Wow, this is a really great survey. I rate it 4.5 stars for the following reason: The pages of this circa 1988 George Braziller published book, presumably bound and printed in USA are showing signs of age-yellowing. Not a good sign for its longevity, but as I bought it recently in used condition I have no way of knowing if this is due to the paper stock or its previous storage conditions. I suspect the paper. Apart from that, this text-based book is beautifully broad in scope. It begins with an extended discussion of the conditions leading up to the culture expressed in this book, Japan from 1185-1868, that sets the stage for the art works covered in the subsequent chapters. I call this book text-based because it is obvious that the publication was released in conjunction with a museum exhibit in this case at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. As such the objects treated here are accompanied by copious notes with relevant background information and historical commentary. Although the book's dust jacket notes described the book as lavishly illustrated, I would describe it as a book containing numerous color reproductions accompanied by lavish descriptions. Although I don't believe the reader is going to feel, on the whole, that he has been short-changed by the included color plates (330+), I do believe that he will find himself wishing that more page space had been given over to the depicted objects. These are minor criticisms of a book that contains the most extensive coverage of a subject that I have ever seen. For instance the dedicated chapters are as follows: Portraiture, Calligraphy, Religious Sculpture, Painting, Arms and armor, Lacquer, Ceramics, Textiles, Tea eremony utensils, and Noh-related works. I assure you that you will not ever have seen many of the objects contained in the exhibit, and some of those you have, particularly the screens, you may never have seen in their entire context (some really famous images show up in isolation in books or art survey courses). Those of you who are into to the Samurai culture will be happy to know that much of the armor is given full page treatments, and there is extensive coverage of swords, guards, and scabards; although, no archery material. I wish that I had been able to attend the original exhibit because much of the material in this book is absolutely exquisite and it was a pleasant surprise to see the Noh-related material and also the textiles. I think you'd be mad not to own this book if you have anything more than a passing interest in Japanese arts.
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