Yesterday the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted a fascinating symposium, “The Art of Japanese Books: Uses, Materials and Block-Printing Techniques.” The symposium was sponsored by the Thomas J. Watson Library and the Department of Asian Art. Talks covered the art of Japanese books from a number of angles including connoisseurship, history of manufacture and documented binding techniques/styles, current efforts to recreate recycled papers and embossed cover sheets, woodblock printing in the Edo period, and recent scientific analysis that sheds light on the inks used and innovations brought about by the introduction of Prussian blue and aniline dyes to Japan.
Conservator Kazuko Hioki discussed decorative covers – highlighting the fact that the best seller of the Edo period was a basic math book! From her research, Hioki has discovered an amazing and surprising array of cover colors and decorative style for bindings of Edo math texts (like this one where multiplication is illustrated with mice (see above).
YUL’s Conservation & Exhibition Services currently has 22 Japanese books from the East Asia Library’s special collection in the lab in preparation for loan to Yale Peabody Museum for an upcoming exhibition, Samurai and the Culture of Japan’s Great Peace.
Senior Conservation Assistant, Karen Jutzi, is repairing side-stitching and mending covers to make sure that these materials are ready for display. Understanding the history of Japanese books and their production is invaluable in developing appropriate treatment plans and understanding the physical features that might be critical to study and understanding of use and readership. Here are some examples of the books that Jutzi is reviewing and treating – just a small preview of the show, scheduled to open in February 2015.