Furuyama Moromasa's 44-foot Tokyo scroll rediscovered at Edinburgh Central Library

| 04 January 2013
  • Archived article
A photo of a female curator wearing white gloves handling a scroll on a wooden table
Hilary Williamson, the Central Library Collections Manager for National Museums Scotland, with Furuyama Moromasa's ancient scroll© Evening News

A 44-foot depiction of “amusing and entertaining” street scenes in 18th century Tokyo, left largely overlooked in the special collections of Edinburgh’s Central Library for decades, will be revitalised if curators in the Scottish capital succeed with a bid for special conservation funding.

Japanese painter Furuyama Moromasa, who has a pair of works in the British Museum collection, is thought to have created the rare scroll during the early 1700s, showing shops, theatres and citizens of Tokyo – known then as Edo – going about everyday domestic life.

An image of a section of an illustrated 17th century scroll showing Tokyo street life
Moromasa is thought to have been active during the first half of the 18th century
It was given to the library authority during the 1940s by Henry Dyer, a Scottish engineer who was instrumental in the industrialisation of Japan.

“It presents plentiful information on the lively world of the popular theatre, and is the only known large handscroll painting by this artist,” said Dr Rosina Buckland, the Senior Curator of National Museums Scotland’s Japanese collections, who has helped devise a joint funding application to the Sumitomo Foundation.

“There are a wealth of amusing and entertaining scenes of life in Edo. This handscroll is a fascinating and important work.

“We very much hope that our funding application for specialist conservation work will be successful, so that the painting can be enjoyed by many people in Scotland, and beyond.”

“For many decades this scroll has been held in the Central Library special collections without anyone realising its true significance,” said Councillor Richard Lewis, of Edinburgh City Council.

“It is only through the passion of our library staff and the knowledge of National Museums Scotland experts that this beautiful work has been brought to light.

“If we are successful in getting funding to restore this painting to its former glory, then we are very much hoping that it can go on display to the public in Edinburgh at a later date.”
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