A RARE early 18th-century Japanese scroll has been unveiled at Edinburgh Central Library after two years of intensive restoration.

Created by Japanese artist Furuyama Moromasa, the 300-year-old hand-painted scroll was found hidden deep within a city archive as part of the library’s special collections in 2012.

The artwork, entitled Theatres of the East, depicts a street scene in the theatre district of Edo, Tokyo, and was gifted to the Central Library in 1945 by the daughter of Henry Dyer, a Scottish engineer who played a major role in revolutionising the Japanese engineering education system.

After it was discovered, Edinburgh City Libraries team worked with National Museums Scotland to secure funding from the Sumitomo Foundation scroll’s restoration by the Restorient Studios specialists in Leiden, the Netherlands.

Conservation work, costing around £40,000, included relining the scroll and consolidating pigments to reduce the impact of ageing, as well as providing custom-made silk casing.

Edinburgh City Councillor’s culture and sport convener Councillor Richard Lewis said: “It is fantastic to see the striking artwork by Furuyama Moromasa so beautifully restored, thanks to generous funding from The Sumitomo Foundation.

“It is also down to the enthusiasm of libraries staff, alongside National Museums Scotland’s curators, that this artwork has been rediscovered and given the attention it deserves.”

The scroll, thought to have been painted in the early 1700s, represents a major discovery in the ‘ukiyo-e’ school of art, and its detailed illustration of Japanese street life has provided a source of new information for scholars.

It has been agreed that following its restoration, the scroll will go on public display in the National Museum of Scotland’s new East Asia Gallery from 2018.

Dr Rosina Buckland, National Museum of Scotland’s senior curator, said: “Edinburgh Central Library holds a rare and beautiful Japanese painting, created 300 years ago, presenting the theatre district of historic Tokyo (then known as Edo).

“To ensure their preservation, East Asian paintings must undergo a complex process of remounting periodically.

“We are extremely grateful to the Sumitomo Foundation for generously funding this delicate and specialised conservation work, which in turn will allow the painting to be put on display for the public’s enjoyment.”

The scroll is over 44ft in length and shows the shops and theatres and domestic detail of life at that time in C18th Edo, or Tokyo.

Two of Furuyama Moromasa’s paintings are currently held by the British Museum, but this is thought to be the largest of his works discovered anywhere in the world.

After the scroll was discovered, Lewis, explained: “For many decades this scroll has been held in the Central Library special collections without anyone realising its true significance.”

Buckland has worked with Edinburgh City Libraries to help interpret the scroll using her knowledge of the period.

She said: “This handscroll is a fascinating and important work. It presents a wealth of amusing and entertaining scenes of life in Edo (today’s Tokyo) around 1700, as well as plentiful information on the lively world of the popular theatre, and is the only known large handscroll painting by this artist.”