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A small (very) selection of

Published Materials

on Japanese traditional printmaking.

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 Tokuriki

Published by HOIKUSHA, 1968. Frequently reprinted.

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 the process.

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?


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 tried!

A printed collection of his work is available (The Complete Woodblock Prints of Hiroshi Yoshida, Abe Publishing, Tokyo 1987).

- JAPANESE PRINT-MAKING by Toshi Yoshida and Rei Yuki

Published by Charles E. Tuttle, ????. Out of print.

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 starting out!

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 libraries ...


by Walter J. Phillips, 1926. Published by Brown-Robertson

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 it.

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!)


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 research.

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 ...

Contact Dave


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