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Opening from Shiohi no tsuto, illustration by Kitagawa Utamaro
The Fitzwilliam Museum is one of the few places in the world to house all three of Utamaro's books on natural history themes (the 'Insect Book', 'Shell Book' and 'Bird Book'), each containing a selection of kyōka - playful light verse - compiled by a leading member of the group of poets represented in the book. The 'Shell Book' is the most elaborate in terms of special printing effects, including complex combinations of blind-embossing (karazuri) to shape the shells and mice (kira) applied to convey their shining surfaces.