Skip to 0 minutes and 3 seconds We may divide books into two main categories: printed books and handwritten books. Modern bookshops only sell printed books, but Edo-period bookshops not only also sold manuscripts, but they could have them made on order. The term “manuscript” referred to everything from notes and jottings meant for personal use to widely-circulated, high quality copies of important books. Where as producing the blocks to print books required considerable capital investment and compliance with a complex series of governmental regulations, manuscripts could be cheaply produced, and because of the fewer restrictions compared to printed books, there was also considerably more flexibility with regard to content. Finally, manuscripts were prestigious.
Skip to 1 minute and 14 seconds The Edo period saw a dramatic rise in the number and range of printed books, but how did this affect the perception of both printed and handwritten books? The Osaka-based Ihara Saikaku, who was active in the second half of the 17th century, was one of the most successful authors of his generation. He produced a long list of lively novels in which he poked fun at characters from all walks of life. In Shōen ōkagami ,
Skip to 1 minute and 45 seconds a collection of stories set in the pleasure quarters, there is the following scene: [English translation] It is hard to be a tayū ! Once, a man of feeble memory was having an argument about whether the phrase “love is the most irrational of all pursuits” appears in the “Hahakigi” chapter of the Tale of Genji . He dispatched someone to the house of a tayū to fetch a copy of the Genji . The man returned with a copy of the Kogetsushō .
Skip to 2 minutes and 13 seconds Having settled the dispute, the forgetful man said: “The tayū of this area are no longer what they used to be! In the olden days, a tayū would have owned a full library of the finest books in the hand of famous calligraphers. To send one of these printed books?how crude! Why is the lady criticized for handing out a printed book? The Kogetsushō was a hugely popular commentary to the Tale of Genji published by Kitamura Kigin in 1675. The Tale of Genji was first published in print form in the early 17th century, which means that for six-hundred years since it was written, it was read in manuscript form.
Skip to 3 minutes and 4 seconds Because it was considered required reading for waka poets, hundreds, perhaps thousands of copies were made, of which the beautifully written, lavishly bound copies by aristocratic scribes to which the forgetful man in Saikaku’s story refers to were the most precious. Manuscript versions continued to be made in the Edo period, but with the appearance of the printed editions, and especially with the publication of annotated editions like the Kogetsushō , owning the printed edition is likely to have been the norm. As the highest ranking among the courtesans, the tayū was expected to be highly educated, and the Genji in particular, because it dealt with love and relationships, was very much required knowledge for a professional of the love industry.
Skip to 4 minutes and 5 seconds This image  is from a book dealing with the pleasure quarters published in the second half of the 18th century. It shows a courtesan in the company of one of her clients and on the left-hand side, in front of one of the two book cases behind the woman, is a copy of a book titled Kogetsushū , probably an error for Kogetsushō . Courtesans and the Kogetsushō are often pictured together in art and literature from the 18th century onwards, which is another indicator of the work’s popularity among courtesans. Before the advent of print and print culture, a tayū would have owned a handwritten copy of the Genji .
Skip to 4 minutes and 49 seconds Because of her high rank, only the highly prestigious manuscript book would have been considered suitable. All that changed with the appearance of books like the Kogetsushō . In a sense, we can see the comment of the forgetful man in Saikaku’s Shoen ōkagami as an elegy to the end of manuscript culture. With the spread of printed books, the manuscript ceased to be simply a way of making books. The poet and classicist Katō Enao notes in a work titled “Kokinshūshō no oku ni kakeru kotoba”. [English translation] The trustworthy texts today are the ones that the aging Lord Teika copied late in his life, in Jōō 2 and Karoku 2.
Skip to 5 minutes and 44 seconds Poets of commoner stock today feel that if they own a printed version of the Kokin wakashū , they don’t need to make their own copy of it. But even today true connoisseurs do not stop at that. For example, the Confucian scholar Ogyū Sorai is said to have copied the Wenxuan three times in his personal notebooks. That is what one must do if one is serious about art, and that is why I have already copied the Kokinshū three times myself. Ever since its compilation in 905, the Kokinwakashū had been the sacred book of waka poets. Like the Genji , it had been read in manuscript form for centuries before the first printed editions appeared in the early 17th century.
Skip to 6 minutes and 42 seconds More than 30 different print editions were published during the Edo period, far more than any other work of Japanese literature. Demand was so high that bookshops could pretty much assume a good volume of sales from it. In the 18th century when Enao wrote the above passage, the Kokinshū had been easy to get hold of for a while, and few poets now went to the trouble of copying it personally. By going against the trend of the time and copying it several times, Enao showed his commitment to waka. If prior to the spread of printing hand-copying texts had been just a way of producing books, in the age of print it acquired a new meaning.
Skip to 7 minutes and 48 seconds In his autobiography, Shugyōroku , the government official Matsudaira Sadanobu claims to have personally copied many of the major classic poetry collections and prose tales several times, including seven different complete copies of the Tale of Genji . By this time, producing handwritten copies of classic texts no longer had a practical purpose, so it became almost a form of asceticism that signified complete devotion to a book or literary genre.
The status of manuscripts and printed books
Books come in two main types: handwritten books (shahon in Japanese) and printed books (kanpon). In this video, we will explore how the spread of printing affected the relationship between manuscripts and printed books.
In the video, Professor Ichinohe will introduce excerpts from two Edo-period texts. You’ll find the original Japanese text for each reproduced below, along with English translations, to enable you to take a closer look:
Example 1 : The story of a man who tried to borrow a copy of the Tale of Genji from a tayū
- Shoen ōkagami (The Great Mirror of Beauties: Son of an Amorous Man, 1684) by Ihara Saikaku (1642-1693)
It is hard to be a tayū [senior courtesan]! Once, a man of feeble memory was having an argument about whether the phrase “love is the most irrational of all pursuits” appears in the “Kashiwagi” [The Oak Tree] chapter of the Tale of Genji. He dispatched someone to the house of a tayū to fetch a copy of the Genji. The man returned with a copy of the Kogetsushō. Having settled the dispute, the forgetful man said: “The tayū of this area are no longer what they used to be! In the olden days, a tayū would have owned a full library of the finest books in the hand of famous calligraphers. To send one of these printed books—how crude!”
Example 2 : A waka poet is proud of having personally copied the Kokinshū three times
- Kokinshūshō no oku ni kakeru kotoba (A postface to the Kokinshūshō, 1742) by Katō Enao (1693-1785)
The trustworthy texts [of the Kokinshū] today are the ones that the aging Lord Teika copied late in his life, in Jōō 2  and Karoku 2 . Poets of commoner stock today feel that if they own a printed version of the Kokin wakashū, they don’t need to make their own copy of it. But even today true connoisseurs do not stop at that. For example, the Confucian scholar Ogyū Sorai [1666-1728] is said to have copied the Wenxuan[Literary Selections, c. 520] three times in his personal notebooks. That is what one must do if one is serious about art, and that is why I have already copied the Kokinshū three times myself.
Books introduced in the video
Number in the subtitle indicates the book # in the list here;
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