Norman L. Sandfield Library

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About the Norman L. Sandfield Library


Reclining rabbit in a kimono, signed by Masanao of Kyoto, 1950.171

Reclining rabbit in a kimono, signed by Masanao of Kyoto, 1950.171

What are netsuke (pronounced “net-skeh”)?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition, a netsuke is “a small toggle, often in the form of a carved ivory or wood figure, used to secure a purse or container suspended on a cord from the sash of a kimono.”

What is the Sandfield Library?

This is a large portion of the materials on netsuke and related art forms collected by Norman L. Sandfield of Chicago.  He is a netsuke dealer and collector, lecturer, researcher, and compiler of The Ultimate Netsuke Bibliography: An Annotated Guide to Miniature Japanese Carvings (Chicago, Art Media Resources, 1999).  It is a growing collection held in the TMA Reference Library, and numbers more than 4,400 items as of 2010.

What is in the Library?

Books and collection catalogs in many languages, from the late 19th century to the present; over 1,000 auction and dealer catalogs, including those from Sotheby’s, Christie’s, Eldred, Butterfield, Zacke, Eskenazi, Kleifisch; and complete runs of important journals in the netsuke field. In addition to a heavy emphasis on netsuke, there are materials on more general Japanese and other Asian art.

Mask of Ranryo, 1948.183

Mask of Ranryo, 1948.183

Why is it here in Toledo?

According to Mr. Sandfield, the Toledo Museum of Art is one of only two museums in the U.S. to show a serious, active, and continuing interest in netsuke.  This is primarily due to the work of his long-time friend and collector, Richard R. Silverman, whose efforts have helped to strengthen the holdings of netsuke at the Toledo Museum of Art.  The other museum is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which has a fine netsuke collection from Raymond Bushell and the important Cornelius Van S. Roosevelt Netsuke Library.  By providing both the novice collector and the scholar with these comprehensive resources for the study of the Museum’s collection and netsuke in general, the donor hopes to foster wider interest, research, study, and writing in the field.

What is The Ultimate Netsuke Bibliography (TUNB)?

Mr. Sandfield’s original published bibliography contains more than 4,400 items and includes not only the categories of titles mentioned above, but has citations for articles in netsuke journals, general periodicals, convention and seminar programs, and non-print format and ephemera.  Eleven appendices and four indices to the 24 chapters and 211 sub-chapters offer guidance to accessing the worldwide wealth of information available.  Particularly interesting are Appendix A (Basic netsuke glossary), Appendix C (Building your own netsuke libraries), and Appendix I (Some statistics). Mr. Sandfield has continued to acquire relevant publications and catalog them in his TUNB database, which now numbers nearly 7,000 bibliographic records, and is accessible through his website at

Where are materials in the Sandfield Library found within the Museum’s Reference Library?

Catalogs and journals are kept together in a designated area just past the Faculty/Curatorial Study and books are integrated into the open stacks of the library.  All Sandfield Library materials are distinguished by Sandfield” on their spine labels.  Titles cited in TUNB that were already in the library’s collection, as well as all titles in the Sandfield Library, may be searched using the library’s online catalog.  This is available at the public terminals in the reading room, or online at There is a designated search on the left-hand side for the Sandfield Collection.  Title or author searches may be the most successful for books and catalogs.