Created by artists and craftsmen, most ehon feature essays, poems or other texts written in beautifully distinctive calligraphy. This book traces the history and evolution of these remarkable books, presenting ehon by some of the most innovative practitioners of the twentieth century.
Ehon - or picture books - are part of an incomparable 1,200-year-old Japanese tradition. Created by artists and craftsmen, most ehon also feature essays, poems or other texts written in beautifully distinctive calligraphy. In this elegant and richly illustrated book, Roger Keyes traces the history and evolution of these remarkable books. The earliest ehon were made as religious offerings or talismans, but their great flowering began in the early modern period (1600-1868) and has continued, with new media and new styles and subjects, to the present. Shiohi no tsuto ( Gifts of the Ebb Tide, 1789 ; often called The Shell Book) by Kitagawa Utamaro, one of the supreme achievements of the ehon tradition, is reproduced in full. Michimori (ca. 1604), a luxuriously produced libretto for a Noplay is also featured, as are Saito- Shu-ho's cheerful Kishi empu ( Mr. Ginger's Book of Love, 1803 ), Kamisaka Sekka's brilliant Momoyogusa ( Flowers of a Hundred Worlds, 1910 ), and many more. Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan ends with ehon by some of the most innovative practitioners of the twentieth century. Among these are Chizu ( The Map, 1965 ), Kawada Kikuji's profound photographic requiem for Hiroshima; Yoko Tawada's and Stephan Kohler's affecting Ein Gedicht fur ein Buch ( A Poem for a Book, 1996 ); and Vija Celmins's and Eliot Weinberger's Hoshi ( The Stars, 2005 ). The magnificent ehon tradition originated in Japan and developed there under very specific conditions, but it has long since burst its bounds, like any living tradition. Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan suggests that when artists meet readers in these contrived, protected, focused, sacred book worlds, the possibilities for pleasure, insight, and inspiration are limitless.