COMPETITION AND COLLABORATION: Japanese Prints of the Utagawa School, by Laura J. Mueller, with essays by Fujisawa Akane, Kobayashi Tadashi, and Ellis Tinios. Leiden/Boston: Hotei Publishing, 2007, 232 pp., 200 illustrations, $120 (cloth)

The Utagawa school, founded in the 18th century and active throughout the 19th, dominated all Japanese print production. It decided the genres and controlled the economics. It was responsible for half of all extant prints and hired hundreds of designers who worked under the Utagawa name.

These included many of the big-name stars. Among them was Utagawa Toyoharu, who established the school, Toyohiro and Toyokuni, Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi and Kunisada, Yoshitoshi, Kawanabe Kyosai, and many others.

The influence of the Utagawa school is unmatched. It created stylistic traditions that evolved from one generation to the next. It formed a highly organized system of production that enabled its artists to succeed in every genre. Through its network of artists, cutters, printers, and apprentices, it practiced collaboration and name-granting. The Utagawa "brand-name" was market-domineering and cut deeply into the competition. Print-making was big business. There were nearly four thousand publishers involved during the Edo period (1615-1968) and between 1705 and 1940 nearly 300 million impressions of various print types were produced.