Rare Tattoo Books
"The tattooist is almost a fairy-tale figure, hovering in his gloomy, weirdly decorated and mysterious little shop like some grotesque but bewitching hermit ..."
Such a description -- one befitting many of my tattooer friends today -- was written in 1953 by Hans Ebenstenin in what Time magazine called "a short, bright book": Pierced Hearts and True Love. That old review started out with this rhyme:
By electrical means, without pain
Your pure epidermis may gain
From head unto heels -- the idea appeals
Decorations of which you will be vain
I came across Pierced Hearts and True Love via SOI 13 Books based out of Thailand. SOI 13 is a project by C. Wirzman, who tracks down "rare and unusual" books on tattooing and offers them at reasonable rates for resale on his site. I did a price comparison of Pierced Hearts and True Love for example, and SOI 13 did have the lower rate, prompting me to share this online shop with y'all even though the book titles are limited and you'll probably buy up all the ones I want before I get to them.
Other books include Irezumi, The Pattern of Dermatology Dermatography written by W.R. van Gulik, the son of a Netherlands ambassador; Tattoo World, written in Hebrew by Sailor Mosko; and a number of titles on traditional Thai tattooing.
Also on the SOI 13 site, Wirzman excerpts fiction and non-fiction writing on tattooing in his Content section. Here's a taste from The Tattooer, which is the featured text online now:
Visitors to the pleasure quarters of Edo preferred to hire palanquin bearers who were splendidly tattooed; courtesans of the Yoshiwara and the Tatsumi quarter fell in love with tattooed men. Among those so adorned were not only gamblers, fireman, and the like, but members of the merchant class and even samurai. Exhibitions were held from time to time; and the participants, stripped to show off their filigreed bodies, would pat themselves proudly, boast of their own novel designs, and criticize each other's merits.
Bookmark SOI 13 for an update on their book sales and clips of tattoo texts.