Kabuki banzuke refers to programs and posters of kabuki performances, which reached a peak of excellence and became one of the most popular theatrical entertainments in Japan from the seventeenth through the late nineteenth centuries. Developed in cities of Edo (Tokyo) and Kamigata, the western and historical heart of Japan (Osaka and Kyoto), they were played in several other cities in Japan during that time. All of the kabuki banzuke held by the UCLA Library came from the theaters of Kamigata and cover a period of nearly 100 years from the Kansei era (1789-1801) to Meiji 10 (1877). The collection contains two types of banzuke: yakuwari banzuke, lists of cast, and ezukushi, illustrated acts scenes from plays, which were distributed or sold separately for kabuki performances at the theaters. (The latter type was also called as ehon banzuke in Edo.)
The collection consists of total 101 bound sets of yakuwari banzuke and ezukushi, which had been bound together per performance either by the former owner or book sellers before the UCLA Library acquired them. Among these sets, eighteen are bound with two to four different performances, and some of which contain a few fragmentary banzuke. Total 125 performances are in the collection including the fragmentary ones. Most of them have retained a colored cover from its original wrapping paper or seal dyed using kappazuri, stencil printing, a technique unique to Kamigata.
It is believed to have been acquired for the UCLA Library between the 1950s and the 1960s by Richard C. Rudolph, late UCLA professor of Chinese literature and archaeology.