In Memoriam Mitsuo Nitta - We have Lost a Giant of the Antiquarian Book World
By Masaji Yagi, ABAJ President
My “boss” has passed away. It is true that all humans must one day face this inevitable fate. When I met Mitsuo Nitta in the middle of October after returning back from the ILAB Presidents Meeting in Seville, aside from thinking his stomach looked little inflated than the usual, he spoke and moved in his usual energetic ways. So when I heard the news, I literally had to ask myself twice to make sure I heard the news right.
After graduating university in 1971, I joined Yushodo by following the recommendation of my father Sakichi Yagi who worked at Maruzen. At the time, Mr. Yuji Nitta served as the chairman, and I looked up to President Mitsuo Nitta who is fifteen years older than me as my boss like figure.11 years have gone by since the company reconstructed in Yotsuya, and starting a few years ago, the company began to handle rare books. The company was engaged in various affairs such as making deals with antiquarian book dealers from around the world and establishing business relations with university libraries in Japan. The 5 years I spent at Yushodo provided me with a significant direction toward my future life. Up to that point, the conventional business style of antiquarian bookstores was to just sit at the store counter and wait for the customers to arrive. However, such was not case for me since I was taught to be more business minded by making catalogues and actively stepping out of the office to make deals.
In 1964, Mitsuo Nitta bundled up Shiro Muraguchi, Ryuichi Matsumura, Ukichi Sakai, and Kenichiro Nakao who at the time were considered to be the leading antiquarian book dealers in the Tokyo/Kansai area. He achieved the “super play” in the young age of 31 by establishing Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Japan (ABAJ) with just 10 dealers, and joining ILAB in the following year.
His achievements for ABAJ and ILAB is something I don’t need to explain as everyone is well aware of his great success. In September, 1973, ABAJ hosted the 22nd ILAB Congress and the 5th ILAB International Antiquarian Book Fair in Tokyo. About 180 people gathered from around the world for this event. Further, in 1990, ABAJ hosted the 30th ILAB Congress and the 13th International Antiquarian Book Fair, again in Tokyo. This congress was record breaking in the history of the League: over 350 people from 19 countries attended the congress, and over 180 companies exhibited at the fair.
Mitsuo Nitta served ILAB in various ways, for example as an ILAB committee member and for many years as Chair of the ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography. The speech he held at the ILAB Congress in Paris in 2014 as an ILAB Member of Honor was his last speech within the ILAB community.
ABAJ celebrated its 50th anniversary last year with a memorial ceremony in December 2014 and the Tokyo International Antiquarian Book Fair in March 2015. Although I was the one who executed the planning/execution/operation as the president and executive committee chair together with ABAJ members/committee/directors, I owe much of the project success to my “boss” who was always there to support me from the behind.
Needless to say that, through Yushodo, Mitsuo Nitta’s contributions to the international trade were monumental: the exchange with antiquarian book dealers from around the world, with Japanese universities, with librarians, scholars, and collectors. And he was known as someone who truly loved ABAJ, ILAB and its motto: “Amor Librorum Nos Unit”. He lead ABAJ for 50 long years and gained reputation for being a true leader. Although he passed away at the age of 82, ABAJ’s President of Honour and ILAB’s Member of Honour Mitsuo Nitta will remain with us forever.
It is with great sadness that we have to inform you that our President of Honour, Mitsuo Nitta, passed away during the course of medical treatment on 27th October at 17:15. On this sad occasion we would like to express our gratitude to all who helped and supported him during his lifetime.
It has been decided that Yushodo Co.,Ltd. will conduct the funeral of the late Mitsuo Nitta at Gokoku-ji, 5-40-1, Otsuka, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 14:00~15:30, on 7th December. It is the will of his family not to accept any obituary gifts and flowers.
In Memoriam Mitsuo Nitta - Book of Condolence
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