In recent years a number of books have appeared in Western languages on the fascinating miniature sculptures of Japan called netsuke. Oddly enough, all these have been written by Occidentals, most of whom have drawn heavily - with varying degrees of accuracy - upon the research of Japanese experts.
High time it is, then, that the leading Japanese authority, Ueda Reikichi, be allowed to speak for himself. Ever since its Japanese publication in 1943, his 'Netsuke no Kenkyu' has been recognized as a definite work in the field. In adapting this valuable study from the Japanese and illustrating it profusely with new photographs, Raymond Bushell has performed a singular service for netsuke aficionados throughout the world. Netsuke have long exerted an irresistible attraction for Occidental collectors. These tiny carvings, principally in ivory and wood, are distinguished by a charm of conception and an attention to detail that frequently make them equal of sculpture on a grander scale. Yet they were originally utilitarian objects designed to serve as pendants or toggles to support tobacco pouches, medicine boxes, and similar items suspended by a cord from the obi. In compiling his handbook, Ueda engaged in exhaustive research that took him not only into the examination of thousands of individual netsuke but also into such areas as the history of the netsuke, the great variety of materials used by the carvers, the regional characteristics of the netsuke, and the biographical facts concerning no fewer than 1,342 netsuke carvers. This biographical information, arranged in concise and really digestible form, constitutes the second part of the volume and, for collectors, the most valuable part, for it includes not only the characters for the real and the art names of the carvers but also a large number of facsmile signatures by which the various carvers may be identified. The 226 photographs, of which 24 are in colour, represent a wide variety of outstanding and representative netsuke and thus form a panorama of netsuke history in which all types appear - from the early and comparatively simple to the late and more intricate.
Published by Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc. of Rutland, Vermont & Tokyo, Japan, 1979
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