Tattoos of the Floating World: Ukiyo-e Motifs in the Japanese Tattoo (Katie Kitamura and Takahiro Kitamura, 2003)


This unique book by tattoo artist Takahiro Kitamura (Horitaka, a pupil of Horiyoshi III) discusses the art of the Japanese tattoo in the context of Ukiyo-e, concentrating on the parallel histories of the woodblock print and the tattoo. Through high quality illustrations it shows that the Japanese tattoo is highly reliant on and linked to the woodblock print and that it deserves a position among the other art forms. A range of typical ukiyo-e motifs in the Japanese tattoo are discussed and illustrated by the original Japanese prints, and sketches, drawings and tattoos by tattoo master Horiyoshi III. The book ends with a special essay by Don Ed Hardy.


Art, sex and symbol: the mystery of tattooing (R. W. B. Scutt & Christopher Gotch, 1974)

The World of Tattoo (Maarten Hesselt van Dinter, 2005)


Despite a growing fascination with tattooing among social scientists--and the popularity of tattoos themselves in general--the practice of tattooing has lacked a comprehensive historical record. Until very recently, there was no good context for writing a serious world history of tattooing. This new volume conveys the richness of the history of tattooing from antiquity to the present day.
Unlike most other tattoo books that describe one aspect this book conveys the overall picture. It takes you to each of the seven continents with descriptions of their tattoo history and tattoo practices. Thus the book provides the reader with a truly global view of tattooing. It adds new information and new examples and insights that give the reader a new perspective.

By combining empirical history, powerful cultural analysis, and a highly readable style, the author adds an important step to the ongoing effort of writing a meaningful cultural history of tattooing. He does not draw new conclusions or present shocking new theories, but suggests and invites the reader to form his own opinions. This publication presents the reader with a vast amount of textual and visual information. From the well known examples from Tahiti to rarely seen Chinese tattoos, from the Ice Maiden to modern day Western tattoos--they are all there. Many of the approximately 400 color illustrations are unique images that have never been published before.


Tattoo History: a source book (Steve Gilbert, 2000)


The Tattoo History Source Book is an exhaustingly thorough, lavishly illustrated collection of historical records of tattooing throughout the world, from ancient times to the present. Collected together in one place, for the first time, are texts by explorers, journalists, physicians, psychiatrists, anthropologists, scholars, novelists, criminologists, and tattoo artists.

A brief essay by Gilbert sets each chapter in an historical context. Topics covered include the first written records of tattooing by Greek and Roman authors; the dispersal of tattoo designs and techniques throughout Polynesia; the discovery of Polynesian tattooing by European explorers; Japanese tattooing; the first 19th-century European and American tattoo artists; tattooed British royalty; the invention of the tattooing machine; and tattooing in the circus.

The anthology concludes with essays by four prominent contemporary tattoo artists: Tricia Allen, Chuck Eldridge, Lyle Tuttle, and Don Ed Hardy. The references at the end of each section will provide an introduction to the extensive literature that has been inspired by the ancient-but-neglected art of tattooing. Because of its broad historical context, The Tattoo History Source Book will be of interest to the general reader as well as art historians, tattoo fans, neurasthenics, hebephrenics, and cyclothemics.


Pierced hearts and true love; an illustrated history of the origin and development of European tattooing and a survey of its present state (Hanns Ebensten, 1953)

The history of tattooing and its significance (Wilfrid Dyson Hambly; 1925)


This 1925 survey constitutes one of the most complete histories of world tattoo practices. It was written at the end of a significant era in anthropological fieldwork, when the efforts of missionaries and the impact of European imperialism had suppressed all but the final vestiges of indigenous native tattoo traditions. Subsequent opportunities for original fieldwork related to tattooing were rare, making this book a valuable link to vanishing cultures.

In addition to 80 photographs and illustrations many of them new to this edition this fascinating study discusses the significance of tattoos and other forms of body marking in terms of religious beliefs and social purposes. Author Wilfrid Dyson Hambly offers a wealth of examples from fieldwork conducted around the world. Hambly discusses the religious and magical uses of tattooing, which range from the prevention of pain, protection against witchcraft, and attraction of good luck to the preservation of youth and insurance of the survival of the soul after death.


Memoirs of a tattooist (George Burchett, 1958)


Expelled from school at the age of twelve for tattooing his classmates, George Burchett-Davis joined the Royal Navy against his parents wishes a year later. His skills were encouraged during his travels, and honed by his exposure to the masters of Asia. He jumped ship in Jaffa, finding the navy to be too disciplined for his lifestyle, only returning to England twelve years later, his name shortened to avoid charges of desertion. With clients ranging from European monarchs (including the ‘Sailor King’ George V) to transient seamen, George Burchett was deemed the 'King of Tattooists,” continuing his art until his sudden death in 1953. This is the first edition of his collected memoirs, published five years posthumously.


Tattoo: Secrets of a Strange Art (Albert Parry, 1933)


Tattoo: Secrets of a Strange Art first appeared in 1933, when the majority of people with tattoos were sailors, prostitutes, and criminals. Venturing from waterfront tattoo parlors to circus midways, author Albert Parry talked to many of the great tattoo artists of the early twentieth century about their techniques. Parry was among the first to analyze the custom's subconscious motivations and to expose its erotic implications. His fascinating stories examine overt and subliminal tattoo messages of masochistic tendencies, membership in a select society, sexual fantasy and romantic devotion, patriotism, and religious fervor. A unique historical document and a compelling psychological study, this book offers a thought-provoking look at one aspect of the human drive for self-expression.


Bad Boys and Tough Tattoos: A Social History of the Tattoo With Gangs, Sailors, and Street-Corner Punks 1950-1965 (Samual Steward aka Phil Sparrow)


In the early 1950s, when tattoos were the indelible mark of a lowlife, an erudite professor of English—a friend of Gertrude Stein, Thomas Mann, Andre Gide, and Thornton Wilder—abandoned his job to become a tattoo artist (and incidentally a researcher for Alfred Kinsey). Bad Boys and Tough Tattoos tells the story of his years working in a squalid arcade on Chicago’s tough State Street. During that time he left his mark on a hundred thousand people, from youthful sailors who flaunted their tattoos as a rite of manhood to executives who had to hide their passion for well-ornamented flesh.

Bad Boys and Tough Tattoos is anything but politically correct. The gritty, film-noir details of Skid Row life are rendered with unflinching honesty and furtive tenderness. His lascivious relish for the young sailors swaggering or staggering in for a new tattoo does not blind him to the sordidness of the world they inhabited. From studly nineteen-year-olds who traded blow jobs for tattoos to hard-bitten dykes who scared the sailors out of the shop, the clientele was seedy at best: sailors, con men, drunks, hustlers, and Hells Angels.


Marks of Civilization: Artistic Transformations of the Human Body (Arnold Rubin; 1988)


Body piercing, scarification, tattooingfor thousands of years decorative alteration of the human body has been invested with profound cultural and social meaning. This remarkable collection of essays, photographs, and drawings focuses on the many and diverse ways that human beings have permanently decorated their bodies. Marks of Civilization grew out of a symposium entitled "Art of the Body" held at the University of California, Los Angeles in the early 1980s. Contributors encompass the fields of anthropology, sociology, art history, archaeology, and folklore. The geographical and historical perspectives are from Europe and Euro- America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Pacific Basin (Asia, Oceania, and Native America). The book's text and photographs acknowledge body art as a meaningful part of human behavior. What dominates throughout is the recognition of artistic potency, mysterious or commonplace, that is a part of marking the body.


Convict Tattoos: Marked men and women of Australia (Simon Barnard, 2016)


Read my review of Convict Tattoos here.

At least thirty-seven per cent of male convicts and fifteen per cent of female convicts were tattooed by the time they arrived in the penal colonies, making Australians quite possibly the world’s most heavily tattooed English-speaking people of the nineteenth century.

Each convict’s details, including their tattoos, were recorded when they disembarked, providing an extensive physical account of Australia’s convict men and women.

Simon Barnard has meticulously combed through those records to reveal a rich pictorial history. Convict Tattoos explores various aspects of tattooing—from the symbolism of tattoo motifs to inking methods, from their use as means of identification and control to expressions of individualism and defiance—providing a fascinating glimpse of the lives of the people behind the records.


Tattoo: Bodies, Art, and Exchange in the Pacific and the West - History of Tatooing (Eds. Thomas, Nicholas Cole, Anna Douglas, Bronwen; 2005)


The history of tattooing is shrouded in controversy. Citing the Polynesian derivation of the word “tattoo,” many scholars and tattoo enthusiasts have believed that the modern practice of tattooing originated in the Pacific, and specifically in the contacts between Captain Cook’s seamen and the Tahitians. Tattoodemonstrates that while the history of tattooing is far more complex than this, Pacific body arts have provided powerful stimuli to the West intermittently from the eighteenth century to the present day. The essays collected here document the extraordinary, intertwined histories of processes of cultural exchange and Pacific tattoo practices. Art historians, anthropologists, and scholars of Oceania provide a transcultural history of tattooing in and beyond the Pacific.

The contributors examine the contexts in which Pacific tattoos were “discovered” by Europeans, track the history of the tattooing of Europeans visiting the region, and look at how Pacific tattooing was absorbed, revalued, and often suppressed by agents of European colonization. They consider how European art has incorporated tattooing, and they explore contemporary manifestations of Pacific tattoo art, paying particular attention to the different trajectories of Samoan, Tahitian, and Maori tattooing and to the meaning of present-day appropriations of tribal tattoos. New research has uncovered a fascinating visual archive of centuries-old tattoo images, and this richly illustrated volume includes a number of those—many published here for the first time—alongside images of contemporary tattooing in Polynesia and Europe. Tattoo offers a tantalizing glimpse into the plethora of stories and cross-cultural encounters that lie between the blood on a sailor’s backside in the eighteenth century and the hammering of a Samoan tattoo tool in the twenty-first.

Contributors. Peter Brunt, Anna Cole, Anne D’Alleva, Bronwen Douglas, Elena Govor, Makiko Kuwahara, Sean Mallon, Linda Waimarie Nikora, Mohi Rua, Cyril Siorat, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Nicholas Thomas, Joanna White


Written on the Body: The Tattoo in European and American History (Editor: Jane Caplan, 2000)

Despite the social sciences' growing fascination with tattooing--and the immense popularity of tattoos themselves--the practice has not left much of a historical record. And, until very recently, there was no good context for writing a serious history of tattooing in the West. This collection exposes, for the first time, the richness of the tattoo's European and American history from antiquity to the present day. In the process, it rescues tattoos from their stereotypical and sensationalized association with criminality.

The tattoo has long hovered in a space between the cosmetic and the punitive. Throughout its history, the status of the tattoo has been complicated by its dual association with slavery and penal practices on the one hand and exotic or forbidden sexuality on the other. The tattoo appears often as an involuntary stigma, sometimes as a self-imposed marker of identity, and occasionally as a beautiful corporal decoration.

This volume analyzes the tattoo's fluctuating, often uncomfortable position from multiple angles. Individual chapters explore fascinating segments of its history--from the metaphorical meanings of tattooing in Celtic society to the class-related commodification of the body in Victorian Britain, from tattooed entertainers in Germany to tattooing and piercing as self-expression in the contemporary United States. But they also accumulate to form an expansive, textured view of permanent bodily modification in the West.

By combining empirical history, powerful cultural analysis, and a highly readable style, this volume both draws on and propels the ongoing effort to write a meaningful cultural history of the body. The contributors, representing several disciplines, have all conducted extensive original research into the Western tattoo. Together, they have produced an unrivalled account of its history. They are, in addition to the editor, Clare Anderson, Susan Benson, James Bradley, Ian Duffield, Juliet Fleming, Alan Govenar, Harriet Guest, Mark Gustafson, C. P. Jones, Charles MacQuarrie, Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, Stephan Oettermann, Jennipher A. Rosecrans, and Abby Schrader.