homeaboutarchivepodcastnewslettermembership!
aboutarchivepodcastmembership!
aboutarchivemembers!

Illustrations from Japanese Fireworks Catalogs (circa 1880s)

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 08, 2021

illustrations from Japanese fireworks catalogs

illustrations from Japanese fireworks catalogs

illustrations from Japanese fireworks catalogs

illustrations from Japanese fireworks catalogs

illustrations from Japanese fireworks catalogs

From the excellent Public Domain Review, a collection of illustrations from Japanese fireworks catalogs published in the 1880s.

The spinning saxon, flying pigeons, polka batteries, jumping jacks and firecrackers, squibs and salutes, Aztec Fountains, Bengal Lights, and Egyptian Circlets, bangers or bungers, cakes, crossettes, candles, and a Japanese design known as kamuro (boys haircut), which looks like a bobbed wig teased out across the stratosphere… the language of fireworks has a richness that hints at the explosive payload it references. And yet, anyone who has ever held their camera up to the blazing sky knows that a brilliant firework show can rarely be captured to any satisfying degree. Perhaps this is what makes a nineteenth-century series of catalogue advertisements for Japanese fireworks so mesmerizing: denied the expectations of photorealism, these images are free to evoke a unique sense of visual wonder.