Books about Japanese Paper

Books about Japanese Paper

A brief trip to Japan in 1989 secured my desire to learn how to make paper. I haven’t returned (yet) but the Japanese aesthetic will always hold a dear place in my heart. Here are some of the books on my shelf, and I do hope to return to Japan one day soon!

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Some of these books were written awhile ago, but they still have great content! Others are out of print but you can still find used copies. Let me know if you have a favorite book about Japanese paper, and I’ll consider adding it to the next Best-of-List.

Japanese Papermaking
Timothy Barrett, 1984Barrett spent two years in Japan on a Fulbright scholarship in the 70’s and has documented the craft of Japanese papermaking in this comprehensive book. From the tools and materials to the process of making Japanese paper, this is the resource if you want to make Japanese paper by hand and/or read about how it has been practiced for centuries. A substantial bibliography and glossary supplement the text. There is also an appendix by Winifred Lutz, who writes a detailed description (including recipes) on how to use non-Japanese fibers in Japanese papermaking.

Washi: The World of Japanese Paper

Sukey Hughes, 1978
Like Barrett, Sukey Hughes spent time in Japan visiting papermakers who made all kinds of papers for a variety of traditional Japanese paper crafts. She documented her findings in this book that covers the evolution of paper in Japan, how washi is made, and the people who make it. There’s a section dedicated to descriptions of at least 100 of the most common Japanese papers. There is also a section of full-color images in the front and black & white plates in the back that correspond to elements in the text. 1000 special copies were produced with tipped in papers.

Shoji: How to Design, Build, and Install Japanese Screens

Jay Van Arsdale, 1988
This book covers the step-by-step process of building Japanese shoji screens. A striking feature of traditional paper in Japan, these white, simple and elegant structures filter light in a beautiful way. You might be surprised (I was) to discover how the wooden lattice for these screens is woven. Years ago, this book inspired me to take a class on wood joinery and build my own set of screens which enclosed my loft bed in my NYC apartment.

Isamu Noguchi: Space of Akari and Stone

The Seibu Museum of Art, 1985
This is an exhibition catalog that is a nice representation of the work of one of my icons, Isamu Noguchi, who explored paper, architecture, sculpture and design throughout his lifetime. Filled with photographs of objects and spaces, Noguchi has a way with stone, wood, paper and metal that portrays beauty in the darkness and the light. He once said “I am always looking for a new way of saying the same thing.” His old studio in Long Island City is now The Noguchi Museum, one of my favorite places to visit in NYC.

The Art of Japanese Paper: Masks, Lanterns, Kites, Dolls, Origami

Dominique Buisson, 1992
I love the opener of this book: “Throughout time, paper has been the mirror of the soul.” This book reveals the essential and varied role of paper in Japanese daily life, from its manufacture to its innumerable uses. It opens with a section on the making of washi; is filled with beautiful photos of paper objects; and the text describes the numerous traditions featuring this versatile material. “From the earliest beginnings, men have always confronted matter… from the start, they sought to understand its mystery…”

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