Tag Archives: book

Techniques for recovering lost texts

Research Fellow Renate Smithuis and Research Associate Stefania Silvestri, are working on a Catalogue of Codices, Scrolls, and Other Texts in Hebrew Script in The University of Manchester Library.

The Library holds one of the most important smaller collections of Hebrew manuscripts in Europe and this project will create a full, online catalogue compliant with current cataloguing and metadata standards. To support the production of the catalogue, digitisation of a number of manuscripts is being undertaken. All images, included fully digitised volumes, are added to the Hebraica Collection in the John Rylands Library Image Collections, LUNA.

A substantial portion of the Rylands Gaster manuscript collection have already been selected for digitisation, including a number of manuscripts that suffered water damage during the Second World War. The level of water damage varies, some texts are still legible but faint, others have whole sections of pages rendered illegible.

The Heritage Imaging Team have been investigating the best way to recover the text in these volumes, unsurprisingly, we have found that a single solution does not fit all. The aim of this blog post is to demonstrate the different processing options available to researchers. We are researcher-led in the work that we do with Multispectral Imaging of our collections, so if you come across a text you cannot read, please get in touch to discuss your needs in more detail (email: uml.chicc@manchester.ac.uk).

I should note at this point that these examples are not exhaustive and we are always in the process of developing new techniques.

Trials in image processing have been run on pages from Gaster Hebrew MS 1832. The first step of carrying out any specialist techniques is to produce a high resolution ‘standard’ light photographs. These are the images that you can access in high resolution in our online image collections. Often, close inspection at high resolution enables a reader to decipher more than they can read with the ‘naked eye’.

In this example, the first image shows page 1 recto of Gaster Hebrew MS 1832 in ‘standard’ light. You are able to see that there is some faded text on the page but it is extremely faded in some areas:

Gaster Hebrew MS 1832

Gaster Hebrew MS 1832 1 recto standard image

The second image shows a standard high resolution image which has undergone additional image processing in Photoshop. The image has been inverted to help the text show through in certain areas of the page.

Gaster Hebrew MS 1832

Gaster Hebrew MS 1832 1 recto standard image with processing

The third image shows page 1 recto again, a standard high resolution image which has undergone processing in Photoshop to bring out the most faded central areas of the text.

Gaster Hebrew MS 1832

Gaster Hebrew MS 1832 1 recto standard image with additional processing

Here is a detail from each file type for comparison:

The benefit of this approach is that these results can be achieved without any additional imaging of the manuscript and standard photo manipulation software can be used. In addition, once results have been achieved, these can be batch applied to a set of images for an entire manuscript. The results may not be 100% consistent depending upon the range of damage to each page, but if the results are ‘good enough’ it will save many hours of image processing time.

 

Our next example shows firstly, page 2 recto of Gaster Hebrew MS 1832 in ‘standard’ light, plus an example of the same image which has been processed in Photoshop:

However, with this example we took several further steps to recover the lost text. In this instance, the manuscript has also been imaged using Multispectral Imaging. We now use a Phase One Achromatic IQ260 digital back, iXr camera body and standard lens combined with Megavision LED lighting panels and a filter wheel to capture 17 images at different points along the electromagnetic spectrum. I have included 2 images here, take at 370nm (UV) with a long pass violet filter, and at 448nm (Deep blue) as these single images give the best results. In the infrared wavelength, the text on this manuscript disappeared completely, which suggests that it is an iron gall based ink.

 

Using multispectral imaging we are able to take our image processing and textual recovery even further. Using ImageJ software I have combined several of the individual wavelengths to create a ‘pseudocolour’ image. This applies false colours to areas of difference across the page. Note the two images below in colour.

The colour results are not attractive to every eye, especially to the colour blind so can be converted in to greyscale. In the examples here, I have added an additional filter using the Channel Mixer in Photoshop to increase the contrast of the text even further.

Here you can see details of all 8 examples described above, click on the image to flick through each detail.

There are obvious benefits of taking every possible step of image processing to recover as much text as possible. However, there are also drawbacks. The manuscript must be subjected to a second round of digitisation using the Multispectral Imaging system, this is not only time consuming, but for fragile items it also increases the possible risk of damage to the physical item. There is additional time required for the photographer to process the images and store the additional data. Metadata must be produced to accompany the new images and to detail the processing work that has been carried out on the images.

Finally depending upon the nature of the damage to the page, a reader may need to consult a combination of 2 or 3 final processed images in order to read the entire page. Additionally, there must be a flow of communication between the reader/researcher and the person processing the images in order to process the ‘best’ results.

Specialists are currently working on software solutions to allow us to present the data to readers which will allow the reader themselves to combine and ‘play’ with images to suit their needs. We will report on developments in this area when they are available. Until then, we will continue to take a ‘triage’ approach to image recovery, assessing each item against the needs of the researcher to take the right steps to uncover lost texts.

 

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A midsummer night’s dream

We have recently digitised two very charming items from the Rylands Children’s Collections, both of which lend themselves beautifully to a blog post.

The first is an item that I was very excited to come across through a customer enquiry. The volume is Hubert, the cottage youth; : being the sequel to Phoebe, the cottage maid. Hubert is the second in a series of ‘Elegant juvenile’ books of the early 19th century produced by S. and J. Fuller.  The first book is Phoebe, the Cottage Maid which details the daily life of a country girl and the series includes Ellen, or, The Naughty Girl Reclaimed and The History and Adventures of Little Henry. The books are examples of some of the earliest paper doll books, although truthfully, Hubert is less of a paper doll than a paper head who moves through a series of outfits that accompany his story.

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Hubert’s sartorial journey

As is so often the case with children’s literature, the series of books are morality tales where good or conforming behaviour is rewarded and less agreeable behaviours are discouraged and repented. As morality tales go, Hubert is relatively straightforward as a somewhat pastoral figure whose clean living, humble but productive life sees him attain his happy ending. Hubert’s dedication and diligence as a worker pays off, allowing him to afford buy the farm his father only rented and his story ends with Hubert enjoying a prosperous and respectable marriage. In fact Hubert marries Phoebe, she of the prequel to his own tale, Phoebe, the Cottage Maid. Unfortunately, Hubert is the only example we have from this series and sadly our copy is incomplete; wanting at least one outfit and a headpiece.

Unashamedly, we have become slightly obsessed with Hubert; we have digitised the entire story to be enjoyed here the plates and slip case are also available to view here. We have also been happily experimenting with making Hubert a little more animated…

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Careful Hubert!!

 

Our second enchanting item, tying in nicely with both midsummer (yes, it is!) and the celebrations of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, is this wonderful Arthur Rackham illustrated copy of Shakespeare’s popular comedy A midsummer night’s dream.

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This particular volume is from the Alison Uttley Children’s collection. Uttley was the author of the popular Little Grey Rabbit Children’s books and was herself Alumni of the University of Manchester, reading Physics here and graduating in 1906. Here at the John Rylands Library we have the Alison Uttley Papers and a number of books from her personal library.

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Alison Uttley via Wikimedia Commons

Arthur Rackham’s illustrations are familiar to many and we already have a number of Rackham’s beautiful illustrations digitised already and available to view in our online collections. Well known for his illustrations of children’s books, Rackham’s distinctive and sometimes rather dark artwork produces some wonderfully ethereal depictions, entirely fitting for Shakespeare’s fairy realm.

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The entire volume can be viewed in all its loveliness here.

All images unless otherwise stated are copyright of the University of Manchester and can be used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike Licence.

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Where First I Heard of Peterloo

I first heard of Peterloo when I had been working at the Library for a few years and I was shown a little book, filled with names. It was the Peterloo Relief Fund Account Book (or English MS 172) a little notebook which records recipients of the Peterloo Relief Fund giving their names, addresses, details of their injuries and the amount of money paid to them.

Peterloo Relief Fund Account Book A list of recipients of the Peterloo relief fund giving their names, addresses, details of their injuries and the amount of money paid to them.

Peterloo Relief Fund Account Book
A list of recipients of the Peterloo relief fund giving their names, addresses, details of their injuries and the amount of money paid to them.

The next time I heard about Peterloo was during Manchester International Festival 2013 when Maxine Peake recited all 37 verses of Shelley’s poem, ‘The Masque of Anarchy’, directed by Sarah Frankcom, just yards from the site of the Peterloo Massacre itself.

But it was until Monday evening 5th October 2015, at a rally for The People’s Post organised by the CWU (Communication Worker’s Union) that I truly understood the significance of Peterloo and what went on at Peter’s Fields. When Lindsay German addressed the crowd of over 8000 people that had amassed in Cathedral Gardens, she spoke of the democratic reform that the Peterloo rally had been demonstrating for, and subsequently brought about.

Cathedral Gardens, Manchester, Monday 5th October 2015

Cathedral Gardens, Manchester, Monday 5th October 2015

I had not understood that those killed and injured at Peterloo had been taking part in a peaceful rally, much like the one I attended on Monday, to claim their democratic rights – and to defend the rights of the poor. In the back of the Peterloo Relief Account Book is a newspaper cutting, which is an account from a man named James Haslam, I have transcribed the cutting below so you can read about where first he heard of Peterloo:

‘When I was a boy I was very fond indeed of creeping into the handloom cellar at night – especially o’ winter nights – to hear the men of the moribund craft talk and sing and, by the way, swear about hard times. What a quaint, independent set of industrials they were. But they talked and sang sometimes of flowers, or love, or war, but mostly of hard social and political days. How they did anathematise the politicians of the hour, and, I am afraid, push revolutionary ideas into my young hear. I was to carry on – so Joss Wrigley said – their spirit of political revolt when they were dead and their wooden looms were made into firewood by the factory workers.

They were the Radicals of Lupton Yard, and when I read “The Revolution in Tanner’s Lane” I thought if Rutherford had known them he might have handed them to posterity.

It was there where I first heard of Peterloo.

“Peterloo, Peterloo,” was often the subject of fierce conversation and denunciation. There were four of them in the cellar, in addition to an old woman who, sitting in the middle of the semi-subterranean workshop, wound coarse weft bobbins for them on a wooden wheel and spindle.

Joss Wrigley was the leader of the poverty-stricken group. My father was the owner of the looms, all bought for a few shillings, and rented to the other three weavers for a few pence a week. Joss was a great talker. Ned Greenhalgh – gentle Ned – was a listener who nodded approval of Joss’s political outbursts. Nathan Clegg, who occasionally varied his weaving by a short term in the Debtors’ Gaol at Lancaster, helped Joss by swearing at capitalists and shopkeepers. Mary Miller, the bobbin-winder, sometimes shook with fear at the thought of what might be their plight if the police were to look in. Joss Wrigley had decorated – he called it decorated – one of his loomposts with verses from Ebenezer Elliott and democratic songs of Burns, cut from newspapers. My father sometimes played the fiddle to soothe their nerves – played old English airs and Jacobite songs.

There was a stove in the cellar, which was lighted when they could afford to buy coal. I used to hear most about Peterloo when the looms were silent and the stove was burning, and the decrepit weavers were “winding on” a new warp by candle-light. One of them would guide the threads through the healds, two would sit on each side straightening the yarn and picking out foreign particles; Joss Wrigley usually sat on a stool unfolding the warp, and, having the least responsible task, he would talk the most.

It was then that “Peterloo” rang mostly in my ears. Often I wondered where Peterloo was till I learned it was at Manchester, a few miles away.

A Plan of St. Peters Field in the town of Manchester. With the Avenues leading thereto.

A Plan of St. Peters Field in the town of Manchester. With the Avenues leading thereto.

Frequently I was puzzled to know why it was that they spoke so bitterly of it. Subsequently, I was informed that Joss Wrigley knew all about it, because he was there in support of the People’s Charter, as Joss described it. Joss was a slim, nervous man with white hair and long beard; for a man of 77 years he was still sprightly physically and alert mentally.

It was from these older-time weaver’s lips I first heard the names of Sam Bamford and Henry Hunt. There was only one picture on the walls of our “front” room, otherwise known as the parlour. To us a house was divided into a “front” room and a “back” room, or kitchen. At that time our “front” room was an odd-looking chamber. Owing to the height of one of the looms in the cellar it had been necessary to take up one or two flags – it ws a flagged floor, usually sanded – in the parlour to make room for the top portion of the Jacquard machine. All that the room held was this portion of the loom, protruding about a yard above the surface, two spindle-back chairs, a small deal table, a winding-frame worked by my mother, and the solitary picture alluded to, which was a newspaper print of Henry Hunt. The name was underneath – “Henry Hunt, Esq.” My mother knew no more of the August massacre of 1819 than she had learned from the heated harangues of Joss Wrigley, and it was she who told me that Henry Hunt was a man who had something to do with Peterloo.

I remember saying to my father one morning when he was playing his well-resined fiddle (his warp being “down”), “What was this Peterloo about?” “Ax Joss,” he said. “It were afore my time. Joss were theer. Fro’ what he says, it were a damnable thing – summat as workin’ folk should never forget!”

I was now particularly curious to know. And one day when Joss came from the cellar into the kitchen to beg some tea to drink with his meal of bread and cheese I put the question – boy-like- bluntly to him. I have never forgotton some of his Doric phrases. He drew me between his knees, and said, partly with pride and partly with indignation:

“Peterloo, lad! I know. I were theer as a young mon. We were howdin’ a meetin’ i’ Manchester – on Peter’s Field, – a meetin’ for eawr reets – for reets o’ mon, for liberty to vote, an’ speak, an’ write, an’ be eawrsels – honest, hard-workin’ folk. We wanted to live eawr own lives, an’ th’ upper classes wouldn’t let us. That’s abeawt it, lad. We were howdin’ a meetin’, a peaceful meetin’, an’ they sent t’dragoons among us to mow us deawn. T’ dirty devils – they sent t’ dragoons slashin’ at us wi’ their swords. There were some on us sheawtin’ ‘Stop! Stop! What are yo’ doin’ that for? We on’y want eawr reets.’ An’ they went on cuttin’ through us, an’ made us fly helter-skelter – aw because we were only howdin’ up t’ banner o’ liberty an’ t’ reets o’ mon. Bournes (Burns) says as ‘Liberty’s a glorious feast.’ But th’ upper classes wouldn’t let us poor folk get a tast on it. When we cried… freedom o’ action they gav’ us t’ point of a sword. Never forget, lad! Let it sink i’ thi blood. Ston up an’ feight for t’ reets o’ mon – t’ reets o’ poor folk!”

Peterloo poster, a public notice declaring illegal the public meeting to be held on the 9th of August 1819 near St Peter's Church, Manchester, and cautioning 'all persons' against attending. The meeting subsequently took place on the 16th August and became known as the Peterloo Massacre, after cavalry charged into the crowd causing death and injury.

Peterloo poster, a public notice declaring illegal the public meeting to be held on the 9th of August 1819 near St Peter’s Church, Manchester, and cautioning ‘all persons’ against attending. The meeting subsequently took place on the 16th August and became known as the Peterloo Massacre, after cavalry charged into the crowd causing death and injury.

“Banner o’ libery,” “t’reets o’ mon,” “t’ dragoons slashin among us wi’ their swords,” were dinned into my ears till I could not forget. I could not understand then why Joss was trembling with rage. I could not then understand why he, having lived for over fifty years after the event, should still permit it to disturb his mind. I suppose it had got in his blood, and he could not live it out. I presume also that continuous years of poverty, together with years of political injustice and vagaries, and dear food, through which he had lived, had helped to nurse his hatred, which he resolutely passed on to others.

An illustration from ' A Slap at Slop', a mock newspaper created by George Cruikshank and William Hone. Includes cartoons relating to the Peterloo Massacre which took place in Manchester in 1819.

An illustration from ‘ A Slap at Slop’, a mock newspaper created by George Cruikshank and William Hone. Includes cartoons relating to the Peterloo Massacre which took place in Manchester in 1819.

His political career began at Peterloo – a dramatic beginning, to be sure. It ended in a damp, dark handloom cellar, at the age of 81.

I remember asking my father years after – when thinking of the sayings and the songs of Joss – how much would be the earnings of Joss as a rule. I was told not more than 10s. to 12s. per week – sometimes a few shillings more, sometimes “nowt at aw.”

Yet to the very end of his hard days Joss rarely omitted, as far as I can recollect, to talk and swear about the struggle that began at Peterloo, and which he traced through the mob skirmishes in connection with the agitation for the first Reform Act, the aims of the Free Trade League, the Chartists, and the Plug Drawers. He talked and talked of these affairs of men, and the opposition to them, as he swund the shuttle across his loom, or as he sat in the impoverished kitchen or in the tavern at the corner of the mean street. He was only nineteen years of age when he escaped from the massacre of Peterloo. And who can say how much the working classes owe to men like Joss Wrigley – a poor handloom weaver who from his obscurity passed on their spirit and opinions to coming generations?’

Peterloo Relief Fund Account Book A list of recipients of the Peterloo relief fund giving their names, addresses, details of their injuries and the amount of money paid to them.

Peterloo Relief Fund Account Book
A list of recipients of the Peterloo relief fund giving their names, addresses, details of their injuries and the amount of money paid to them. The books contains a listing for a John Wrigley, but no Joss Wrigley.

Following the Peterloo Massacre a Relief Fund was established, supported by voluntary subscriptions, to provide financial support to those wounded and the families of those who had died. The John Rylands Library holds the Peterloo Relief Fund Account Book (see image) which has now been digitised and is available to view online.

Historians believe that the Peterloo Massacre was massively influential in changing public opinion, and played a pivotal role in winning democratic rights for ordinary people or as Joss Wrigley so eloquently put ‘for reets o’ mon, for liberty to vote, an’ speak, an’ write, an’ be eawrsels – honest, hard-workin’ folk’ (for the rights of man, for liberty to vote, and speak, and write, and be ourselves – honest, hard-working folk).

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Locating Boccaccio in 2013

On the 700th anniversary of his birth the Rylands exhibition Locating Boccaccio forms part of a series of events around the world celebrating Giovanni Boccaccio in 2013. The exhibition seeks to locate Boccaccio in different times, languages and places showcasing many outstanding examples from our own collections. Images are now available in LUNA of some of the items currently in the exhibition. These images and others relating to Boccaccio can be found here.

   

Giovanni Boccaccio

Giovanni Boccaccio

   

  

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Spectral Imaging testing at The National Library of Scotland

Combe MS 7382 page 6 in visible light (left) and in UV light (right)

Combe MS 7382 page 6 in visible light (left) and at 365nm UV light with image inverted (right)

On 2nd July the CHICC photographers travelled to Edinburgh for some Multispectral Imaging testing on some George Combe letterbooks at the National Library of Scotland. Francine Millard of the NLS writes:

George Combe (1788-1858) was an Edinburgh lawyer who was among the first converts to phrenology. This was a science which believed that people’s characters could be read from the bumps in their skulls.

The National Library of Scotland holds a remarkable collection of George Combe’s papers from 1804 to 1872. The collection begins with his apprenticeship as a clerk to Writers to the Signet and charts his promotion of phrenology which included co-founding the Edinburgh Phrenological Society in 1820 and the works Elements of Phrenology (1824) and The Constitution of Man (1828). Combe’s outgoing and incoming correspondence document his efforts to spread the causes of phrenology, secular education, and criminal and prison reform.

 

Combe’s letterbooks contain a large proportion of his replies to his brother, Andrew Combe, who was also a fervent supporter of phrenology, and to those seeking his help and advice both in Britain and America. Combe’s replies were copied by wet letter press copying (or wet-transfer) and some pages in these books have now faded to the point of invisibility.

 

The National Library of Scotland teamed up with CHICC in July to see if multi-spectral imaging would be able to render Combe’s words visible. These tests would inform the Library on what approach to take to preserve the Combe papers through digitisation.

To find out more, watch this short film of the work in action:

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HISTORICAL TYPES FROM GUTENBERG TO ASHENDENE

A while ago, CHICC carried out some interesting digitsation work of the Rylands copy of the Mainz Psalter, and a Gutenberg Indulgence for book which is now available.

Stan Knight has now published HISTORICAL TYPES, from Gutenberg to Ashendene, which is available from Oak Knoll here.

From Oak Knoll: “Historical Types stands a step above other books on the history of type because of the size and quality of its reproductions and its straightforward and clear exposition. For these reasons, it should soon become a favorite text for teachers and students of type design, as well as anyone interested in the history of the book.”

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Rochester Cathedral’s “Hidden Treasures, Fresh Expressions” project wins £3.55 million in Heritage Lottery Fund support

The original storage box for the Textus Roffensis

The original storage box for the Textus Roffensis

 

The project will use the cathedral’s currently inaccessible and nationally significant archives as a catalyst for the development of exhibitions and workshops in the crypt and library.  These architecturally impressive spaces will be sympathetically opened up to allow access for all. The Textus Roffensis, older and considered by some to be a more significant document than the Magna Carta, is currently locked away for safety in the archives of Medway Council.  The project will make the Textus the jewel in the crown of an imaginative and dynamic treasury. For more info click here.

The CHICC team would like to send a huge congratulations to the team at Rochester Cathedral, on what promises to be a very exciting project!

(see below for a selection of image taken by CHICC at Rochester Cathedral – click on the thumbnails to see larger images)

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St Christopher Woodcut undergoes the National Gallery’s Infrared Imaging

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St. Christopher Woodcut being imaged using Osiris camera

    On Tuesday 15th January 2013 the Rylands were very pleased to welcome Rachel Billinge, from the National Gallery, and Ed Potten, Head of Rare Books at the University of Cambridge for some very exciting imaging.

Rachel brought with her an Osiris camera for high-resolution infrared reflectography. The camera was developed by Opus Instruments based on a prototype that was designed and built by the National Gallery‘s Science and Conservation departments. The Osiris camera records infrared light wavelengths from 900-1700 nanometres, reaching further in to the infrared light spectrum than a standard CCD sensor could. The camera takes many images of an item and automatically stiches each ’tile’ together, saving hours of post-processing time.

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St. Christopher Woodcut being imaged using Osiris camera

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View of Osiris capture as it happens, the camera automatically stitched together each ’tile’ to create a full high-resolution image of the page

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Rachel Billinge from the National Gallery working on a capture of the St. Christopher Woodcut using an Osiris camera

Rachel produced images of the St. Christopher Woodcut, in a bid to produce a legible image of the watermark to confirm, or otherwise, the dating of the Woodcut. The St Christopher woodcut, 1423, is the earliest dated example of European printing. It is preserved as an endpaper in a manuscript dated 1417 from Bohemia, the ‘Laus Virginis’. Rachel also imaged the Annunciation Woodcut, although no watermark is believed to be present in this print.

Members of staff from across the Library were on hand to support and analyse the images as they were produced. We await the results with bated breath… we will share the findings with you in a follow up post as soon as we possibly can.

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Analysing the results… watch this space!

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New Rylands Special Collections Blog is now Live….

A brand new blog for the John Rylands Special Collections is now live. Expect some great insights into some of the incredible items from the collections. Don’t forget to follow the blog for regular updates.

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Japan, Described and Illustrated by the Japanese. Out Now!

Before Christmas, we were working again very closely with The Folio Society, to create a facsimile of the fabulous 10 volume copy of  Japan, Described and Illustrated by the Japanese we have in our collections. See this past post. Well, we are delighted to announce that the Folio Society edition is now available for pre-order!

One of the most opulent pictorial books ever published, Japan captures a vanished world in 259 hand-coloured photographs. Now, for the first time, this landmark work is reproduced in its entirety in two luxurious volumes

If it’s anything like our previous collaboration on Sharpe’s Birds of Paradise, it is guaranteed to be something special.

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