Nanushi Censor Seals

As described here, from 1790 until 1876 (when formal censorship ceased), all woodblock prints had to be examined by official censors, and marked with their seals.

From 1842 to 1853, individual censors called Nanushi. marked prints with their individual seals, bearing characters from their names. During the period from 1842 to 1846, these seals are found singly. From 1847 to 1853, the Nanushi marked prints in pairs.

References which show the dates for the various nanushi censor seals, either as individuals, or when the censors worked together as pairs, are hard to find. The tables below give that information (along with the seal readings, and the names of the censors).

Seal Readings

Full Names of Censors

Dates for Single Seals (1842-1846)

Dates for Double Seals (1847-1853)

Actual Seal Sizes

Note that the seal images given above are enlarged somewhat to make them easier to see. Using the kiwame (left) and aratame (right) seals as examples, the actual size of the seal is usually like this:

Larger Seal Images

Click here to see the seals in a slightly larger image, with a little more resolution (59KB).


Although information about dating prints from censor seals is given in many reference books, much of the material in this page is drawn from the best single reference I know of on date seals:
 	James Self, Nobuko Hirose, "Japanese Art Signatures:
		A Handbook and Practical Guide",
		Tuttle, Rutland, 1987
This invaluable reference work is now unfortunately out of print, and completely unavailable on the used book market, which is why the information is being made available online here. In addition, the table giving the dates of the usage of each particular nanushi seal is from:
	Richard Illing, "The Art of Japanese Prints",
		Mayflower, New York, 1980
which is to the best of my knowledge the only place this valuable information can be found!

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