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Arthur Tress Collection of Japanese Illustrated Books

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  • Woodblock image of fish by artist Katsuma Ryūsui (1762)
    Woodblock image of fish: artist Katsuma Ryūsui, from Umi no sachi (Edo 1762), Tress Collection, Box 17, item 11
  • Woodblock image of actors by artist Utagawa Kunisada, Tress Collection Box 10, item 5
    [Kyoka surimonocho], artist: Utagawa Kunisada (Japan, n.d.), Tress Collection Box 10, item 5
  • Arthur Tress, self-portrait, 2018
    Arthur Tress, self-portrait, 2018

The Arthur Tress Collection of Japanese Illustrated Books includes over 1,400 titles dating from the late 17th century through the 1930s. Genres in the collection include popular illustrated books, such as novels, guidebooks, and theater books; deluxe limited-edition poetry, erotica, and artist-centered books; exquisite editions of books on kimono design; and many others. There are examples of every book genre produced and printed in Japan.

A major exhibition drawing on works in the collection along with the photography of collector Arthur Tress, curated by Professor Julie Nelson Davis and a group of graduate and undergraduate students, is in preparation.

Collection overview and information for researchers


The collection includes titles from a who’s who of Japanese artists. Among the most famous of the titles are acclaimed works such as Shusui’s Tales of Ise (1767), Hosan’s Famous Views of Bitchu (1822), Rinsho’s Book of Caricatures (1770), Hokkei’s Tokiwa no Taki (1833),  Hōitsu’s Drawing Book of Oson (1816), Hokusai’s One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji, Ryūsui’s Treasures of the Sea (1774), and others. Other artist names include: Suzuki Harunobu, Nishikawa Sukenobu, Adachi Ginko, Utagawa Kunisada, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Utagawa Hiroshige, Katsushika Hokusai, Hanabusa Ippō, Hasegawa Settan, Tani Bunchō, Kameda Bōsai, Nakamura Hōchū, Kitagawa Utamaro, and many more.

In many cases, the collection contains multiple printings of the "same" title, allowing for comparisons of publishing practices and woodblock printing techniques over time.

Cataloging of the collection is ongoing. At present, brief records for books in the collection have been made available in Franklin, the online catalog. Researchers should be aware that these records are very limited in the amount of information they provide. Please contact us with questions.

About the collector

Arthur Tress is a renowned contemporary art photographer who uses photography to tell stories. He first gained recognition with his hauntingly beautiful book of images, Arthur Tress: The Dream Collector (1972), which challenged the photographic ethos of its time. His photographs call to mind aspects of surrealism and magical realism, juxtaposing elements of real life and staged fantasy. His work is in major public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, George Eastman House, Centre Georges Pompidou, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Art Institute of Chicago. Among his other books are Shadow: A Novel in Photographs, Theatre of the Mind, Reeves, and Arthur Tress: Fantastic Voyage: Photographs 1956-2000.

Mr. Tress began collecting Japanese illustrated books when in Kyoto in 1965, and he continues to do so.

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