Shin-Hanga Seal Finder

Purpose and Scope

There were many hundreds of different artists' and publishers' seals used on shin-hanga prints. The purpose of the Shin-Hanga Seal Finder is to provide an efficient way for a collector to locate identifying information about an unknown seal, based upon its physical characteristics and the date and type of print on which it is found.

This project is limited to the seals of artists and publishers who were active in producing prints in the shin-hanga genre. Signatures defy description by physical characteristics and so are not included here. Carvers and printers are also excluded.

Search Strategy

There are too many seals to look at all of them in finding a match for your mystery seal. This seal finder allows you to specify information about the seal that you are looking at to narrow down the search-space, allowing you to make efficient use of your time.

If there are too many seals which fit the entered criteria, enter more specific information about your seal or print until the number of seals becomes manageable.

If you can't find your seal within the seals displayed, it either isn't in the database or it may have been classified differently. Some of the classifications are ambiguous, so you may want to remove or change some of your entered criteria. It's easy to play around! If it's not in the database, please email it to me so that it can be added (see the "How to Contribute" section below).

For your convenience in changing your search, the entire line of any criteria entered will be highlighted in the "Search Criteria" area. When you enter multiple lines of criteria, seals will be shown only if they meet ALL of your specifications.

Search Criteria


All of the artists and publishers in the database are listed in the drop-down selection box, sorted with the artists first, then the publishers. There are 2 "special" names: "Unread Artist" and "Unread Publisher". To limit the seals displayed, choose a specific name. Choose "All Names" to remove this criteria.


Most seals are clearly one shape. Sometimes ta seal could be called one shape or another. If that's the case, try it both ways. Choose "All Shapes" to remove this criteria, if you want to expand your search-space.

Character Types:

On some seals the characters are POSITIVE, if the ink of the seal forms the characters. It's also quite common the characters appear as NEGATIVE space within a solid field of ink. Some seals are MIXED, making use of both positive and negative space.

Stroke Count:

In adding new seals to the database, I attempt to count how many distinct strokes it would take to duplicate the internal characters of the seal. The border doesn't count. It is definitely ambiguous because there is a judgment to be made whether a particular corner is rounded enough to be a single stroke or if it is 2 strokes. Generally, I lean toward calling corners 2 strokes. Circles are 1 stroke.

On separate days, I would probably come up with different stroke counts for the same seal. With that in mind, I have allowed you to search for a range of strokes, specifying a maximum and minimum. If you count 12 strokes, you may wish to specify minimum = 9 and maximum = 15.

If you find a seal on which you strongly disagree with my count, please let me know and I will have another look at it.

Work Type:

When I add an artist or publisher to the database, I specify the types of work which are produced by that person. The print that you are looking at will probably fall into one of these types: Landscape, Kacho (nature), Bijin (beautiful woman), or Actor. If you can't decide, leave it as "All Work Types".

Year of Work:

If the active years for an artist or publisher are known, I associate those with their record in the database. If you can see a date on a print, enter it and seals will only be chosen if the artist/publisher was active in that year.

Partial Reading:

If you recognize one of the characters in a seal, you can enter it in the "Partial Reading" text box. Seals which contain the entered text anywhere in their reading will be displayed.

Be careful! Many characters in Japanese have alternate readings of which you may not be aware. You may recognize a "matsu", but in the current seal it may be read as "sho".


You can limit your search to artists only or publishers only.

How to Contribute

From the beginning, has been a community effort. There is no way that I could have accumulated all of the information on these web pages without the help of so many interested contributors. Your assistance is always welcome. Feel free to get in touch. To send me an email, just click on my name at the bottom of this page.

Here are 2 ways to help:

Read an Unread Seal:

Have a look at the seals for "Unread Artist" and "Unread Publisher". If you know who they are, please let me know.

Contribute a New Seal:

If you have a collection of shin-hanga prints and a scanner, I would love to have you contribute seals which are not yet in the database. If you can get high-resolution images (600 dpi) which are clear and legible, I'll add them. It would also be helpful to include low-resolution images of the prints in their entirety, to assist in verification. Jpeg formats are preferred, for ease of downloading.

Please, only shin-hanga artists' and publishers' seals.

Home     Shin-hanga seal finder Copyright 2006 by Marc Kahn; All Rights Reserved