Publisher Shogakukan embarks on 20-volume complete history of Japanese art
Publisher Shogakukan has announced the release this year of the first books in a massive, 20-volume series covering the entire history of Japanese art.

The first volume of “Nihon Bijutsu Zenshu,” or “Japanese art: the complete works,” will be published late this year, with following volumes set for release over the following three years. The last such expansive Japanese art history series was published in 1990 by Kodansha. The Shogakukan version will also reflect art history research and popular trends from the 22 years since then, and features works by Edo period artist Jakuchu Ito, who has recently gained prominence.

“Now more than ever, after going through the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, we must preserve our nation’s treasures for later generations,” Shogakukan said of the new series. Leading the project is University of Tokyo professor emeritus Nobuo Tsuji, who is credited with sparking renewed interest in early modern Japanese art. While the series will be the first to give a lot of space to Jakushu, it will also cover significant territory from the modern era, including wartime art and manga.

“Over the past 20 years, Japanese art works such as paintings and images of the Buddha have seen a spike in popularity,” said Meiji Gakuin University professor and series editorial committee member Yuji Yamashita. “We’d like to build the series in such a way that responds to the interests of art fans while at the same time incorporating the fruits of scholarly debate.”

The new series is notable for one other significant detail: With the publishing industry’s declining fortunes and the rise of the e-book, the Shogakukan series “may very well be the last grand survey of Japanese art ever printed on paper,” said Yamashita.

Shogakukan has not published a major Japanese art series since 1966, when the first printing of “Genshoku Nihon no bijutsu” (Japanese art’s primary colors) sold some 300,000 copies. The estimated price for each volume of the new “Nihon bijutsu zenshu” series is 15,750 yen.

July 05, 2012(Mainichi Japan)