Hokusai was perhaps the most prolific print artist of his day and remains one of the most popular, both in Japan and the U.S. During his lifetime, his reputation was established equally by his single-sheet prints and his designs for book illustrations. Today, Hokusai's book illustrations are apt to be overlooked because of his enormous reputation as a print designer. Hokusai's work published in book format include not only illustrations to novels and poems but sketches and drawings that were to be appreciated on their own. Such books as the Manga (or sketchbooks) and the various gafu (albums of drawings) had no accompanying text or narrative intent.
Hokusai was well-known in his day for his innumerable, spontaneous sketches and ink line studies. These ink drawings were sometimes preparatory sketches for print, while others were merely studies of figures and objects. Many of these ink sketches were eventually published in book form as part of Manga. On view are a selection of both books and drawings that show Hokusai's versatile genius, as well as document the life, lore, and custom of Edo Japan.