Takejiro Hasegawa made a bundle in the late 19th and early 20th centuries selling exotic crêpe paper storybooks to European travellers in Japan. Always the completist, Frederick John Horniman bought the whole series between 1885 and 1889 and had the slim stories bound into a set of four volumes. These early examples of Takejiro’s handiwork are just as captivating to modern readers, with lavish illustrations featuring dialogue printed within the scenes like early manga. The set aren’t on display in the museum, but are available to peruse in the library’s rare books collection.
The Horniman isn’t especially known for its library, but it should be. Like the rest of the museum it’s built upon the collections of its founder, and carries the same inimitable personality. While visits are by appointment, this is only because of limited desk space and shouldn’t put anyone off; in a pinch an appointment can be made from the museum’s front desk, usually for immediate entry. The Librarian April Yasamee and Archivist Hayley Egan were happy to help us poke around and we didn’t really want to leave. A few minutes with the online catalogue should be sufficient to inspire a visit. While you’re there, don’t miss the oddity-laden book sale table.