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Skip to 0 minutes and 4 seconds Here I will discuss the cover title (gedai). First of all, please look at these books. I think by now you know what type of binding this is. They are all multi-section (tetsuyōsō) books. The covers all look different, which is one of the distinctive features of traditional Japanese books. Is is where the title is. Because it is on the cover, in Japan it is called “cover title” (J. gedai, lit. “outer title”). Looking inside the book, there is another title (well, some books have it, some do not), which is called naidai (inner title) to distinguish it from the outer, cover title. The inner title can come in different positions, but in this section I want to focus on the cover title.

Skip to 1 minute and 3 seconds The binding is the same for all of these books but as you can see the title appears in different positions. In these three books, looking at them from where you are, the title is on the left, in the top left area. By contrast, these two here have the title in the center area. So as a rule, the cover title comes either on the left or in the center of the cover. But why do some books have the title on the left side of the cover and some in the center?

Skip to 1 minute and 50 seconds Let us start by saying that these books with the title on the left are all waka-related texts (collections, poetic treatises, etc.), whereas the ones here with the center title are all tales (monogatari). In other words, in waka works the title usually comes on the left but in tales it comes in the center. This principle was already noted in this Kamakura-period calligraphy handbook. The relevant part is here, in this section titled “How to write on books.”

Skip to 2 minutes and 42 seconds It explains what to pay attention to when inscribing a book, and at the end, in the smaller writing here, it says that when inscribing a book of poetry the outer title should be written on the left, whereas in tales it should be written in the middle. In other words, these books here comply with a rule from the world of calligraphy. That may be so, but why did waka-related works have the title on the left and tales have it in the center? That we have yet to explain.

Skip to 3 minutes and 35 seconds As you know from having read the article, some kinds of works were bound as scrolls but some were not; the general principle was that waka-related works were made into scrolls but fictional tales were not unless they contained pictures. Here I have an example of a scroll (in this case, a Buddhist sutra). We begin to notice some kind of connection between the custom of binding only some kinds of texts as scrolls and the position of the title strip on the cover of books. If we unfurl the scroll—to actually read it you would look at the other side—but if we look at the cover, we see that the title is in exactly the same position as it appears on these book-style items.

Skip to 4 minutes and 40 seconds In scrolls the title always comes on the left-hand part of the cover, so essentially the same as in these books. That is to say, the left positioning of the cover title on books tells us that the content of that book was considered “scroll-worthy”, so to speak. By contrast, the center positioning marked content unsuited to scroll binding. As time went on this rule was not always observed. It continued to be followed in books manufactured by illustrious families interested in preserving the family traditions, even as late as the Edo period, but there were also those who ignored it. One example is this version of the Hamamatsu chūnagon monogatari (The Hamamatsu Middle Counsellor, 11th c.), a Heian-period romance.

Skip to 5 minutes and 51 seconds As a work of fiction, it would not ordinarily be bound as a scroll. In this book, the title-goes-in-the-center rule is observed, but in this example it is on the left. They are two copies of the same work but the title comes in different positions. So there are exceptions, but at least as far as old manuscripts in multi-section binding are concerned, the position of the cover title is important to determine the kind of content of the book or its grade as an artifact.








外題においても和歌と物語には書き方に違いがあります。和歌(図1. 『金葉和歌集』)は表紙の左肩に、物語(図2.『浜松中納言物語』)は中央に書くというしきたりがあったのです。

2 different types of possition of the title 左:図1. 『金葉和歌集』
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右:図2. 『浜松中納言物語』
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*Yūhitsu jōjō*

図3. 右筆条々
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巻子装を拡げて、表紙の側を見てみると、表紙の左方に外題があるのが確認できます(図4. 『大般若波羅蜜多経』)。表紙の真ん中では巻いた時に題名が見えなくなる可能性があり、巻子装の外題はこの位置以外には付けようがないのです。このことからすれば、冊子本でも外題が左肩にあるのは、巻子装に近いというか、巻子装で仕立てることが可能である作品であることを示し、中央のものは巻子装にはならずあくまでも冊子であることを示していると言えるでしょう。

scroll 図4. 大般若波羅蜜多経
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books on the table

1. 源氏物語・藤袴 2. 源氏物語:花摘む里 3. 金葉和歌集
4. 敦忠集 5. 近代秀歌 6. 右筆条々
7. 大般若波羅蜜多経 8. 浜松中納言物語 9. 浜松中納言物語

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古書から読み解く日本の文化: 和本の世界

Keio University