Of late years, large quantities of Japanese lacquer - ware have been brought to this country in the course" of trade, and sold often at remarkably cheap prices. The markets, indeed, have been quite glutted - with Japanese manufactures; nevertheless, the works of real art in Japan lacquer always realize a high price. It has been said that the process of lacquering, as known to the old Japanese workers, is, if not quite lost, becoming rapidly so in the present day, and that the modern system of lacquering is not calculated to stand the ravages of time, as was the work of a generation or two since. It is not to be supposed that the cheap lacquered articles of the present day, that are made simply to sell, will ever bear comparison in workmanship with the more costly and durable work, the make of which, as well as the polish, are, notwithstanding their great age, as perfect as when they left the hands of the workman.

The date of the discovery of the art of lacquering, in Japan, is given by the Japanese as a.d. 724; some authorities, however, consider it to have been later, probably indeed about 889 or 900. It seems, however, not to have attained to any degree of perfection till the year 1290, tor the name of a distinguished painter in lacquer, who lived at that time, is still handed down as the founder of a particular school of art in lacquer - painting. From that time, it developed until it attained its present perfection.

A very elaborate report on the lacquer industry of Japan has recently been produced by J. J. Quin, H.M. Acting Consul at Hakodadi. This report has been drawn up chiefly as a description of the articles of various kinds illustrative of the lacquer industry of Japan, collected for the use of the Museum of Economic Botany at Kew. This collection is a most complete one, and is now exhibited in the No. 1 Museum, Royal Gardens, Kew. It comprises not only a fine series of finished lacquer articles, such as boxes, cabinets, bowls, trays, etc, both of ancient and modern workmanship, but also a very complete set of the instruments and appliances used in tot manipulation of the lacquer - ware, including specimens of the trunk of Rhus vernicifera, gashed to show the mode of extracting the juice or lacquer, together with the iron instruments used for this purpose; also a complete set of the lacquers themselves, and of the colouring matters used.

The following notes are abstracted from the report referred to, which is probably the most detailed account ever written of the lacquer manufactures of Japan. In his introduction the writer says great difficulty has been experienced in obtaining thoroughly reliable information, as not only are the artificers for the most part uneducated, but they are entirely ignorant of what takes place in any other department, except that to which they have been brought up. A well - known and most intelligent manufacturer, Takei Tosuke, who has been over 20 years himself a worker in gold lacquer, and from whom great assistance has been derived in bringing together the present collection, was quite unaware of the mode of tapping and treating the trees, and had never seen a cut specimen of the wood until the pieces now forwarded were procured. He states that his head workman, a highly - skilled artisan, over 50 years of age, hardly knows the name of a single article that he uses.

The Rhus vernicifera, the well - known lacquer - tree of Japan, is met with all over the main island, and also in smaller quantities in Kiushiu and Shikoku, but it is from Tokio northwards that it principally flourishes, growing freely on mountains as well as in the plains; thus indicating that a moderate climate suits the tree better than a warm one. Since early days, the cultivation of the tree has been encouraged by the Government in every province and district. The lacquer - tree can be propagated by seed sown at the end of January or the beginning of February. The first year the seedlings reach a height of 10 in. to 1 ft. The following spring the young trees are transplanted about 6 ft. apart, and in 10 years an average tree should be 10 ft. high, the diameter of its trunk 2 1/2 to 3 in., and its yield of lacquer sufficient to fill a 3 - oz. bottle.

A more speedy method is, however, generally adopted. The roots of a vigorous young tree are taken, and pieces 6 in. long and the thickness of a finger are planted out in a slanting directions few inches apart, 1 in. being left exposed above the ground. This takes place in the end of February and through March, according to the climate of the locality. These cuttings throw a strong shoot of 18 to 20 in. the first year, and are likewise planted out the following spring. Under equally favourable circumstances, these trees would be in 10 years 25 Per cent. larger in girth, some 2 or 3 ft. higher, and would yield nearly half as much more sap than the trees raised from seed.

It has not hitherto been the custom to bestow any special care on the trees after planting them out, but in cases where leaf or other manure has been applied they are much finer. Of late years, hillsides and waste grounds have been used for lacquer plantations, as owing to the rise in price of cereals and farm produce generally, it does not pay the farmers to have their land cumbered with trees. Those that have been hitherto planted along the borders of fields are being rapidly used and uprooted, and, where practicable, mulberry - trees are planted instead, with a view to rearing silkworms. Nevertheless, as a good workman is expected during the season to tap 1000 trees 10 years old, and as the province of Yechizen alone sends out 1500 "tappers" yearly to the various lacquer districts, it will be seen that an immense production annually takes place, stimulated doubtless by the demand for cheap lacquered articles abroad. It should also be mentioned that to remedy the possible exhaustion of the supply, and in view of the great rise which has taken place in the price of lacquer, several companies are being projected to plant waste lands with the tree.