Note: Since this page was created, I have
opened an on-line 'Library of Books on Woodblock Printmaking', made
up of the complete text and images of a number of out-of-print books.
The Library contains enough information to keep you busy printmaking
for many years!
- WOODBLOCK PRINTING by Tomikichiro
Published by HOIKUSHA, 1968. Frequently
It should be quite easy for you to find this
little book. It is one of a series put out by this publisher,
covering every possible aspect of Japanese culture. As something to
whet your appetite for Japanese prints, it is excellent. As a
practical manual on actually 'how to do it', it is rather less
useful. This book was my first introduction to printmaking, and
before I had a chance to come to Japan and actually see printmakers
working with my own eyes, it was my only guide. I remember well my
frustration at the skimpy level of detail with which he covered each
topic - only one or two very short paragraphs for each major step in
But I shouldn't leave you with a bad impression.
If you are at all interested in Japanese woodblock printmaking, order
this book immediately, if for no other reason than to see the many
interesting illustrations showing different kinds of prints, tools
and materials. Despite my past frustrations at the shallowness of the
information, I must admit that he wasn't trying to write the ultimate
guide to printmaking, but was just intending to promote interest in
his passion. And that he did very well.
I heard from another foreign printmaker working
here in Japan (David Stones in Okazaki City) that he too got started
by using this book. Will you be next?
- JAPANESE WOODBLOCK PRINTING by
Published by Sanseido, 1939. Out of print.
This is a great book. If it were still readily
available, there would be no need for you to be reading my pages -
just dig into this volume and get busy carving and printing! It
contains a massive amount of information, more than you can possibly
absorb in years. If I criticized the previous book for skimping on
details, I can say no such thing about this book. I'm still learning
things from it, even after many readings and re-readings.
He goes on about such things as the 'artistic'
value of prints a bit too much for my taste, but that is simply a
reflection of his own background - he didn't start out as a
craftsman, but as a painter, and came to woodblock printmaking in his
mid-forties. Although he seems to have had a good personal grasp of
the woodblock techniques, most of his prints were made by
professional craftsmen working under his supervision. (In fact,
although he died in 1950, his studio remains in operation, and prints
are still being made from his blocks and sold ...)
As this book has long been unavailable, your best
chance is perhaps a university library, or an inter-library loan.
Make the effort to try and find it.
Here's a quote from the book, taken from the
discussion of pigments: "Someone told me in
India that good yellow might be obtained from a cow after feeding her
with mango-tree leaves. I have not been able to obtain such
colour." But you can be sure he
A printed collection of his work is available (The
Complete Woodblock Prints of Hiroshi Yoshida, Abe Publishing, Tokyo
- JAPANESE PRINT-MAKING by Toshi
Yoshida and Rei Yuki
Published by Charles E. Tuttle, ????. Out of
Son of Hiroshi Yoshida, author of the previous
volume, who took over the studio, and who has now also passed away.
This book also is a wonderful source of information on every aspect
of printmaking. Divided into two sections, covering in turn
traditional and modern techniques, it takes a less philosophical,
more factual approach than the previous volume. It is crammed with
information, and you will learn something important with every
paragraph. How I wish I had had one of these two books when I was
I find it quite insane that a book like this has
been left to go out-of-print. Again, you had best try the university
- THE TECHNIQUE OF THE COLOUR
by Walter J. Phillips, 1926. Published by
A small, very rare volume by a self-taught
Canadian water-colourist/printmaker. Phillips worked in the first
half of this century, and produced a large number of simple, but
attractive woodblock prints of Canadian scenery. A beautifully
produced collection of his work is available (The Tranquility and the
Turbulence, by Roger H. Boulet, Loates Publishing, 1981).
Unfortunately, I have never been able to inspect
'The Technique ...', so I can't tell you anything about it. I saw a
copy in a 'Rare Books' shop in Vancouver one day, but the owner, a
most unpleasant man, guessed correctly that I wouldn't be able to
afford his outrageous price, and refused to even let me look through
If you ever get hold of a copy, please let me know
what it's like ...
(UPDATE! I have found an on-line copy here on the
internet (at http://www.sharecom.ca/phillips/). It has been prepared and uploaded by Mr. Boulet, the
above-mentioned author, who has his own page at http://www.sharecom.ca/boulet/ Thank you sir!)
- COLOUR WOODBLOCK PRINTMAKING by
Published by Shufunotomo, 1989
A disappointing (for me) book on traditional
printmaking. Disappointing because although it looks at first to be a
mine of information on printmaking techniques, there is actually no
'hard' information at all for somebody who is trying to learn
printmaking. Her purpose is simply to give the layman a general
survey of the traditional printmaking scene.
I'm suspicious of how much she has really seen of
the actual process. Printmakers never (never!) use sesame oil to
lubricate the baren as she says (camellia oil is the only choice),
and when I read things like this: "He
printed ... by rubbing from the back with a baren. How firmly? It's
said with strong enough pressure to work up a sweat on a winter's
day.", I have to wonder if she ever
bothered to go and watch anybody working while doing her
There are some interesting photographs of
craftsmen at work, and I guess I shouldn't be negative, as the book
is a good source of historical and general background information.
It's also nice to see the photos of some of the actual present day
craftsmen who have been helping me in my explorations.
I'm afraid that's all ... If you know of anything
else that has escaped my notice, please drop me a note with
information about it ...