Boston Book Company: Catalogues

 Collections Catalogue

The urge to collect starts when we’re children, with shells and toys, and expands in scope with new interests and resources. But being a collector is more than buying what interests you; there’s a seeking that’s involved, whether it’s candy wrappers, cloisonne or vintage fabric. A seeking that grows with research and exposure to one’s chosen collection. The thrill of collecting, which is a solitary act, can be amplified by sharing one’s collections with others with similar interests. Here is a list of collections and catalogs revealing the interests and passions of collectors who have gone before us. Please click on the links to enjoy photos and descriptions.



  Crepe Paper Catalog - Folklore, Fairy Tale and Tradition

These little souvenirs of travel from the late 1800s to early 1900s still hold their charm over a century later and some hold their own in terms of literary merit, such as stories by Lafcadio Hearn and volumes of classical and modern verse by established poets. As well as whimsical folklore and fairy tales, they record daily life in Japan as witnessed by expatriates who called Japan their home. All are illustrated with beautiful woodblock prints in vivid or limpid colors. Earlier fairy tales are on plain paper and later volumes on the visually and tactilely appealing creped paper.

Issued by the publisher, T. Hasegawa, who had the vision and marketing skills to reach audiences first in Japan and then beyond into East Asia, Europe and the United States, with these wildly successful books.

The list begins with sets of the fairy tale series and follows with plain and crepe paper versions of individual titles, single titles on culture, and a set of poetry volumes with creped covers, all but one with English text.
Click on the thumbnail photos to enter the world of Chirimen-bon - crepe paper books.     View Online 


     Japanese Theater - A Living Tradition                  
Centuries after their inception, the Japanese theater arts of Kabuki, Noh and Bunraku are still being performed; sets, makeup, roles and costumes are renewed by succeeding generations. Rarely, if ever, are they performed outside of Japan. Here we offer items that capture the living traditions of these arts in woodcuts, drawings, photo illustrations and text, preserving what we can of these cultural treasures. Japanese theatre has also grown beyond its traditional forms to include works by contemporary masters. Highlights include a large archive of material by Oda Otoya, a scenic master of contemporary theater, over 500 issues of a Kabuki fanzine and a peek behind the scenes of Actors Without Makeup. 
                                                                                                                                                                        View Online 


It is simple-minded perhaps to propose the example of Japanese tourists from the recent past as a proof of the cultural importance of travel in traditional Japan... Eyewitnesses to a world "beyond history" in the 90s, tourists from Japan cruised everywhere, armed with wonderful cameras and a desire to duplicate every "wish you were here" postcard ever created.... but with a personal touch of some loved one giving the peace sign in front of Versailles or the Kremlin or Victoria Falls.…One may laugh at such a comparison, but the desire to record the beauties of nature, to participate in sampling local cuisine, local customs, local handcrafts of great skill has not disappeared. Spend some time with everyday TV in Japan and you will see much that resonates with that desire to explore…. From home, virtually, as well as in reality. And the brush.... through scrolls and paintings, could be seen as the virtual tool/media of the day as the computer/TV is today... View Online 

Any lover of Japanese art knows the name of Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) of course. The circumstances of his biography are no mystery.
In many ways, he was the last great genius of Japanese art, at least as a practitioner of the ukiyoe school, Hokusai left his indelible mark on the aesthetics of late Edo. 
Imagine our understanding of Japanese art without the Hundred Views of Fuji, or the MANGA.... Almost as impossible as imagining Renaissance art without Leonardo. They changed our world by changing their own.
So, here are a few books by Hokusai and his followers... Not the rare and beautiful illustrated poetry anthologies of his early and middle years, when he was an up and coming artist working with Tsutaya and other deluxe printing houses. Rather these are the books from his later years that were so immensely popular it is very hard to find early acceptable printings of them.
There are nice copies in this list. I have been squirrelling them away for years. Enjoy!
Charles Vilnis          View Online 




20th Century Japan























Books, Periodicals and Paintings by Onchi Kōshirō 恩地孝四郎

Books, Periodicals and Paintings by Onchi Kōshirō 恩地孝四郎

Books, Periodicals and Paintings


Onchi Kōshirō 恩地孝四郎


The accomplishments of Onchi Kōshirō 恩地孝四郎 (1891–1955) throughout the first half of the 20th century extend far beyond his eminence as a printmaker. He was an innovator who domesticated the ideas and ideals of abstraction and "creative printmaking" in Japan when still in art school. He was also an oil painter, largely in his early years, where he experimented with themes and concepts he would also apply to his prints.  

From his early years, working with Takehisa Yumeiji 竹久夢二, among others, he began a long career as a book designer and book illustrator. From the very beginning of his life in the arts he was the center and focus of the Creative Print Movement (Sōsaku Hanga 創作版画), surrounding himself with fellow artists who took inspiration from his dedication to the cause of self-expression. From his student efforts in the nineteen-teens until his premature and much-mourned death in the 50s, he was a dominant influence in his world. He was also a poet and photographer of no mean skill and combined all those interests in the wonderful artist's books he created.  

Onchi was editor of the most important book arts periodical of the pre-War period, Shosō Magazine 書窓. He designed over a thousand books, collaborated in his later years with such important figures as Kitasono Katue 北園克衛 - in short, he WAS the major figure involved with works on paper in his time and provided support and inspiration to scores of other artists. 

It has been decades since the wonderful work on Onchi done by Elizabeth Swinton, the only substantial work on him ever done in English. Though he is the subject of a small cottage industry of scholarship in Japan, he is largely a much-admired mystery abroad in the 21st century. Just this past fall/winter 2021-22, the Chicago Institute of Art held an exhibition of his abstract prints.  

We are showing interesting material by him that covers the breadth of his output: original artwork - illustrations, prints and paintings - several trade bindings and one artistic binding designed by him and  a nearly complete run of Shosō magazine 書窓.  

Please click on the link below to enjoy photos and descriptions.