped again after the War with a round 6mm seal--but, it is just speculation, no proof.

Let us continue to collect such images with two seals--eventually we can make an article of it.
(This--as you are now reading--is the beginning.)


To clearly state our shared opinion, both authors clearly feel that neither of the Example #2's seals appear to be "forged." The inking and the "quality" of the margin's "C-seal" seems to closely MATCH that of the print's outer border-line and other adjacent black "key-lines" (here, note carefully the same degree of "darkness" to the inking).

Turning our attention next to this print's "6mm seal," clearly this hand-applied round "6mm seal" is more darkly inked--not a surprise, as these round seals will thusly vary from print to print. Here, the darker ink looks to be "fresher"--hence, perhaps a post-War application as would be expected.

Again, in the case of this print, the observed "quality" of these seals leads us to the likely conclusion that a few older prints (with earlier seals in their margins) must have been left "laying around" at Watanabe's Shop, as the final remaining copies of "unsold inventory" of an earlier edition. It therefore seems likely that these few/occasional prints then later received (post-War) a re-application of the then-in-use "6mm seal."

Of course, there would be NOTHING to be gained by Watanabe in doing so--the addition of a 6mm seal onto an earlier oblong-sealed print would in NO way increase its value. More likely (we think) simply a way in which Watanabe "updated" old inventory.

A Word about the Integrity of Watanabe

At this point, both authors wish to also be VERY CLEAR as to their opinions of Watanabe Publisher--long deemed worldwide to be the most respected shin-hanga publisher in all of Japan.

Simply stated--we hold Watanabe in the highest regard; never thinking or suspecting for even a moment that Watanabe would ever "double-seal" a "newer" print to "make it appear to be older." Simply unthinkable, would never happen. Any very short-term gain of doing so is simply something that makes no sense, and is something that Watanabe would never even consider.

Update #1 (October 2004): New Mexico Collector Reports our Example #3

Our example #3 comes to us via an email contact from a print collector in New Mexico. Interestingly, she reports owning another double-sealed copy of the same 1938 Hasui print, "Sanno Shrine After Rain." Her copy appears to be somewhat faded, and is still "tip-tipped" to its original backing. She reports that "Print was in (an) old frame. I would guess it was framed in '50's. Outer matting has statement this is an original print." This is the print seen just below.

As can be seen, together in this print's lower corner appear both an "old looking" Watantabe "C-seal" (dating to the period 1929-42) along with a "fresher looking" (much darker) 6mm seal. Or course, the earlier "C-seal" is indeed the "appropriate seal" for this print to therefore be considered to be a "first-edition" printing.

Hasui's 1938 "Sanno Shrine After Rain" Print      Detail: with "6mm seal" and margin-stamped "C-seal"

Observations and Comments

When our TWO double-sealed "Sanno Shrine's" close-up images are digitally set side-by-side, it seems clear that both "C-seals" ("sausage-seals") appear to be set into the EXACT same position (with even the same rightward "tilting") in both prints. Likely this is because this hand-carved "C-seal" (used 1929-42) was placed rigidly into a drilled hole within this print's right "key-block" margin. Hence, during the printing of an entire "edition," this would result in such consistent placement from print to print. At the same time, this "C-seal" could then be later "removed" and used again within the margin of yet another Watanabe print image.

Next however, it is easy to note that the HAND-applied "J-seal" (the 6mm, reddish-brown seal--used 1946-57) varies somewhat in it's placement, as in our latest "Sanno Shrine" print it is set a bit farther to the right, closer to the print's margin. Again, this somewhat random placement is as expected, as these smaller "6mm-seals" are hand-applied to prints following their completition.

Two Hasui Reference Examples

Finally, we wish to point out two other readily available "examples" of this same "Sanno Shrine" print--both seen in commonly used Hasui print references. The first is seen in the recently published Hotei Hasui reference, "Kawase Hasui -- The Complete Woodblock Prints," where their example (#H-427, page 509) of "Sanno Shrine" also shows the SAME unusual double-sealed combination of a "C-seal" together with a "6mm-seal." The second example is seen in Narazaki's landmark 1979 Hasui reference, "Kawase Hasui Mokuhangashu," where their example (#N-301, page 100) is seen with ONLY a "C-seal."


In summary, to collectors of Japanese woodblock prints, some reasonable knowledge of the various Japanese Publishers seals that one is likely to encounter is certainly useful.

Such a reasonable accumulation of knowledge not only makes the collecting of Japanese woodblocks "more fun," but can also (in some cases) help to protect the otherwise unknowing buyer from making mistakes when making buying decisions.

Stay Tuned.....

We continute to hope to add further examples over the coming months.....

Update of Reported "Sightings"

Thanks to the viewership of our readers, we have the following "double-sealed" Watanabe sightings to report:

(1) May 2003 -- email from anonymous contributor ("M"); digial image of eBay auctioned print

(2) May 2003 -- Dr. Andreas Grund (co-author); Tokyo, Japan; (digital image--eBay auctioned print?)

(3) Oct 2004 -- an anonymous contributor ("JY"); New Mexico; image from her personal collection

(4) xx 200x -- (.....could be you--your input is requested)

Literature (and print) sources used in preparation of this and other articles include:

"Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975", by Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada, University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, ISBN 0-8248-1732-X

"Kawase Hasui -- The Complete Woodblock Prints", by Kendall H. Brown & Shoichiro Watanabe, Hotei (KIT) Publishing, Netherlands, ISBN 90-74822-46-0

"Crows, Cranes and Camellias: The Natural World of Ohara Koson", by Amy Reigle Newland, Jan Perree, Robert Schaap, Hotei (KIT) Publishing, Netherlands, ISBN 90-74822-38-X

(c) Thomas Crossland and Dr. Andreas Grund; May 2003 - Nov 2004