The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon

Sei Shōnagon

Introduced by Robin Duke
Translated by Ivan Morris

Illustrated by Jasper Deane

The revelatory personal writings of a lady at the court of Empress Sadako, luxuriously illustrated with watercolour paintings.

Published price: US$ 57.95


The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon

Written over 1,000 years ago, this is the rare and precious record of a highly sophisticated woman living a privileged and protected life at the Japanese Imperial Court. Sei Shōnagon was lady-in-waiting to the Empress Sadako. Her ‘Pillow Book’ is a mixture of diary, gossip, poetic musing and observations about daily life. Describing the women’s apartments, she says, ‘Of course we must always be on the alert when we are staying in these apartments. Even during the day we cannot be off our guard, and at night we have to be especially careful. But I rather enjoy all this.’

Production Details

The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon book
  • Bound in art silk blocked in gold
  • Set in Ehrhardt
  • 272 pages with 9 colour illustrations
  • Coloured page tops
  • 9½" × 6¼"

A portrait of ancient Japan

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

Sei’s anecdotes reveal an acute poetic sensibility – under ‘Splendid Things’, she lists ‘The grain of the wood in a Buddhist statue. Long flowering branches of beautifully coloured wisteria entwined about a pine tree’ – but also a sharp tongue: ‘It is absurd of people to get angry because one has gossiped about them. How can anyone be so simple as to believe that he is free to find fault with others while his own faults are passed over in silence?’ She amply proved her superiority over the men in the verse contests which whiled away the hours at court. The rich variety of her subject matter and the disarming frankness of her style have made her Pillow Book a major classic. Bound in art silk, this edition features watercolour illustrations by Jasper Deane.


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