Obituary: Charles E. Tuttle
Wednesday 07 July 1993
CHARLES E. TUTTLE was one of the great characters of the international book trade. He was a learned bibliophile and scholar of American and Japanese literature, a successful businessman, a genuine and generous friend, and a loving husband to his wife of 42 years, Reiko Chiba Tuttle. He was also a prodigious drinker, and was not infrequently tossed out of, and off, bars and restaurants, golf courses and tennis courts, on six continents - unabashedly, and not without some elan, one might add.
Tuttle was born in Rutland, Vermont, in 1915, attended local schools in Rutland, Exeter Academy for two years, and then Harvard, majoring in American history and literature. He was the sixth generation of the Tuttle family born in Rutland, where the first Tuttle company opened for business in 1832. The early Tuttles were in printing, newspapers, bookselling, legal stationery and property. (Richard Tottel, a 16th-century ancestor, printed and published books in London between 1570 and 1590.) Charles's own father was an early publisher of black American literature, and also a noted rare book dealer, and Charles joined the family firm after graduating and working for a year in the library of Columbia University.
In 1943, Charles Tuttle Snr died, and the son enlisted in the US Army where, after undergoing officer training, he was assigned to information duties. He was selected for inclusion in the occupation army of Japan and was told he would be in charge of the library of the Japanese Diet, but by the time he arrived in Tokyo in October 1945, General MacArthur's staff had changed many of the assignments, and Tuttle spent the first two years helping the Japanese newspaper industry. It was during this time that he began to create a presence in the Japanese publishing scene.
The occupation of Japan was a heady time for many young American officers, and Tuttle was no exception. In 1947, however, he met the petite and very beautiful Reiko Chiba, one of five children from a large and wealthy Hokkaido family, and there began a love story that lasted more than four decades. Reiko always jokingly said she married Charles because he had a jeep (and that was a great status symbol in those days) but between them they created book publishing and distribution companies in Japan which provided the basis for most English-language book activities thereafter.
The Charles E. Tuttle Company was the 31st corporation approved in Japan by the occupation administration and in 1948 it began importing and distributing American paperbacks (and later UK paperbacks), newspapers and magazines to the US forces. It issued its first publication in 1949, but began a serious publishing programme in 1951, commissioning translations into English of some of Japan's enduring contemporary literature (Kawabata, Mishima, Tanizaki), dictionaries and grammars of Japanese and other Asian languages, books on Japanese art (James Michener and Oliver Statler were two early authors), and the first widely read books on Japanese martial arts, karate and aikido. In 1953, the distribution of US paperbacks and magazines was spun off into a separate, partially owned company, Yohan, and the Charles E. Tuttle Company concentrated on importing and distributing UK-published books, which it has continued until today.
Another Tuttle-founded company, the Tuttle-Mori Agency, is now Japan's largest literary agency. Run by Charles Tuttle's nephew Tom Mori it is the agent for many UK authors and publishers: Jeffrey Archer, Frederick Forsyth and Brian Fremantle are just a few of the UK authors who found publishing success in Japanese through Tuttle-Mori. Other alumni of the company are scattered all over the publishing scene in Japan, and the companies in the group that carry his name in Japan and the US continue to flourish in the businesses that Tuttle began in Occupied Japan.
Charles Tuttle's contributions to East-West understanding were recognised by Emperor Hirohito of Japan in 1983, when he was the recipient of the Order of the Sacred Treasure. Most recently, he devoted his energies to the used and rare book business, and he and Reiko divided their time between Vermont, Hawaii and Japan.
In his will, he directed that the following inscription be engraved on his headstone:
Here lies Charles Tuttle.
They said he would never
stop drinking. Well he has]
As with many other things in their full life together, Reiko chose wisely to ignore this . . . He will be remembered for his many other achievements.
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