Many readers have commented on our visually and intellectually stimulating New Books Displays. Updated on a weekly basis, hard copy materials continue to be essential research tools for Sackler readers and we, too, think it’s important to showcase all the new acquisitions we receive.
The New Books Display is one of the final stages in a monograph’s journey to the Sackler’s shelves. It begins with our four Subject Librarians, specialists in their fields, who decide which new books (and journals) should be acquired. They make these decisions informed by their knowledge of the subject, their familiarity with relevant courses offered within the university, their understanding of readers’ areas of research, study and teaching, and also based on information received via reader recommendations. Our Subject Librarians liaise with Acquisitions staff who place orders with appropriate book sellers (aka ‘vendors’) and create what is known as a ‘minimal bibliographic record’ for each title on SOLO. (Hence researchers can use SOLO to find out whether a publication is ‘On Order’.) When books arrive from vendors they are passed to Cataloguing staff who create the full bibliographic records you see on SOLO. The books are delivered to the Sackler Library, and Reader Services staff transfer them to the New Books Display. (There is a parallel process for journal issues.)
New Books Displays were suspended during the early stages of the Covid pandemic, when the Sackler Library, along with the other Bodleian Libraries, was closed. Once we reopened (August 2020) and books began arriving again, we were able to reinstate our Displays.
While our physical New Books Displays are a great resource our readers have long expressed their interest in another important tool: New Acquisitions Lists. Similarly suspended during the pandemic, these have taken longer to reinstate (largely owing to e-infrastructure changes affecting the Bodleian Libraries as a whole). We are very pleased to re-launch these lists, beginning with a monster group of ‘back-lists’.
This post provides links to lists of all new print acquisitions (monographs and journal issues) received by the Sackler Library since 2020:
This blog post documents my experience as a Graduate Library Trainee assisting at the ‘Introduction to Bodleian Libraries Special Collections’ event, held for History of Art undergraduate and graduate students at the Taylor Institution Library in December 2021.
Across the libraries, we hold a myriad of intriguing and unique items. Still, it may be difficult for readers to know how to find these, and where to start. It is here where the then Subject Librarian for Art & Architecture Librarian and Italian Literature & Language, Clare Hills-Nova, was able to draw upon her knowledge of the Bodleian Libraries’ collections to introduce History of Art students to a few of our less well-known holdings.
Since having arrived at the Sackler in September 2021, I have been fortunate to spend plenty of time around visual culture materials. I’ve arranged a Japanese photobook display (in support of the Ashmolean’s Tokyo! exhibition), relabelled items from the WJ Strachan collection, and processed new publications about architects and artists on a broad range of periods and geographic areas. This is a far cry from my undergraduate haunts of law statutes and case reports – albeit a very welcome change. When Clare asked me to support the event she was planning for the History of Art Department’s students, and subsequently attend it, I was more than happy.
Artist interpretations of Dante’s Divine Comedy (14th Century – 21st Century)
The event comprised two parts. The first, held in the Voltaire Room, expanded upon the Taylorian’s exhibition on Dante Alighieri and his Divine Comedy, which my fellow Trainee Malcolm Spencer has so wonderfully discussed. The exhibition’s curator, Professor Gervase Rosser led a presentation here – titled ‘Illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy – on artists’ interpretations of the themes expressed in the Comedy.
This incorporated a vast range of work and approaches, as Professor Rosser traced the fluctuating reception of Dante’s Divine Comedy through the centuries. The talk (and display) included: a facsimile of one of the earliest illustrated Dante manuscripts of the 1330s; an edition of Doré’s seminal engravings, through which he became considered a ‘master of the visually dramatic narrative’ (Angel, 2014) (see image below, line 2, tile 1); and American artist Leonard Baskin’s compelling illustrations (1969). Also on view were some of the many recent translations of the Divine Comedy — some of them with striking book covers and other illustrative material.
In advance of this, Malcolm and I gathered together items on artists’ engagement with Dante from our libraries.
Athanasius Kircher’s L’Arca di Noë (Amsterdam, 1675)
The second part of the event took place in the Taylorian’s Room 2, and showcased other works from the Sackler, Taylorian and Weston Libraries’ Special Collections. These works ranged in date and publication location from 17th century Amsterdam to 1970s Tokyo, via 1960s Los Angeles. Here, the earliest work on display was Athanasius Kircher’s (1602-1680)L’Arca di Noë (Amsterdam, 1675). This publication includes, for example, as shown, Kircher’s illustrations of hieroglyphics. Kircher prolifically studied and attempted to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics – from his translations and commentaries, he became considered ‘one of the greatest polymaths in 17th-Century Europe’ (Klawitter, 2015).
The page on display at the event was a fold-out depiction of the interior of Noah’s Ark, showing Noah’s family members, barrels of food (or beer) and a menagerie of creatures. What struck me in this view was the measurements below the image, giving dimensions of the Ark itself. Beyond being a fascinating detail, this grounds the narrative in reality. For contemporaries, it made the Ark easier to conceive, and its magnificent nature – even including a pair of unicorns – that bit more believable.
F.G. Haverfield Collection (18th century interpretations of Classical art)
Turning to 18th century England, students could also see examples from the Sackler’s F. J. Haverfield Archive — specifically, from his collection of images of Romano-British pavement mosaics. On display was an illustration of themosaic found at Littlecote Park, Wiltshire – the ‘Orpheus’ mosaic – alongside Joseph Bonomi’s (1739-1808) original carpet and ceiling designs (1785) for Bowood House, Wiltshire. Bonomi, like many of his contemporaries such as the Adam brothers – John (1721-1792), Robert (1728-1792), and James (1732- 1794) – for whom he worked at various points, was inspired by classical art and architecture. It is thought that Haverfield may have included the Bonomi designs in his image collection because one of their sources of inspiration could have been the mosaics discovered around this time. Indeed, the carpet bears some resemblance in shape and content to the mosaic (and is perhaps why Haverfield included it in his collection). You can find more about these works in a blog post written by former Trainee, Chloe Bolsover. These parallels were instantly compelling. The students could see the physical copies displayed side-by-side, draw comparisons, and possibly gain an understanding of the thought processes underlying Haverfield’s collection.
W.J. Strachan Collection (mid-20th Century)
In the weeks preceding the event, Clare and I had explored the Strachan Collection of mid-20th century artists’ books, made in France, for potential display items. The Strachan Collection comprises over 250 items – with, according to Strachan himself, ‘every ‘ism” from Cubism to neo-realism represented. Therefore, deciding which items to include for the event was a challenge.
Ultimately, we decided to focus primarily on women, non-French and other less well-known artists. Among the selection was Leonor Fini’s beautiful lithographs for Shakespeare’s La Tempête (The Tempest), and Chinese artist Zao Wou-ki’s lithographs illustrating André Malraux’s La Tentation del’Occident. To me, Wou-ki’s work was especially well-suited for the ‘Show’ aspect of this event: his bright and gestural work seems to capture harsh emotions so succinctly: hard to miss.
Hans Bellmer, a German artist, was also on display. Bellmer is best known for creating a series of life-sized dolls and photographing them. The Nazi Party labelled this work as ‘degenerate’, causing him to flee to France in 1938, where he remained for the rest of his life. His interest in dolls can be seen in his engravings for Les Marionettes, through the somewhat disjointed limbs he illustrated. These are coloured with a distinct blue and yellow. For me, this made Bellmer’s work particularly effective for a Show-and-Tell: viewers can trace the lines of his drawings, and enjoy the unique colours against the brown paper.
Alongside these artists from the Strachan collection was Wifredo Lam’s etchings for L’antichambre de la Nature. Of Chinese and Afro-Cuban descent Lam became familiar with African spiritual rites. It was also at this point that he began to be influenced by Surrealism. In 1938, he moved to Paris and met members of the art and poetry scene. He began to work alongside Picasso and became more interested by Cubism. After the Nazis occupied Paris, Lam returned to Cuba. Here, he combined his multiple artistic influences with his cultural experiences to create works on Afro-Cuban identity. To me, these various influences make Lam’s work so unique and striking. His singular work was therefore very fitting for the event, both to look at and to appreciate the diversity of the 1930s Parisian art scene.
Ed Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966)
We also showed Edward (Ed) Ruscha’s iconic Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966). Running through through West Hollywood, Ruscha pasted hundreds of his photographs of the Strip together to create an 8-metre linear image. He shot these photos from his pick-up truck, with a motorized Nikon camera positioned on top. Interestingly, Ruscha opted to set the lens to infinity, bringing everything in each image into equal focus. The result is remarkable, almost like a flattened montage. Every Building on the Sunset Strip arrived in a slim silver slipcase – deceptively, very small (18 cm.). As we unfolded it, we asked our building staff, again and again, to bring in another table to support the length of the ‘strip’. It ended up stretching almost the whole length of the Taylorian’s Room 2! In the images shown here, the viewer can grasp the extent of the Strip, as Ruscha perhaps intended it to be viewed (many museums display it in concertina format).
The Japanese Box (1960s-1970s)
The item I was personally most excited about was The Japanese Box, a facsimile edition (2001) of seminal photographic works produced in post-War Japan. Throughout this Michaelmas term 2021 at the Sackler Library, I worked with a lot of material on Japanese photography, particularly from the 1970s. I created a book display in conjunction with the Tokyo exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, and a corresponding blog post. Whilst researching for the post, I read a lot about Provoke, a 1960s-1970s avant-garde Japanese photography magazine, and its associated photographers. I developed a real love for the style and telos of this magazine. The photographers tasked themselves with reclaiming ‘documentation’ and they were keen to show life in 1970s Japan beyond the general perception of it as an economic powerhouse and post-war ideal. When Clare told me that the event for the History of Art students would include a box of recently-acquired facsimiles of the three issues of Provoke, alongside monographs by Provoke photographers,I was genuinely thrilled.
As with much of Japanese publishing it was clear that a lot of thought had gone into the design and packaging of this facsimile set. Characteristically, the black box containing the publications was itself striking: it was designed by Karl Lagerfeld. Inside, ‘designer’ plastic bands, labelled ‘The Japanese Box’, carefully held the six publications together. We spread them out on the table, ready for students to examine. Picking each volume up, we could see a rich array of photos of Japan and each artist’s personal experience of living there. This ranged from Nobuyoshi Araki’s photos of his honeymoon in Sentimental Journey (Senchimentaru na tabi), to student protests in Tokyo in Provoke. A few days ahead of the event, Clare asked me to introduce the event’s attendees to the box and its contents. Studying and presenting this set was a highlight of my traineeship. After my presentation several students asked to examine the Box’s contents further, and we discussed the Provoke movement while viewing our favourite images in the set.
At the event itself, the students appeared to be completely immersed in the works we showed. In the Voltaire Room, where Professor Gervase Rosser presented the Dante-inspired work, attendees asked questions about how different artists interpreted the themes of the Divine Comedy. In Room 2, the group lined up along the length of Every Building on the Sunset Strip, pointing at (for example) where pasted pictures cut up cars. L’Arca di Noë invited students to examine the interplay between imagination and reality,whilst others admired the various artists’ books and different mosaic patterns from the Haverfield collection. Although held on the last day of term, the event overran, with many attendees keen to continue examining and discussing the works on display. It was a huge success, and a tribute to the remarkable range of Special Collections held across the libraries. I cannot wait to explore them further.
Izzie Salter Graduate Trainee, Sackler Library
Angel, Sara. “‘Too Many Illustrations, Not Enough Glory’: Known for his Art for Dante’s ‘Inferno,’ Gustave Dore Merited Wider Fame.” Maclean’s (Toronto) 127.23 (2014): 66. Web. (available publicly here)
Strachan, WJ. The Artist and the Book in France. The 20th Century Livre D’artiste. London: Owen, 1969. Print. (Sackler Library Shelfmark: 914.2 Str)
The Japanese Photobook and the Sackler Library Display
Accompanying the Ashmolean Museum’s exhibition Tokyo: Art & Photography (29 July 2021 – 3 January 2022) a book display at the Sackler Library presents Japanese photobooks, books on Japanese photography and related exhibition catalogues. Over the coming weeks some of the Japanese photobooks held by the Sackler are on display (in the Ground Floor rotunda) for readers to take a closer look.
Works in the Bodleian Libraries’ collections (in particular, the Sackler Library and the Bodleian Japanese Library, or BJL) range from the 1965 book Why Mother Why, which features iconic photographer Hosoe Eikoh’s works, to multi-media artist Tokyo Rumando’s exhibition booklet from 2020. In her first European museum solo show, Tokyo Rumando presented her self-portrait photographs and films.
Since the end of the Second World War, Japan has dominated the international camera industry through companies such as Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Sony or Pentax (previously Asahi). Supported by these companies, responsible for creating some of the best cameras, lenses and films in the world, photo galleries such as Fuji Salon or Canon Salon have hosted short-term exhibitions. Amateur photography clubs promote competitions, exhibitions and periodicals. Asahi Camera, founded in 1926 by the Asahi Newspaper Company, is the voice of the All-Japan Association of Photographic Societies (AJAPS, Zennihon Shashin Renmei) and is the country’s oldest photography magazine. It presents photographs, evaluations of equipment and exhibition reviews. Another popular magazine, Nippon Camera, has existed since 1951. The internet now provides access to images and texts, but until recently, photo magazines were a crucial source of information on photography, including works from overseas. Photography in Japan has developed into a web of camera companies, clubs, galleries, publishers, magazines and online platforms. More than an important industry, it also is a socio-cultural system based on countless photographers and camera fans, creating a vast number of high-quality images. This ‘photography world’ is a parallel system to the ‘art world’ in Japan, which has also produced important photographic works.
The photobook has become central to the development of Japanese photography, particularly since the post-war years. Considering Japan’s long tradition of making high-quality paper and books, as well as the lack of photography exhibition and storage space in densely populated Japanese cities, the popularity of the photobook is not surprising. Even today, for many photographers the photobook remains the ultimate format in which to present their works. Iconic photobooks by Fukase Masahisa, Araki Nobuyoshi or Kawada Kikuji continue to inspire younger artists worldwide. Over the last 30 years there has been a growing interest in Japanese photography, both within and outside of Japan, which has resulted in an increasing number of exhibitions. Japanese photobooks have also become sought-after internationally.
Tokyo has been a major motif in Japanese photography, ranging from Kimura Ihei’s post-war documentation to Moriyama Daidō’s dynamic snapshots of his Shinjuku neighbourhood, Araki Nobuyoshi’s diaristic Ginza photographs and Ninagawa Mika’s colourful images of her urban life. The number of photographs is endless, and Tokyo as a motif and shooting location is as varied as the city itself. While ‘truly copying’ the outside world (as the Japanese term for photography ‘shashin’ suggests), Japanese photography has developed from a ‘realist’ approach in the early post-war years to a free form of expression often intertwined with photographers’ lives and subjective experiences. Tokyo in photography has had many faces and no doubt it will continue to change, develop and re-imagine itself in the future. Perhaps the most engaging photographs of Tokyo, however, will continue to be linked to the photographers’ lives and inner visions.
The Sackler Library’s book display seeks to provide a ‘taster’ of the diversity of Japanese photography, featuring well-known names, such as Araki and Moriyama, as well as younger female practitioners who are less well-known internationally, including Nagashima Yurie, Tonomura Hideka, and Tokyo Rumando. I hope that the display will inspire staff and students alike, reflecting both the quality of Japanese photography and the importance of the photobook as an artistic object in its own right. The work of many of these photographers has not yet been researched enough. The display runs during the course of Michaelmas term 2021, and beyond, and we invite you to take a closer look at the books!
Dr. Lena Fritsch Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art, Ashmolean Museum
Sackler books on show in the Ashmolean exhibition
The Sackler Library has lent three publications to the Ashmolean exhibition:
Kimura Ihei. Tokyo: Fall of 1945. Tokyo: Bunka-sha, 1946
Tsuzuki Kyoichi. Satellite of Love: Vanishing Beauty of Japanese ‘Love hotels’ . Tokyo: Asupekuto, 2001
Preparing the Display: My Personal Perspective as a Graduate Library Trainee
When I was asked to put together this display, I – of course – jumped at the opportunity. Since opening up to more readers (post-Covid), and reinstating its New Books Display, the Sackler Library is gradually returning to the bustle of its pre-Covid years. The Ashmolean’s advertising for the Tokyo exhibition is hard to miss: visitors to and passers-by the museum can see Ninagawa Mika’s bright photograph of two young women bowing their pink fringes towards each another, one of them adorned by a dazzling ‘Gucci’ clip (see above). I pass the Ashmolean poster daily, on my walk to work, and it never fails to catch my eye. Welcoming new and returning readers to the Sackler Library with a connected display seemed perfect timing. This post is a small insight into the process of setting up my first book display, and all I learned along the way.
I set about gathering the list of Tokyo photobooks held by the Sackler Library, compiled by the Ashmolean exhibition’s co-curator, Dr Lena Fritsch. Once all the books were assembled, I quickly learned that Japanese photography does not comprise only colour images of vibrant scenes of Tokyo’s nightlife as represented in the exhibition’s poster. Leafing through For a New World to Come: Experiments in Japanese Art and Photography, I found countless greyscale shots. Without colour, the pictures are still remarkably expressive.
One of my preferred spreads from For a New World to Come is Shomei Tomatsu’s Oh! Shinjuku series (1969). These images show scenes of student protestors and railway passengers alongside moments from Tokyo nightlife. One of the most famous photos in the series, of a protestor clashing with the police, particularly stands out. Apparently, students had told Tomatsu about the protest (and the protestor’s) location, allowing the photographer to capture the moment. Through creating this display, I learned about the ‘are-bure-boke’ style: here, pictures are grainy or out-of-focus, just like Tomatsu’s shot. Its blurry look really captures the fast-moving pace of 1960s Tokyo: the student seems to glide through the air, showing you don’t always need bright colours to grasp the chaos of a place in time.
Looking at these images, you can see lots of parallels with other displayed books. We also have the works of Daidō Moriyama. In his introduction to Daido Moriyama (Tate, 2012) Simon Baker describes Moriyama as ‘one of Japan’s most important and influential photographers and photobook makers’, capturing the world since 1964. Inside, the book is undeniably varied – with a colour photography selection towards the end. Still, you cannot miss the familiar, blurred greyscale images throughout the book. In 1968, Moriyama joined a group called Provoke, and their eponymous magazine, where are-bure-boke was the trademark style. So, even by skimming photobooks, you can see a typical documentation style for 1960s Tokyo. As a staff member with no formal training in art history, there is something very satisfying about identifying themes and trends with a layman’s eye!
When I was organising the display I came across more than 1960s photography. For example, Ishiuchi Miyako: Postwar Shadows (2015) includes works 1976-2007; her work is fascinating, ranging from shots of apartments to close-up images of human hands and skin. I decided to group photobooks covering a longer span of time together, for readers who want to delve deeper into the world of Japanese photography and see how it has evolved over time. (These groupings have now merged, as readers view and rearrange the books on display.)
The display also includes books normally housed in our offsite facility. Readers familiar with the Bodleian Libraries’ collections will know that we hold many, many books. Despite the plethora of libraries around Oxford, we cannot keep all of them in our onsite collections and a vast number are stored offsite. Books returned temporarily to onsite include, for example, other publications on Moriyama, as well as other artists’ photobooks.
Once all the books had arrived safely at the Sackler, I began putting up the display. With the exception of giving a helping hand during my work experience at a primary school, this was almost entirely new territory. Fortunately, the photobooks contain beautiful, powerful and intriguing images, which guided me in arranging the display. After a period of adjusting the table arrangements, the display was good to go.
When I was deciding where to place the books, there were two especially important points for me. Firstly, I knew I wanted to have a spread of books open: the display is, after all, about photography! Choosing which spread to have open was more difficult: I turned page after page, looking for the most (to me) compelling images. I eventually chose two photos from Nobuyoshi Araki: Tokyo Still Life, which show four young boys in conversation, and a striking woman sitting back and staring the camera down. To me, her gaze almost invites you in to look further at the books. (That said, our readers have enjoyed looking at the display since it went on show, and one of them subsequently changed the pages to display a sleeping cat. This is, of course, entirely welcome in the library. Our books are for readers to handle.)
Secondly, although all our books are available pick up and consider, I wanted Tokyo Rumando’s 2020 exhibition booklet to be particularly accessible. This is the most recent work on display, and by lesser-known female artist. I particularly wanted to encourage display browsers to engage with newer artists, to bring home how the world of Japanese photography world has evolved to present day. If you flick through her booklet, her work is a captivating story of female empowerment: between shots of women of all ages, clothes, and poses, she emerges as one of my new favourite creators. I hope everyone considering the display finds it as insightful as I did.