By Henry Smith


I.  Bibliographies
II.  General Image Compendia
III.  Nishiki-e
IV.  Photographs
V.  Some Tips on Making Slides


John Dower, "A Bibliographical Note on the Visual Record for Modern Japan," in Japan Photographers' Association, ed., A Century of Japanese Photography, (Viking, 1989), pp. 367-371.

II. GENERAL IMAGE COMPENDIA (zukan, zuroku, zusetsu, zushi, etc)

Zusetsu Nihon no koten. 20 vols. Shuseisha, 1978-80.
Call no.: 910.82 Z8

This is like the following series, one of a series of multi-volume projects by Shûeisha. Here each volume is focused on a particular great literary work or era, with a wealth of visual documentation. Perfect for those in literature, but useful to anyone teaching Japanese civilization.

Zusetsu Nihon no rekishi. 18 vols. Shûeisha, 1974-76.
Call no.: 210.09 Z84

An illustrated history of Japan, era by era. Over 300 illustrations per volume, of which about one-quarter are in color. Each volume is organized by themes, with each of about six sections including a narrative essay (most of them by the same author for each volume). Each volume has its own index, and a list of plates providing the sources.

Zusetsu Shôwa no rekishi. 11 vols. Shûeisha, 1979-80.
Call no.: Not in Starr Library.

Same format as previous entry, for Showa up until the mid-1970s.

Nihon no rekishi. 5 vols. "Gakken no zukan" series. Gakken, 1973.
Call no.: Not in Starr Library.

This is simply one example (although perhaps the best) of a whole range of illustrated compendia (zukan) published for the junior-high level student. They provide easy to read text (with furigana for almost *all* kanji), and lots of illustrations that attempt to recreate what things "really looked like" in various historical errors. Many such illustrations are pure fantasy and bound to contain errors, but Gakken in particular seems to strive for historical accuracy by consulting experts. At any rate, such works are useful primarily as a source for slides for your own teaching materials, not for research.

Edo jidai zushi. 25 vols. + 2 vols. bekkan. Chikuma shobô, 1975-78.
Call no: 210.6 Ed63

A real treasure-trove of visual documentation from the Tokugawa period, including paintings, maps, and photos of surviving objects and historical sites. Over half of the roughly 250 images in each volume are in color. Particularly important is the list of plates ("Shûroku zuhan ichiran") at the end of each volume, which provides the source of the object if you wish to track it down: most of these are institutions, and even in the case of private collectors, the name is often provided (unlike proper "art" collections, where for tax reasons, private collectors are rarely revealed). Also of great use is the index for the entire set, issued as a separate pamphlet [need to check location in Starr collection]. The 25 main volumes are arranged geographically, starting with the "Three Cities" of Kyoto (2 v), Osaka (1 v), and Edo (3 v), and then proceeding by region. Each volume is arranged thematically with running commentary, and at the end are three to four topical essays by leading experts. Of the two bekkan, one ("Nihon kuni-zukushi") is a province-by-province tour of Japan, largely through maps, and the second is a "picture chronology" ("e-nenpyô"), with one two-page spread for each 2-4 years of the Edo period, introducing a whole set of new materials.

Meiji-Taishô zushi. 17 vols. Chikuma shobô, 1978-80.
Call no.: 210.082 M47

This is the sequel to Chikuma's highly successful Edo jidai zushi; it was commercially a failure, apparently, but provide a wonderful assemblage of visual materials for Meiji and Taisho in a similar format. The system of organization is basically the same as the Edo jidai zushi, but now with separate volumes for the treaty-port cities (vol. 4: Yokohama-Kôbe), and for the Japanese abroad (vol. 16: Kaigai). There is a single illustrated chronology volume (vol. 17), and apparently no index to the entire series.


Nishiki-e Bakumatsu-Meiji no rekishi. Konishi Shirô, ed. 12 vols. Kôdansha, 1977-78.
Call no.: 210.68 K84

A wonderful collection of popular color woodblock prints, from the arrival of Perry in 1953, until the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. The sources are not provided, a real disadvantage if you ever want to track down the original, although it is known that more than half come from the private collection of Asao Osamu in Osaka. The original Asao collection was published in monochrome by the original collector, Osamu's grandfather Asai Yûsuke, Kinsei nishiki-e sesôshi (9 vols, Heibonsha, 1935-36), call no. 724.2 As1.


Ketteiban Shôwashi. 20 vols. Mainichi shinbunsha, 1984.
Call no: DS888.2 .K47.

A very useful compilation of photographs from the collection of the Mainichi shinbun, the only major newspaper photo collection to survive the war.

Asahi shinbunsha, Asahi Gurafu ni miru Shôwa no sesô (5 vols.) and Asahi Gurafu ni miru Shôwa zenshi. (2 vols.)
Call no: Not in Starr Library

This is an anthology of an average of about one page for each issue (although some issues have 4-5 pages, others none at all) of the pictorical weekly Asahi Gurafu (or, as the English title has it, "The Asahigraph"), begun in January 1923 as "The Only Pictorial Weekly in the East." If you are using this journal for research purposes, you should of course go to the originals, but this anthology gives a useful cross-section of the kind of material provided, and offers an interesting variety on changes in the "signs of the times" (sesô).

NOTE: The Starr collection has a good, if rather discontinuous, selection of the actual publication Asahi Gurafu, stored in the Cage. It begins in 1927, is pretty complete 1930-31, then a big break until 1939-41, and again until 1947 ff and good through the first two postwar decades.

Nihon chiri taikei. 12 vols. Kaizôsha, 1929-31.
Call no: 291 N572 (Lehmann)

Nihon chiri fûzoku taikei. 18 vols. Shinkôsha, 1931.
Call no: 291 N14 The Annex also has a subsequent (1936-39) revised edition, following the first on the shelf.

These geographical sets are of great use for photographs of Japan in the late 20s and early 30s, covering the entire nation. Both sets are arranged geographically, starting with Tokyo, proceeding by district, and ending with full volumes on the colonies of Chôsen and Taiwan.


1. CAMERA. Use a single-lens reflex camera (which allows precise "through the lens" focusing), with a 50 mm (or thereabouts) "macro" lens, which enables very close focus (usually down an image of about 2-3" across). Even closer copying can be done by adding extension tubes or screw-on "close-up lens," but a single good macro lens will normally serve all your purposes. For materials larger than normal book size (for example, nishiki-e triptychs, which are over 3 feet wide), a 35-mm wide-angle lens is useful, since you can still use a normal copy stand. It is not necessary that such a wide-angle lens be macro, since wide-angle lens have close enough focus to deal with such materials.

2. COPY STAND. Use a proper copy stand if at all possible, with illumination from both right and left. (Better copy stands will have four light sources, two pairs on each side.) Avery Library has some of these for which you can sign up, provided you bring your own camera. In a pinch (if you are travelling, for example), a tripod can be made into a copy stand, although it is rarely easy. Usually, the tripod legs will get in the way; one way to avoid this is to attach the camera to the UNDERSIDE of the vertical mounting post--this is possible only with certain types of tripods. Another good solution is to try to set up a VERTICAL mounting for the material to be copied. One nice compromise is a music stand, of which inexpensive compact models are available. This way, the copy can be kept at eye level, and easily copied at a slightly downward angle from the tripod. It is a real trick to keep a book surface flat on a tripod, but it can be done. The use of a foot-activated shutter (see 6 below) can free both hands.

3. FILM AND ILLUMINATION. The film depends on the type of illumination you use. The Avery copy stands are equipped with photoflood lamps intended for daylight film (either Kodachrome or Ektachrome). My own preference for my home copy stand is to use Ektachrome for tungsten (my own choice is "EPT," the "professional" type, ASA 160), for which normal light bulbs (I use 150-watt bulbs) are fine--and they do not generate the high heat of photoflood lamps, which can get uncomfortable in a long copying session, and are terrible for any sensitive material. There are real differences in color quality betwen Kodachrome (which is not available in a tungsten version, and must be processed by Kodak) and Ektachrome, and between daylight and tungsten forms of Ektachrome, but these will probably not matter much in the end, since there are so many other variable in color quality. It is also said that although in general Kodachrome color is superior, the slides will not hold up to prolonged projection as well as Ecktachrome. As long as you are using a copy stand, there is no need for fast film (ASA 400 or more), which is more costly and gives a somewhat grainier image. I also recommend the use of "professional" film, which is kept refrigerated in specialized photo stores, and should be left in the refrigerator until use. (In fact, the freezer section is the best place for long-term film storage: it will last for years there.) The cost of film can be cut considerably by purchasing 500-ft bulk film and loading it yourself with a bulk film loader. I also recommend having Ektachrome processed at a professional film lab, and making sure they provide plastic, not paper mounts.

4. COPYING WITH FLASH, ETC. Copying with flash is a very tricky and uncertain operation, and should be resorted to only when you cannot possibly use lamps. This will in fact often be the case if you visit museums, which will rarely permit the use of lamps but will sometimes allow strobes. The best solution is to use one of the new completely automatic cameras, which offer full TTL (through-the-lens) exposure control as well as automatic focusing. Autofocus is particularly important, since there will often not be enough ambient light to get exact manual focus (not a problem with an illuminated copy stand). The biggest problem is reflections, since any reflectivity on the surface of the copy material will leave a big white round reflection from the flash. Also, of course, you cannot "preview" the effects of reflections as you can with a copy stand, so you won't know if you've succeeded until you process the film. The only solution is to hold the flash at any angle to one side, a procedure that requires considerable experience. This means that you cannot use the built-in flash on your camera, but must have a separate strobe unit connected by a flexible cord. Finally, if the material is covered by glass or plastic, you really have to forget about getting a decent slide copy.

What if you are prohibited from using ANY sort of artificial illumination? This is an almost hopeless situation if you want to get slides of any real quality. If there is a large window that provides good daylight, then of course use daylight film and hope for the best. (Copying material outdoors with daylight film is ideal, of course, but rarely possible.) If the interior lighting is flourescent (as it usually is), there are special filters (they differ depending on whether you are using daylight or tungsten film) that will offer some correction of the awful blue color that you will get if you do not correct. But such filters darken the image through the lens and make it much harder to focus.

5. EXPOSURE. Your camera must have a built-in exposure meter; automatic exposure generally works fine EXCEPT for images that are very light or very dark, which will typically require some adjustment (slightly wider aperture for white objects, narrower for black).

6. AVOIDING HIGHLIGHTS & SHADOWS. The biggest challenge in copying from books is to keep the image flat, and to avoid the reflections that will be produced, especially by the glossy papers that are used in most color printing. One way to control reflections is to move around the lamps, although the leeway may be limited if they are fixed to the copy stand. The crucial trick, however, is to use your hands to get the copy as flat as possible. One very useful device is a air-release shutter, which consists of a rubber bulb and a long piece of rubber tubing that screws into the shutter release of the camera. This can be activated with your foot while you use both hands to keep the image flat. (There are even fancier electronic remote shutter releases, some built into newer models, but the rubber bulb is the most basic and pretty easy to use.)

You should also watch out for any ambient light, such a bright overhead lights in the room you are using. If such lights can't be avoided, then use the brightest lamps possible, since these will overcome any effect of the ambient light. Daylight through windows is also very intrusive, and will often mess up the color balance (especially with tungsten film). Remember also that the surrounding color of the walls of a room will have an impact; the best is a room that has no large surfaces that will reflect an off color. (When professionals do copying, they completely cover all the walls in black.)

7. MASKING. Your slides will look much better if you mask them to cut out unwanted margins, text, and so forth. The simplest way to do this is to provide masking right on the copy stand, using black strips of paper along the edges of the image. The best kind of paper is the sort with a velvet-like surface (sold is art supply stores), which is completely non-reflective; flat black construction paper will also work ok. Have a whole assortment of different sizes available, including several in right-angle shape for masking two sides at once. It is also useful to have a role of drafting tape (NOT normal masking tape, which will often damage paper surfaces) to hold the masking strips in place.

For images that you did not mask while copying, you can mask the slides themselves. This is a somewhat delicate operation, but can be managed with practice. The ham-handed way to do it is to put masking tape directly over the slide AND slide mount. I urge against this: the tape on the slide will often jam a projector, or pull free in repeated use. It is much preferable to remove the film from the mount: here is where plastic mounts (I particularly recommend "Pakon" mounts, which are very thin, relatively cheap, and very easy to use) are essential. The ideal situation is to use a light box that illuminate the slide from below, so that you can see exactly where you are placing the tape. The preferred tape is a very thin BLACK (not silver) mylar tape made by Scotch, which can be obtained at professional photo stores. You will also need a pair of white gloves to keep the slides clean, an Xacto knife to trim the tape, and drafting tape is useful to hold the slide in place while you mask it.

[HS, BIB'94]

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