Publication Details

Kilpatrick, H, Review Keyes, Roger S. 2006. Ehon: The artist and the book in Japan, The New York Public Library: University of Washington Press, Asian Studies Review, 32(2), 2008, p 275-276.


This handsome tome is based on an exhibition of Japanese picture books held by the New York Public Library from October 2006 to February 2007. Despite the more contemporary connotations associated with the term ehon, this is not a catalogue of books for children. The collection is best described as a volume that traces the traditions of Japanese artists’ books. With the inclusion of two more recent works by non-Japanese (American and German) artists, the volume also features international entries that are currently ‘‘contribut[ing] to the living Japanese book tradition’’ (p. 313). Although it excludes neither children’s nor contemporary books altogether, given that the collection provides an introduction to both visual and literary artists, there is a notable absence of even one example from the multitude of innovative picture books available within the rich culture of children’s literature in Japan today. This aside, the volume is indeed a work of art in itself, with inclusions of stunning images from various types of books on every page showcasing the richness and depth of Japanese picture books through the ages. While one of the stated goals is to bring the largely unknown works from the collections held at the New York Public Library to public attention (p. 8), no exhibition catalogue can ever fully capture the breadth of the original display, although this one succeeds in providing insight into the essence and splendour of a diverse range of Japanese artists’ books.