'Beautiful British Books' not only marked the first
opportunity for DB to exhibit in Japan, but was also the first exhibition
of its kind in that country. It was also, perhaps, a first for DB
in another way, in that the exhibition enabled visitors to see DB
bindings within a historical context.
Ashikaga Museum of Art (in Ashikaga City) is a
modern, purpose-built building with all the facilities that any exhibitor
could ask for. Ashikaga
is renowned throughout Japan for its flower gardens and its university
(with library) dating from the fifteenth century. Although the museum
was the smallest of the three venues that hosted the exhibition, the
layout inside was perfect.
To single out books within the exhibition for individual merit is impossible;
needless to say, the works featured represented some of the best and
most well-known books produced in Britain. The exhibition explored
illustration, binding, decoration, format and structure of the book
through the centuries. The exhibition began with Caxton and continued
to classic examples of the private press and studio bindery movement
such as the Kelmscott, Doves and Golden Cockerel Press. The exhibition
then moved seamlessly on to the second part of the exhibition, which
concentrated on the work of DB. As with all the exhibits, DB bindings
were housed in display cases, many of which were purpose-built for
the books they contained.
The actual setting up of the DB gallery took two days and was supervised
by Midori Kunikata--Cockram working alongside a team of six curators
and lighting and display specialists. To Midori's surprise, one of
the senior members of the team turned out to be a work colleague from
twenty years ago. Mr. Horiya and Midori had worked on a Modigliani
exhibition at the National Museum of Modern Art (Tokyo). Mr. Horiya
had also previously
spent some time living in England, having been awarded a Henry Moore
Foundation Scholarship, and he enjoyed being able to help set up the
The work of DB was very well received and greatly appreciated. The
bindings were felt to be a fitting end to the exhibition, lending a
wave of colour,
contrast and variety in working styles. Many of the books were in individual
cases, allowing the work to be seen from all angles. Where more than
one book or a series of books shared a case, Midori and the team tried
to create a harmonious balance - no one book dominating - thus allowing
the singular nature of the book to remain evident. A number of design
sheets and notes relating to some of the work were also on display.
This gave visitors a unique insight into the various processes that
making a contemporary, designed binding. In one area of the DB gallery,
a workbench had been laid out with various hand tools, bench tools,
leathers and materials. Visitors were allowed to explore this area
and to get
a 'feel' for the book.
Many of the exhibits in the historical part of the exhibition had not
been seen in public before in Japan. The Koriyama Museum of Art (the
second venue for the exhibition) was happy to be able to lend many
of the exhibits. Universities and other public, private and company
and galleries also contributed to the exhibition, including the Machida
Printing Museum, Tochigi Prefecture Museum of Fine Arts, Morisawa
Printing and the 'K' Collection.
One of the hardest working members of the exhibition team in Japan
was Ms. Hiromi Sone (of Mongosteen Inc) who, from the very conception
the idea, co-ordinated and organised the exhibition and catalogue.
She also visited Britain on a number of occasions to liase with the
DB Japan Exhibition Committee.
The catalogue for 'Beautiful British Books' is sewn in sections and
hardbound with colour illustrations of all the exhibits. Though much
of the text
is in Japanese, descriptions and other details are in both Japanese
and English. The forward was written by Professor Joichiro Kawamura,
Lester Capon providing the forward to the illustrations of the DB bindings.