He was one of the most important entrepreneurs in the art of pyrotechnics. Born in Japan in 1840 in the Mikawa Province (now Aichi Prefecture), he founded The Hirayama Fireworks Company in Yokohama in 1877, which employed numerous craftsmen to experiment with techniques and innovations. The results were astonishing: it was thanks to Jinta Hirayama that fireworks went from the classic orange palette to a colourful explosion of colours, and when the then American president Ulysses S. Grant visited Japan, Hirayama was in charge of the welcome fireworks display. In 1883, he was the first Japanese in history to register a patent in the United States. His customers even reached overseas, so much so that he produced bilingual, Japanese and English catalogues. Hirayama passed away in 1900, forever leaving his mark on the history of the art of fireworks.
The effect of fireworks at the moment of explosion seems impossible to reproduce on paper, due to its ephemeral and iridescent nature. Yet in late 19th century Japan, Jinta Hirayama undertook this challenge by publishing an extraordinary catalogue.
While the purpose of the booklet was once to show Hirayama Fireworks Company’s customers the variety and originality of its pyrotechnic productions, complete with instructions for use, today the illustrated fireworks catalogue stands before our eyes as a valuable work of graphic art. 86 magnetic illustrations, geometric and elegant, rigorous and striking, that manage to evoke the brilliance and magnificence of the fireworks as they appear at night and constitute the restored reproduction of the original catalogue, dated 1883.
It was precisely in those years that Hirayama’s company distinguished itself in the production of fireworks, making notable technical innovations that culminated in a new expressive horizon: from the exclusive use of orange hues, it moved on to a riot of colours.
As well as being a source of inspiration, the singular illustrations intrigue the beholder with ever-changing combinations, and lead right back to the Japanese etymology of the term: page after page one seems to see ‘flowers of fire’ (in Japanese, hanabi). An unusual and original book, with the unmistakable flavour of yesteryear of an art that has never gone out of fashion.
With a precious childhood memory by Aoi Huber Kono, and lettering on the cover by Luca Barcellona.
With a text by Aoi Huber Kono Cover lettering by Luca Barcellona Book design by Bunker
12 × 18 cm 96 pages Paperback + dust jacket Italian Isbn 978-88-98030-40-8 First published July 2021