Japanning Resources

"Japanning" refers to European efforts to create finishes that resemble East Asian and Indian lacquer and decoration. It was completely cultural appropriation for its day, but in their efforts to recreate a varnish they couldn't make, they created something new as well.

I've collected a list of books, and sometimes their contents, here for sharing. My focus is on japanning wood with shellac varnishes, but I'll include other meanings of japanning over time.

(Yes, right now this is English-language-centric. I hope to expand well beyond that!)

Original Texts

Artlove, Mrs. The ART OF Japanning, Varnishing, Pollishing, AND Gilding, BEING A COLLECTION of very Plain DIRECTIONS and RECEIPTS. London: T. Warner, 1730. (Plain text.)

Brown, William Norman. Handbook on Japanning, 2nd Edition. London: Scott, Greenwood, and Son, 1913. (Gutenberg edition.)

Dossie, Robert. The Handmaid to the Arts. London: J. Nourse, 1758. (Original.)

Merrifield, Mary P. Original Treatises, Dating from the XIIth to the XVIIIth Centuries, on the Arts of Painting. London: J. Murray, 1849. (Original.)

Salmon, William. Polygraphice: Or, The Arts of Drawing, Engraving, Etching, Limning, Painting, Vernishing, Japaning, Gilding, &c. Book 11, new to the Eighth Edition. London: A. & J. Churchill, 1701. (Original or partial plain text.)

Siddons, George A. The Cabinet Maker's Guide, or, Rules and Instructions in the art of Varnishing, Dying, Staining, Japanning, Polishing, Lackering, and Beautifying Wood, Ivory, Tortoiseshell, & Metal. Fifth Edition. London: Sherwood, Gilbert, and Piper, 1837. (Original.)

Stalker, John, and Parker, Richard. A TREATISE OF JAPANING AND VARNISHING, Being a compleat Discovery of those Arts WITH The best way of making all sorts of VARNISH for JAPAN, WOOD, PRINTS, or PICTURES. London: 1688. (Original, or plain text.)

The Method of Learning to Draw in Perspective Made easy and fully explained. As also, The Art of Painting upon Glass, and Drawing in Crayons, with Receipts for making them after the French and Italian Manner. Likewise, A New and Curious Method of Japaning, either upon Glass, Wood, or any Metal, so as to imitate China; and to make black or gilt Japan-Ware, as Beautiful and Light as any brought from the East-Indies; with proper Directions for making the hardest and most transparent Varnishes. And Particularly the Way to cast Amber in any Shape. Chiefly from the MSS of the Great Mr BOYLE. London: J. Peele, 1732.

Modern Commentary

Huth, Hans. Lacquer of the West. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971.

Lacquer: An International History and Illustrated Survey. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1984.

Le Hô, Anne-Solenn, et al. "Eighteenth-century lacquer art in Paris: green japanned panels from a Chinese cabinet in the duke of Richelieu's townhouse". Lisbon: ICOM-CC, 2011. (Full article.)

Webb, Marianne. Recreating Western Lacquer using Historic Recipes. Mariannewebb.com, 2013.

Williams, Donald C. "The Art of Japanning", American Period Furniture, December 2009, p. 4-11.

Williams, Donald C. Traditional Japanning Techniques. Cincinnati: F+W Media, Inc. 2016. (Sample.)

Broader Varnishing information

Hammerl, Josef and Reiner. Violin Varnishes: Interesting information on resins and basic materials for violin varnish and advice on varnishing. Fourth Edition. Baiersdorf: Hammerl, [no date].

Langenheim, Jean H. Plant Resins: Chemistry, Evolution, Ecology, Ethnobotany. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2003.

Shepherd, Stephen A. Shellac, Linseed Oil, & Paint: Traditional 19th Century Woodwork Finishes. Great Salt Lake City, Utah: Full Chisel Press, 2011.

Williams, Donald C. Creating Historic Furniture Finishes. Cincinnati: F+W Media, Inc. 2016. (Sample.)

Comments? Suggestions? Corrections? Please let me know! - Simon St.Laurent