[Germany?]: ca. 1900–1940. Contemporary red buckram notebooks measuring 22.5 × 16 and 20 × 16 cm, with labels mounted five to ten per page. Leaves of one album evenly toned due to stock; still very good or better. Item #6376
A vibrant collection of over 800 Japanese matchbox and other product labels, compiled by an unknown dedicated phillumenist prior to WWII. The labels advertise a variety of cafés and restaurants, companies manufacturing everything from alcohol and coffee to fabrics and weapons, and services such as travel. Judging by the label design, the two albums are organized in loose chronological order, with album one containing pre-WWI wood block labels, richly printed with traditional Japanese imagery, strong elements of Art Deco, and in vivid colors. The first album also contains many labels advertising businesses that ceased to exist after WWI or the Russian Revolution of 1917. Album two contains labels from the 1920s and 1930s, with more modernist design elements, muted color palettes, and laconic imagery. These later labels also feature a greater variety of shapes and sizes, with the largest measuring 7 × 9 cm. Both albums are organized thematically, grouping together animals, cars, buildings, food and drink, portraits, etc.
Matches became a major Japanese export in the late nineteenth century, with nearly 80% going to China and the British colony of Hong Kong by the end of the century. Later Australia and India joined as major importers of Japanese matches, and most labels in the collection are printed in both Japanese and English, proudly marking the product as “Made in Japan.” The country of import is sometimes evident from the images, as in the case of labels with portraits of Mahatma Gandhi or women in traditional Indian or Chinese dress. In the 1920s, Japanese matches were also exported to Europe. A fascinating record of the changes in Japanese graphic design, as well as a striking visual reflection of international trade relations in the early twentieth century.