OK, I confess. My knowledge of this subject is small to the point of non-existence, so I’m going to assume that, this being a very specialist subject, if you have an interest, you also probably have some degree of knowledge and can probably judge this book more or less for yourself.
There is a considerable interest in ephemera and they can be highly collectible simply because, although produced in quantity, most copies tend to be discarded and individual examples can therefore be quite rare.
Printed from woodblocks, the works discussed and illustrated here were produced for everyday life. There are examples of decorative paper, playing cards and board games rather than the more familiar portrayals of kabuki actors or courtesan beauties (it says here). Being by their nature less often seen, a collection such as this (there are 208 pages in the book and 2 or 3 colour illustrations on each page), must be invaluable.
Rebecca Salter approaches her study of these prints from the point of view of an artist rather than an academic, which should make this a fascinating study from an inside point of view. An acknowledged expert on Japanese woodblock printing, she has spent six years in the country and also teaches at Camberwell College of Art as well as elsewhere.
My guess would be that, even in the unlikely event that Rebecca doesn’t know one end of a woodblock from another – and, as I said, I’m not qualified to judge this – the collection of material illustrated alone makes this book a worthwhile purchase.
First published 2006