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Skip to 0 minutes and 3 secondsHere we will discuss the practice of format changing. We have seen that Japanese books come in a variety of formats. Let us start by taking a look at these. This is an accordion book, this is a scroll, and this here, as you no doubt know by now, is a multi-section (tetsuyōsō) book. However, this is not the original format these books were in when they were made; at some point, the format was changed. The number of traditional books that were reformatted at some point in their life is extremely high, therefore unless one is able to establish what format they were originally in, it is basically impossible to assess their value.

Skip to 0 minutes and 57 secondsWith this in mind, let us look in more detail at the practice of reformatting. Let us start with this accordion book here. As you can see, it opens like an accordion. However, this book was originally a scroll, like this one here. The roller was removed, and the roll of paper was folded on itself and covers were applied. Right, but how can you tell? It is actually very easy to tell if you open it. If you look here about half way down the paper you can see these small horizontal crinkles. The thing is, you are not supposed to have these in a standard accordion book.

Skip to 1 minute and 49 secondsThese are the kind of crinkles that you get when you roll up the paper and are known as makijiwa (roll wrinkles) in Japanese. So what happened is that, to rebind it, the roll was unfurled and then folded like this on itself but the wrinkles obviously remained. One more thing; this may not be so easy to see, but here there are marks from insect damage. These marks are another thing to look for when trying to determine if a book was reformatted or not. In accordion books, insect damage is usually found on the crease, and it spreads symmetrically on both sides, but in this case you can see that the same pattern of damage appears at regular intervals.

Skip to 2 minutes and 35 secondsThis means that the insects ate the paper when the text was still in scroll format. Also, in this book everything seems to be fine at the beginning of the book, but when you get to a certain point you see that there is writing right on the creases, which you would never find in a standard accordion book. That is because when you change the format inevitably some things end up being out of place. The fact that this book was rebound as an accordion book tells us that the scroll as a format was not very practical, so that in order to make reading and storing away the text after reading it easier, scrolls were often rebound as accordion books.

Skip to 3 minutes and 21 secondsThis is one such example.

Introduction to rebinding and an example of scroll to accordion-type book conversion

In this step, you’ll learn a basic idea about rebinding and format changing, watch a video about one of the five most common types of rebinding.

By now you must have pretty good sense of the importance and significance of binding methods in traditional bookmaking. However, it is important to note that the current binding of a book is not always its original one. Until now the practice of rebinding has been almost completely overlooked, but it deserves to be taken seriously.

Changing the cover

In traditional books, the cover is as important as the format. For example, the material and design of the cover often tells us where and when the book was made. At the same time, replacing covers was extremely common. Covers could get easily soiled or damaged, and owners or traders would frequently replace them to improve the look of their books or to increase their value. The practice continues to this very day. Applying a new, high-end cloth cover to old manuscripts was especially common (Fig.1).

*Eiga no taigai* Fig.1. Eiga no taigai (Essentials of Composition) [1]. Click to take a closer look (Left) (Center Left) (Center Right) (Right)

Changing the format of the entire book

In other cases, the entire book was rebound, thus completely altering its initial appearance. Sometimes it is close to impossible to tell whether a book was rebound or not. Occasionally scrolls were converted to accordion-type books to make the text easier to read, but in the vast majority of cases books were rebound to increase their value.

The five most common types of conversion were the following.

  1. Scroll to accordion-type book
  2. Accordion-type book to scroll
  3. Tetsuyōsō to scroll
  4. Fukurotoji to scroll
  5. Fukurotoji to tetsuyōsō

Scroll to accordion-type book

One of the most common conversions is from scroll to accordion book (Fig.2). The details are explained below. Please watch the video for an example.

Procedure: Roller and cover are removed. The scroll is then folded in equal lengths and in alternate directions (known as “mountain fold” [yamaori] and “valley fold” [taniori] in Japanese). Lastly, the cover is reapplied.

How to tell: Look for scroll-like curls and marks on the paper; check if there is writing on the creases (this shows that originally there was no crease there).

Main advantage: Ease of use.

*Myōhō rengekyō* Fig.2. Example of scroll to accordion-style book conversion: Myōhō rengekyō (Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law) [2]. Click to take a closer look (Left: Sample page 2) (Center: Sample page 1) (Right: Cover)

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This video is from the free online course:

Japanese Culture Through Rare Books

Keio University

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