This compendium of Hokkaido’s flora took 12 years to be finished, the compiling time spanning from 1920 to 1931. It comprises of 3 volumes and a total of 28 chapters.
One author of the book is Kingo Miyabe (1860~1951). He studied in Sapporo Agricultural College (now Hokkaido Imperial University) and graduated in 1877. After that, he pursued further study in Tokyo Imperial University (now University of Tokyo) and Harvard University. He returned to Japan in 1889 and created a botanical garden at Sapporo Agriculture College. As a scholar, he conducted researches on botanical taxonomy and also helped nurture talents in the fields of plant pathology and mycology. The other author of the book is Yushun Kudo (1887~1932). He was a graduate of Tokyo Imperial University and a teacher and researcher in Hokkaido Imperial University. In 1928 Kudo came to Taiwan and began giving lectures on botanical taxonomy at Taihoku Imperial University (now National Taiwan University). He also served as the director of the university’s botanical garden. He pioneered the botanical studies in Taiwan and contributed to the academic prowess of the university. Both of the scholars were known for their thorough, meticulous approach to research and for the demanding attitudes they directed towards their academic studies. In addition to Icones of the Essential Forest Trees of Hokkaido, they also collaborated on compiling Taxonomy of Useful Trees in Japan, and The Illustrated Medicinal Plants of Hokkaido. The illustrator of these works is Tadasuke Suzaki (1866-1933).
Both Miyabe and Kudo were fastidious in the compiling work of the Icones of the Essential Forest Trees of Hokkaido. They once said they would spare no efforts to produce the world’s best compendium of plants. They set up rigorous criteria for the illustrations, demanding that the colors used genuinely capture the nature. When their standard could not be met, they always asked Suzaki to re-do the drawing. The two professors asked Suzaki to draw every stage of the plant’s lifecycle, depicting the seeds, the blossoms and the fruit. This task required constant tracking of the ever-changing appearance of the plants. Sometimes Suzaki had to keep record of dozens of plants.
Though the title refers to “Hokkaido,” the contents of this compendium are not confined to trees on that island but include the species found in the northern part of Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku. In total, 26 families, 45 genera and 85 species of trees are recorded in this book. Each illustration of the trees had to go through Professor Kudo’s careful scrutiny before they could be used. To sponsor the project, the magistracy of Hokkaido even purchased paints from France for Suzaki to use. The famous “red-glazed brush” was used as well. It can be said that almost all the best resources available were directed to the illustration of the book. The final results were published in a large format (273mm×212mm). Each species is accompanied by a plate that includes anatomic sections of flowers and seeds, and depictions of leaves, winter buds and the growing stages of seedlings. Suzaki’s meticulous, elaborate and beautiful illustrations make this compendium pass for a perfect masterpiece. The published version includes detailed descriptions both in Japanese and English, and is undoubtedly a major scientific reference.
Digital Archives Project of TFRI＇s Library of Forestry Literature in The Period of Japanese-Database of TFRI’s Forestry Literature in the Period of Japanese Colonization