For those of you unaware, there is a very fine series of books that present a pictoral reference of contemporary potters entitled; Toh: The best selections of contemporary ceramics in Japan, published by Kyoto Shoin in 1992/1993. This series is in no way a definitive survey of each of the one hundred potters it covers, but rather is a snapshot of their work at the time of publication. Each volume is slender and is well illustrated with some slight commentary and an abbreviated biography of each artist which runs the gamut from Furutani Michio to Matsui Kosei. As I pointed out, these are not in-depth survey of the artist but I constantly find myself going to this books for both inspiration and perspective. I originally was acquiring each volume as it was released, but ultimately, my source moved back to the US, leaving me to hunt for these on my own back when there was no internet and amazingly immediate access to every nook and cranny of the globe.
Over time I have assembled the lion's share of these volumes and occasionally they yield a surprise or two. I have encountered a number of the actual pots illustrated and was fortunate enough to study them in hand and also a number of the books have been signed by the potter, adding a certain flare to the volume and in my opinion rather interesting. To clarify, there have been nearly a score of the books signed, but there are signatures and then there is Kumano Kuroemon who as the adage states; "go big or go home". Brushed boldly, rapidly and nearly spilling off the pages, Kumano has signed the frontispiece to Vol. 88, looking like a small folding screen. This particular book belonged to a fellow collector who decided to sell off a portion of his reference library and it was purchased without the knowledge that the book was signed. Never the less, some book collectors may be appalled that the book is seemingly defaced, others would think, what wonderful serendipity and thank you for all of that ink.