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I-90. The Art of the Book in Edo and Meiji Japan, 1615-1912

Ellis Tinios

The illustrated woodblock printed books produced in Japan in the Edo and Meiji periods represent a remarkable achievement in terms of their technical perfection, broad range of styles and subject matter, and their beauty. No comparable sustained tradition of artistically significant printed illustrated books existed in China or the West.

The course will combine daily lectures and discussions with hands-on sessions in which students will have the opportunity to examine outstanding examples of the some of the most significant books produced in Edo and Meiji Japan. Topics to be covered include: key features of the history of the period; the physical characteristics of Japanese books; the origins and evolution of the main categories of artistically significant illustrated books; the impact of imported Chinese and Western books; the achievements of artists of the Ukiyo-e, Nanga, Kanô, Tosa, Rimpa and Maruyama-Shijô schools; continuity and change in art book production in the Meiji period; Meiji facsimiles of Edo-period books; and collecting and appreciating Japanese illustrated books in Europe and America.

In their personal statement, students should describe any previous background they have had in the field; however, no previous knowledge of Japanese art or history is required for admission to this course. This course is designed to complement RBS course I-85: Japanese Illustrated Books, 1615-1858; the two courses may be taken in either order.

The course will be conducted in Washington, DC, at the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M Sackler Gallery Library, Smithsonian Institution Libraries.

Course Resources

Course History


Ellis Tinios will teach this course for the first time.