The Landscape of Books

Tokuko Ushioda




Tokuko Ushioda always finds the unexpected encounters with books far from overseas an amazing experience. When visiting a church during her Europe trip, she saw a copy of the Bible quietly lying on the altar. The sacredness of the Bible resembled that of a king on his solemn throne. How many people have prayed with their hands on this Bible? Looking at the sheet music printed on the parchment and its notes, she wondered if this could be the music of the prayers’ frustration and hope. The scripture from the Muromachi period has gone yellowish and brittle; the paper is dotted with tiny holes like a starry sky. When people are humming the scripture, are the paper eating bugs busy filling up their stomach?

While books are the container of all abstract ideas, the content is not the only component of a book. Various materials used in making a book including paper, wood, parchment and thread will grow old and exude an elegant charisma of wisdom. The photographer Tokuko Ushioda has spent over 20 years on her Bibliotheca series that is an archive dedicated to the aesthetics of books.

An account book from the Edo period, a prayer book from the 14th century, an old dictionary from a primary school, books from the shelf of someone’s home, the restored antique book from a workshop… These printed materials all carry their very own story. Through her lens, the books are invited to narrate their own enchanting lives as a book, as well as all the moments of history that they have seen.