TNS news nishikie

Print variations

By William Wetherall

First posted 1 December 2007
Last updated 1 February 2010

TNS variations    Banner colors  |  Publisher/carver cartouches  |  Picture colors  |  Pictures and stories  |  Minor details  |  Tsujibun reissues

TNS variations

All issues of the main TNS news nishikie series were printed in from several to many runs of perhaps two hundred sheets each.

After a print run, the blocks would be washed and dried. This could warp the blocks and/or damage finer details. Consequently, later impressions tend to have poorer registration from warping and degraded resolution of hair and the like from wear. The worst impressions might show evidence of gross damage like chipping or splitting of ridges.

Before a new print run, pigment pots would be replenished from stock, or new preparations would be made. This could result in slightly different hues.

In addition to such wear-and-tear and minor pigment variations, which were common to all wood-block publications, many issues of TNS were reprinted with somewhat different color schemes. Several issues, originally published by Gusokuya, were later republished by Tsujibun.

Types of variations

Here I will focus on printing variations within issues, rather than on stylistic differences between issues. See other TNS articles for observations of differences in banner and cherub styles, among other features that varied according to stage or issue.

The most conspicuous variations are seen in the pigments used to color the ends of the unfurled banners. A less noticeable variation is the background color of the publisher and carver cartouches -- particularly of the carver cartouche.

Some issues have editions in which some backgrounds, foregrounds, or objects in the picture are colored with notably different pigments. And a few issues have editions that show minor changes in detail, and a later edition of one issue reflects major changes to the original picture and story.

Fading and other forms of change

Apparent variations in coloring may reflect degrees of fading or other changes in the original colors over the years, rather than a use of different pigments at the time the print was made.

See Exposure effects on color for examples of and discussions of how exposure to light and other elements over time may effect the colors of pigments.


Banner colors

The most conspicious and common variation of TNS prints involve the color scheme of the unfurled banner of the masthead.

The right and left ends of banners were differently colored, and the color combinations sometimes -- perhaps usually -- varied from edition to edition. Even when the same color combinations were used, the hues were often different. Consequently, many TNS prints have two, and some have more color combination variations.

There are several patterns, some less common, a few limited to one example.

The standard pattern involves two colors, one on the right, one on the left of the unfurled banner -- speaking in the direction that a print would be read. Exceptionally -- I have seen only one example -- is a variation in which the entire banner is a single color.

Also exceptionally -- in what might better be called a style variation -- is a single issue on which the banner is colored differently on the top and bottom rather than on the right and left.

Some colors are bright and saturated, others are lighter and even pastel. The printers appear to have enjoyed themselves coming up with combinations of colors that ranged from loud to quiet, garrish to subdued.

Two colors right and left

TNS-926a is a typical example of prints with colors on the right and left of the banner.

Two colors top and bottom

TNS-1047 is the only print which shows two colors running across the top and bottom edges of the banner. This is probably better regarded as a stylistic variation.

Two colors diagonally cornered

The colors of most banners fill the ends of the banner and fade away on the unfurled banner, often on a slant. The colors of some editions of TNS-445, however, are diagonally cornered lower right and upper left.

One solid color

One variation of TNS-428 is exceptional in that the entire banner is a single color.


Lateral coverage of the pigments somewhat varies. In extreme cases, the two colors practically converge in the middle, leaving very little of the banner unpigmented. TNS-861 has one such a variation. Some variations of TNS-822 are also extreme in their coverage.


Publisher and carver cartouche colors

In the TNS series, publisher particulars and carver signatures are usually printed in white cartouches. Some prints also have editions with a yellow carver cartouche, and one also has a variation on which both the publisher and carver cartouches are yellow.

Carver signatures are also usually printed on white cartouches, but a number of prints also have editions with both yellow and white carver cartouches. When yellow and white editions occur, the yellow editions appear to be earier, judging from their generally superior registration and other such details.

White/yellow, white/white

The publisher/carver cartouche colors of TNS-708 and several other issues have white/yellow and white/white variations.

Blue/yellow, white/white

The publisher and carver cartouches of TNS-822 are blue and yellow in the Gusokuya editions but white and white in the Tsujibun editions.


Picture colors

A number of prints show conspicuous color-scheme variations.

Lavender and purple doves

TNS-832 has several striking variations that play with the colors of the doves.


Pictures and stories

Later editions of issue in the TNS series was edited in response to complaints from the family of the subjects of the story.

Name cartouche deleted, story rewritten

The original edition of TNS-851 was republished in a new edition with a revised story and modified picture, to accommodate a complaint from the family of the persons named in the original version.


Minor details

Editions of some prints show changes in minor details.

Framed box

The box in the lower left corner of one edition of TNS-185 is framed, whereas in most editions the box is frameless.

Blood on sword and neck, other color variations

One variation of TNS-873 has blood on the culprit's sword and neck, which are bloodless in other variations.

Purple horizon

The Gusokuya variation of TNS-919a has a lot of bright purple, including a spash of purple on the horizon.


Tsujibun reissues

Sato Kenji, in "Nyuusu to iu monogatari" [The story of news] in Nyuusu no tanjo [The birth of news] (Kinoshita and Yoshimi 1999:204-237), imputes the following significance to the Tsujibun editions (page 214, my translation).

Among the news nishikie that took material in "Tokyo nichinichi shinbun" [the newspaper] are those that were put out from another publisher using the exact same edition. The details are unclear, but those that were sold and succeeded as commodities at Gusokuya, were probably those that were bought blocks and all and sold by Tsujibun. This point, too, is somewhat different from the publishing system of the recent [early modern] period. As for Tokyo nichinichi shinbun news nishikie for which there are editions from Tsujibun, more than a few have been confirmed. Their existence narrates a commodity quality as a nishikie, which differs from the newspaper itself, which values promptness and regularity.

Sato's view is substantiated by the fact that most of the "more than a few" known Tsujibun editions boast very souvenirish designs and stories.

Tomizawa Tatsuzo pans Sato's view that news nishikie were more closely affiliated with "nishikie" than with "news" (CCMA 2008:4-5). He adopts Tsuchiya Reiko's view that news nishikie were primarily "news" media.

However, Tomizawa made no attempt to test Tsuchiya's hypothesis. He entirely relies on the opinions of others who have similarly failed to examine the prints themselves in order to better illuminate their essentially "souvenir" quality.

Tellingly, Tomizawa's cavalier treatment of the Tsujibun editions (CCMA 2008:9, note 8) explains why the print edition data reported in the Chiba City Museum of Art publication is so flawed (see Bibliography).

Most puzzling, though, is that the article in which Sato made the foregoing observation was immediately preceded by a shorter article by Tomizawa called "Nishikie no nyuusu-sei" [The news quality of nishikie] (Kinoshita and Yoshimi 1999:192-203). Yet in CCMA 2008, Tomizawa credits CCMA's chief curator, Asano Shūgō, for his conjecture Gusokuya probably sold the original TNS blocks to Tsujibun (CCMA 2008:9, note 8).


Table of Tsujibun reissues

As of this writing (October 2008) I know of the existence of 18 Tsujibun editions. All prints are listed in the following table with links to their images and stories on this website.

Tsujibun TNS reissues
Issue Click Title to view Publication (Collection), [Notation]
1 Priest kills woman Ono (two copies), Takahashi, [CCMA]
3 Okinu and Rikaku Yosha, Takahashi, Newspark
220 Treacherous couple Takahashi
445 Three-eyed demon Takahashi
689 Shogitai heroes Yosha, Takahashi, Tsuchiya (Araya), [CCMA]
822 Family of thieves Ono, Takahashi, [CCMA]
833 Cop kills three women Hagi Uragami Museum
849 Showing the flag Ono, [CCMA]
865a Dog finds head Takahashi
877 Poisonous affair Yosha
885 Elderly in jealous spat Yosha, Ono, Tsuchiya (Nishigaki), [CCMA]
892 Woman cuts off lover's nose CCMA
911a Ghost deceives widower Kanbara, Tsuchiya (Nishigaki), [CCMA]
919a Couple murders peddler Ono, Takahashi, Itabashi-ku (Takahashi), Tsuchiya (Nishigaki), [CCMA]
923 Benzo kills Nanigashi Yosha
926a Bride surprises thieves Yosha
926b Chushingura actor shot Yosha, Tsuchiya (Nishigaki?)
940b Strange man under stage Yosha, Ono, Tsuchiya (Shajoken), [CCMA]
Totals Source (Collection)
1 Araya Bunko (Mainichi Shinbun)
1 Hagi Uragami Musueum (Yamaguchi Prefecture)
1 Kanbara Bunko (Kagawa University Library)
4 Nishigaki Bunko (Waseda University Library)
1 Shajoken (Ono Collection at Tokyo University)
6 Ono 1972 (Ono Collection)
8 Takahashi 1986 (Takahashi Collection)
[1] Itabashi-ku 1988 [1 Takahashi Collection]
[6] Tsuchiya 2000 (Bunsei CD-ROM) [4 Nishigaki, 1 Araya, 1 Shajoken]
1 Newspark 2001 (Newspark)
8 Yosha Bunko (News Nishikie, since 2004)
1 [8] CCMA 2008 (Rikken Collection) [Note 1]

Note 1   CCMA 2008 has a table in the back that lists all the prints in the book by issue number. The table shows all TNS prints to be Gusokuya prints, but the comment "There is also a Tsujibun (Tsujiokaya Bunsuke) edition" appears in the Remarks column of nine (9) prints. One expects, from the way the table is written, that all the prints in the book will be Gusokuya editions -- and all but one are. The exception is TNS-892 (page 51) -- the only Tsujibun edition print in the book. As this issue is not attributed to another collection, presumably it is part of the Rikken Collection. It is not clear if this collection includes the other issues for which it is remarked that there are also Tsujibun editions.