Re: Taking Ukiyo-e books apart ... or not?

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Posted by Book Fan Sounds Off on April 06, 2002 at 04:43:51:

In Reply to: Taking Ukiyo-e books apart ... or not? posted by Theo de Kreijger on April 04, 2002 at 21:03:41:

Dear Theo,

My answer is a categorical "NO!" But the sad state of the current market is that books are underappreciated, whereas single prints from books are valued quite highly. Until people realize that the sum of broken pieces is not worth more than the completed whole, the unfortunate practice will continue. What needs to be changed (the dealers won't be) is people's attitudes towards books, which in my opinion as a collector are often incredible, priceless objects. If books were valued as they should be, people wouldn't break them.

We've all seen the book breakers at eBay and at many of the major galleries too. Frankly, it turns my stomach. These people have no consideration whatsoever for the art object, only for the almighty dollar (or pound). Think of what is lost when a book is taken apart:

1) The covers - these are often beautifully embossed or printed, and a major part of the art of the book.

2) The text pages - these explain the book's purpose and/or contain its story. Prefaces may contain invaluable information about an artist or his age. Just because a dealer can't read them doesn't mean that no one can.

3) The order and coherence of images - books are not randomly put together in most cases. In many cases there are sequences of images, development and climax.

4) The beauty of the book print - many book prints look awful out of the book. Compare a Hokusai Manga in a book to one cut out of it. Sometimes the margins are cut, sometimes the paper is so thin when removed (it's doubled in the book) that the paper is wispy and unpleasurable. Add to this the natural curve of the book and the central "well", apects which became part of the design for the book, none of which make sense if the print is removed from the book and trimmed to fit together.

I would add to your note the equally horrible practice that many dealers throughout the world have of ripping up albums and selling the prints from them individually. This is less noticable, as the prints were single sheets originally, but in many ways just as pernicious. For example, an album that was put together by an early collector can tell us many valuable things about which prints were available at a particular time in a particular place (the mixing of Osaka and Edo prints for example.) These albums were put together by professional album makers in a beautiful way and to tear apart their work for a few extra dollars is disgusting.

But again, none of this will change until WE, the print BUYERS, change our attitudes. Either to value albums and books at the value of the individual prints they contain or to stop the book breakers cold by turning a cold shoulder to their broken and torn pages. It's high time.

: Dear visitors,

: This questions is about something that is bothering me for a while, so I would very much like to hear your oppinions about it. Here it is:

: -o-
: If a dealer buys a japanese book, which is in between "perfect" and "not beyond restauration", should he take the printed pages apart or should he try to sell it as a whole?
: -o-

: My question is about ALL books, including those compiled by Japanese collectors during "the period".

: Theo de Kreijger

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