Category Archives: Japanese

Made-in-Japan Mexican Bookends

Japanese Mexican bookends:  porcelain, Height 6 inches. Made In Japan.

Each bookend in this pair shows a Mexican peon sitting against saguaro cacti.  We know he is Mexican because of his characteristic sombrero and his sitting in the desert.  We expect his face to look like the popular conception of a Mexican – swarthy with a mustache, but instead we see a light-skinned, clean-shaven, blue-eyed face, quite caucasian in appearance.  These bookends were made in Japan, so we can guess that the artist had no familiarity with actual look of Mexican peons.

The painted details on this bookend are very nice.

In the late 1920s and into the 1930s and 40s, a popular home decor in the American southwest was a kitschy amalgam of mission, cowboy, and Mexican motifs. Table cloths, table settings, home decorations all incorporated variations of the theme. These bookends fit beautifully into what could be called, “Mexico In The American Imagination”, a phrase taken from the SOUTH OF THE BORDER traveling exhibition mounted by the Yale University Art Gallery in 1993 and 1994.

A vintage Mexican motif table cloth with a page from Mexican Cookbook by Erna Fergusson, published by the Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1934.

Before World War II, Japan was making porcelain decorative items for export to the United States and Europe. These bookends appear to be from that period and made for the American market. They are nicely detailed and hand-painted. The stamp, Made In Japan, is one that could be pre-1941 according to the Kovel’s website. The Kovel’s indicate that 1921 is when the US government began to require the Country of Origin be in English and the Japanese started using Japan instead of Nippon. After the war the stamp “Made in Occupied Japan” was used until 1952. The quality of these bookends would indicate pre-war. We like them even though their light weight doesn’t bode well for holding up books.

Made In Japan mark.


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Chuck De Costa: Bookend Collector Extraordinaire


Chuck De Costa was a major player in the world of bookend collectors.  He amassed a great collection of beautiful and significant bookends, somewhere north of 2400 pairs.  He was generous in sharing his collection and knowledge with other collectors.  He was the author of the Collector’s Encyclopedia of Bookends.  The following announcement was made on his Antique Bookend Collection website:

“It is with sadness that I must report that Chuck De Costa, the Antiques Bookend Collector passed away on December 4, 2015. This site will remain for a short time to honor his love and knowledge of Antique Bookends. This site has been developed to share with other antique bookend collectors & enthusiasts. Whatever your favorites might be we hope that you enjoy this website and share it with your friends.”

As a tribute to Chuck we hope you all will take time to visit the site before it is taken down.

Chuck De Costa’s Antique Bookend Collection




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Rookwood Monkey Bookends

Photo of Rookwood Monkey Bookends

1986 Rookwood Pottery Monkey Bookends. 4.5 inches tall.

This pair of ceramic monkey bookends is relatively small, but it comes from the respected Rookwood Pottery Company.  Each bookend bears the Rookwood trademark on the base with the painted date of 1986.  The bookends are slip cast so the details are not sharp, but each figure is strengthened and weighted by factory plaster filled through the circular hole in the base.

Photo of Rookwood Bookend Base

Rookwood Monkey Bookend base. Impressed Trademark. Painted date of 1986.

The Rookwood Pottery Company was founded in 1880 in Cincinnati, and quickly became a premier maker of ceramic items in America and renowned for artistry.  This early prestige attaches to all Rookwood pottery today and makes their pottery relatively expensive. The company passed though several owners in the succeeding decades. From 1982 to 1986 it was run by the Townley family, when these monkeys were produced.  The monkeys are a reissue from a sculpture by Kataro Shirayamadani.  The monkeys,  produced during the Townley era, are known as “The monkey that saved Rookwood”.  Their popularity and sale as bookends and paperweights kept the company viable.

Kitaro Shirayamadani (1865-1948), a Japanese artist  and potter was hired in 1887  to take advantage of the popular interest in Japanese culture and artwork at that time.  His artistry is largely credited for Rookwood earning a gold metal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889.  Shirayamadani was working for Rookwood at the time of his death in 1948.

The Rookwood trademark is easily recognized.  The impressed trademark is a reversed R back-to-back with a P for Rookwood Pottery surrounded by 14 flames.  Rookwood added 1 flame per year of production from 1896 until 1900.  After 1900 the original factory used impressed Roman numerals at the base of the trademark to indicate the year of production.  As this pair is from the 1980s, the date is painted.  Check out this Kovel video that describes Rookwood Pottery dating system.


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