Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - October - 2008 Issue

Books Related to Japan and the Japanese from Kaaterskill Books

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Japan is the topic of the latest catalogue from Kaaterskill Books.


By Michael Stillman

Kaaterskill Books has issued their seventh catalogue: Asia Part II: Japan. This is a diverse collection covering many subjects, though all related to Japan and the Japanese people. There are some pertaining to Japanese history and the opening of Japan, a great many concerning Japanese artists and the arts of Japan, culture, religion, politics and more. Naturally, there are works which concern the war and its aftermath, occupation and trials. From America, there are accounts of an episode in our history we came to regret, the internment camps. Finally, there are a large number of auction catalogues, mainly pertaining to sales of Japanese art. Some are offered individually, while others are part of larger groups. While there are items in Japanese and several European languages, the majority are written in English. Here are some samples of the items from the Japanese collection Kaaterskill is offering.

Item 14 is a complete run of the journal Artistic Japan: Illustrations and Essays. A Monthly Illustrated Journal of Arts and Industries. Offered are the 36 issues that were published monthly from 1888-1891. This has been described as a "visually compelling" journal designed to bring the art of Japan to Europeans and Americans. It is filled with illustrations, many in color, of Japanese art. Offered is the English edition of a periodical that was also produced in French and German. Priced at $2,500.

Item 77 describes Japanese art created under very different circumstances: Beauty Behind Barbed Wire. The Arts of the Japanese in Our War Relocation Camps. Allen Eaton's look at the art of displaced Japanese Americans in the internment camps, created without access to normal artist's tools, shows the prisoners' ingenuity and creativity. It also displays a darker side of America's war effort, which added to the book's controversy so soon after the war (1952). Ironically, it includes a foreword by Eleanor Roosevelt, whose husband signed the order creating the camps. She attempts to justify them by pointing to the hysteria following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and threats of harm to Japanese-Americans by those who vented their anger at the only Japanese they could see. Still, one wonders if her participation in this project reflected feelings of guilt she wished to deny. $75.

Item 98 is a look at the Japanese in 1905 by Kaneko Kentaro. The Characteristics of the Japanese People is an offprint of a National Geographic article by the Japanese Minister of Justice. Kentaro knew Americans well, having been educated at Harvard, which led him to a special mission on behalf of his government. He was sent to convince fellow Harvard alumnus President Theodore Roosevelt to act as a mediator in the Russo-Japanese War. Roosevelt would go on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in securing the Treaty of Portsmouth, which ended this war. $50.

Item 203 is a piece of propaganda used against Japan during the Second World War. The title is Japan's Dream of World Empire. The Tanaka Memorial. It was edited by Carl Crow and published in 1943. It was based on a supposed document from Prime Minister Tanaka to Emperor Hirohito in 1927, outlining a plan to overrun China. It first appeared in China in 1929, with the first English edition in 1931. The Japanese denied its authenticity. Of course, by 1943, there wasn't much question about Japan's intention to at least dominate Asia, but Crow wanted to establish that this plan went back many years. $40.

James Michener is best known for his long, detailed and thoroughly researched novels. However, he touched on many other subjects during his long and prolific career, and Japanese art was among them. Item 131 is Japanese Prints from the Early Masters to the Modern, written by Michener and published in 1959. $200.

Kaaterskill Books can be reached at 518-589-0555 or books@kaaterskillbooks.com. Their website is www.kaaterskillbooks.com.

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