This collection of books, Nihon teien-shi zukan (Illustrated History of the Japanese Garden; Tokyo: Yukosha, 1936-1939, abbreviated as"Zukan") could be the greatest books every written on Japanese Gardens. I say this because of what they are and the time and effort that went into creating them. Nothing like this has ever been created in such detail and more than likely it will never be duplicated. The 26 volume set features 243 gardens in detail, where most books today only cover a few. They originally had 350 gardens surveyed to be featured in the book, but had to narrow it down to 243 due to cost. The author is Mirei Shigemori, a very well-known Japanese garden designer. His story is one that always captivated me. He originally studied art and painting, then got into Ikebana, which lead him into garden design. He started off just doing gardens for friends and his career grew from there. He was very controversial in his prime, because he made some real big changes in design styles at very well-known garden, when in the past changes were very slow to evolve. So he was considered a rebel in the garden in the way he broke the traditional mold. Now his gardens are held in very high regard. The books are considered an encyclopedia, 26 volume survey of Japanese gardens. He traveled all over Japan surveying the gardens in response to a typhoon, Muroto typhoon which hit in 1934, and some shrines and temples were damaged. They quickly realized that very little information was available to help restore these gardens back to their original state. It's believed that this event inspired Mirei Shigemori to take action and he came up with the idea to survey all of Japan's great gardens. The concern was that if a more wide spread natural disaster occurred, these books would act as a detailed plan for each garden if they ever needed to be rebuilt. The encyclopedia set is organized into periods of time and the corresponding gardens developed during that period. The survey is considered one of the greatest resources ever published for the study of Japanese gardens. In addition to the detailed fold out garden plans, there are also black and white photos documenting garden elements, along with beautiful landscape ink drawings of the garden. The 26 volume set was published in 1936-39, taking one month to complete each volume, by a renowned publishing house Yukusha which was destroyed in WWII. A revised 33 volume set was published in 1971 shortly before his death. Out of the 26 volumes, I have only made it through 3 volumes so far. I really take my time just taking it all in. I am most blown away by the detail of the garden surveys. I also enjoy the ink drawing of the garden, it's truly remarkable how beautiful and detailed each drawing is, I especially like character of the pines. Here is a link to the book and the fold out survey (takes up most of our dining room table!) http://www.flickr.com/photos/japanesemaplegarden/12212354584/ Here is one half of the survey (too big to fit in one photo) http://www.flickr.com/photos/japanesemaplegarden/12211965295/in/photostream/ and the other side of the survey http://www.flickr.com/photos/japanesemaplegarden/12212561626/in/photostream/ here is an example of garden element photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/japanesemaplegarden/12212362494/in/photostream/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/japanesemaplegarden/12212164063/in/photostream/ Here is the garden scene photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/japanesemaplegarden/12212167913/in/photostream/ This is an example of the timeless and beautiful ink drawing of the garden (love those pines!) http://www.flickr.com/photos/japanesemaplegarden/12212367804/in/photostream/ Every garden featured has all of the above, starting with the ink drawing, garden and elements photos, and fold out detailed survey. I excluded some of the garden element photos, but tried to include enough to give you the overall impression.