Some picture of old books and Ukiyoe-women


Syomotsu, Insatsu, Honya (Books, Printing, and Bookshops - A Cultural History of Books in Japan, China, and Korea)


FUJIMOTO Yukio (ed.)


896 pages, B5 format, hardcover




June, 2021



Published by

Benseisha Publishing Inc.

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Syomotsu, Insatsu, Honya

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This book is a collection of articles dealing primarily with the culture of books in Japan, China, and Korea, especially various phenomena pertaining to book publishing in the private sector. It consists of contributions by thirty-five specialists in a wide range of fields, including linguistics, literature, bibliographies, history, art history, and traditional medicine. One gains a real sense of the effectiveness of interdisciplinary and international research on a topic such as books and publishing.
The book is divided into three parts: Part 1 on “The Shape of Books and Genres of Books,” Part 2 on “Printing, Type, and Technology,” and Part 3 on “Bookshops, Commercial Publishing, and Book Collecting.” Broadly speaking, Part 1 focuses on the outward form and contents of books, Part 2 is centred on the act of printing, and Part 3 deals with people involved in books. There follow some further details about each of the three parts.
Part 1 takes up the binding of Japanese books, publishing at the start of the early modern period, the genres of early modern light fiction, colour prints, Buddhist works, and medical works. I encourage you to read the individual essays to find out what can be learnt when light fiction and colour prints are analyzed from the viewpoint of publishing. In my own essay, I analyze the Sangokutarō sairaiden, a gōkan (or type of graphic narrative that was popular in Edo in the nineteenth century), and the retitled version Genze Mikunitarō and discuss how under the regulation of publishing imposed by the Tenpō Reforms publishers applied self-restraint.
In Part 2, important matters relating to the cultural history of books in medieval and early modern Japan are discussed in detail. These include the Song and Yuan editions that were brought to Japan from China, the Gozan temple editions of the medieval period, Japanese printings of Chinese books, books published by the Jesuits in Japan, and the Sagabon from the start of the early modern period. The history of exchange between Japan and other countries through the medium of books should become evident of its own accord in these essays. The essays about the technology of printing, such as type and woodblocks, are also valuable.
Part 3 discusses the relationship between books and people, including bookshops involved in the publishing and selling of books, commercial lending libraries that connected bookshops with readers, and private book collectors. There are also several essays on Chinese bookshops and bibliophiles and on the circumstances of publishing in Korea, including “An Examination of the History of Bookshops in China: With a Focus on the Early Modern Period” by Ōki Yasushi of the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia and “On the Position of Jiangxi in Commercial Publishing in the Late Ming and Early Qing” by Uehara Kyūichi, also of the Institute of Advanced Studies on Asia.
Another distinctive feature of this book is the use of many illustrations and tables. What should one focus on in a subject taken up for consideration, what should one read into it, and how should one draw one’s conclusions? If you carefully read these essays while looking at the illustrations and data, you will also be able to learn how the minds of researchers work and about the processes involved in research.

(Written by SATO Yukiko, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology / 2022)

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