AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 194

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Session 194: Printed Book as a Physical Object in Early Modern Japan, 1600-1900

Organizer: Kazuko Hioki, University of Kentucky, USA

Discussant: Jonathan E Zwicker, University of Michigan, USA

The presentations of this panel aim to illustrate the artistic merits and historical significance of the printed Edo books, and the importance of their study in order to stimulate future research, and situate the study within the broader field of social history. The Edo period saw the flourishing of printed culture. These texts were almost exclusively produced by woodblock printing on Japanese paper and bound with side-stitched binding to paper covers. The appearance, included cover decorations, illustrations, and page designs (layout), exhibits great diversity, from elegantly calligraphic title pages to eye-catching multicoloured printed covers. The diversity and quality of the visual presentations are exceptional when compared to contemporaneous works in Asia. However, the study of the physical characteristics of the printed Edo books is relatively new. Historians and scholars have tended to study the content of the literature. Art historians have tended to focus more on illustrators and their styles. These presenters discuss many topics that need further research. For instance, a history of cover making techniques and their makers, selection and distribution of materials for books, and the roll of the publisher as a book producer deserve further study. These physical characteristics can display not only the way books were produced, but the development of the publishing industry and the spread of literacy.

Bookmakers and the Publishing Systems of Nineteenth-Century Japanese Fiction
Gen Takagi, Chiba University, Japan

This paper will focus on the production of commercial fiction in Japan during the first half of the nineteenth century by focussing on the process through which Kyokutei Bakin's great novel the Hakkenden was produced and distributed. While the Hakkenden was produced as commercial fiction, the books themselves were beautifully produced and came, after their discovery by Western collectors, to be thought of as works of art. The focus of my talk will be the publishing process beginning with the publisher who coordinated the work of the author and illustrator with that of several craftsmen including the copyist, the block carver, and the printer. While this process was in many ways shaped by the Chinese model of book production going back to the Song, the bindings, cover designs, and frontispieces used in this fiction were all developed specifically for the commercial book market in Japan and would continue to influence the look and feel of Japanese fiction well into the Meiji period even after moveable type was widely adopted. The talk will conclude with a discussion of the production and circulation of various later and pirated editions, digests, pornographic versions of the Hakkenden produced well into the Meiji period as a way to sketch the social history of the book trade across Japan's nineteenth century.

Book binding of the printed Edo books: history and physical characteristics
Kazuko Hioki, University of Kentucky, USA

This presentation sheds light on the binding of Edo books, which has not been a major interest for historians and scholars. The study of bookbinding can tell us not only about the book or its content, but the maker, the readers, and society. During the Edo period, books became a popular commodity, as a result of a flourishing commercial publishing industry. Book covers became one of the most effective advertising tools. Bright colours and elaborate decorations were used for book covers. Books were mass-produced, and their dimensions and material composition were determined by the cost and by market competition. I discuss how the physical characteristics reflect the way the books were produced, how certain cover decorations can demonstrate the links to certain periods, genres, and publishers, and how binding techniques and materials mirror the changes in book production and the publishing industry during the Edo period. Finally, I will conclude my talk with these questions; who were these cover makers? ; were they hired by the publishers?; and how were the supplies and final products distributed in the book trade?

Brief Overview of the Richard Lane Edo Book Collection
Sawako T. Chang, Honolulu Academy of Arts, USA

Dr. Richard Lane (1926-2002) was one of the foremost scholars and collectors of literature and art of the Edo period. In 2003, The Honolulu Academy of Arts acquired the art collection and research library of Dr. Lane, who had been a visiting researcher for the museum’s well-known ukiyo-e collection during the 1950s. The Lane collection consists of more than 20,000 works of art such as paintings, woodblock prints and woodblock-printed books. The entire collection of Edo woodblock-printed books was shipped to Honolulu in October 2009. The total number of those books is estimated to be between 5,000 and 6,000. In January 2010, the book collection began to be catalogued and digitally photographed in order to be made publicly available online. Prior to this project, the museum successfully digitized its ukiyo-e collections and now more than one-third of the collection can be viewed online, and the Lane book collection will be added to this database. In this presentation, I would like to give an overview of the Lane book collection and talk about the various editions and physical characteristics of the different categories of books. My research also will refer to the publishing world of Edo, specifically about a role of publishers in producing books as well as shingle-woodblock print. I hope to illuminate the advantages of having such a book collection at the museum in conjunction with our ukiyo-e collection.