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Over the last few steps we have studied various ways to decorate paper, but books can be made of more than just paper. The books I have here, for example, all have covers made of fabric. At the fact that the Japanese word for “book cover” (hyōshi) contains the word “paper” (shi) suggests, paper was the standard material for book covers. In some cases, however, fabric was used instead. Some very ancient scrolls and other such precious items have covers made of fine silk gauze (ra), which has the characteristic of being extremely fragile.
With the rise of interest in the tea ceremony (sadō) between the late-Muromachi and and the early-Edo periods (late 16th, early 17th c.) there was also a surge of interest in fine silks and other expensive items from China Before long, silk began to be used on book covers Luxurious new silk covers were also applied to old books to replace covers that had been damaged or soiled. The first item we have here is an Edo-period book that has a cover made of ra or usuginu (silk gauze). This material was used to make book covers since early times. An example of a book with a fabric cover that was added later as a replacement is this one here.
The book itself is a Muromachi-period text (14th~15th century) and it is very likely that originally it had a paper cover. However, because it is a very valuable book, some time later, in the Edo period, the owner decided to replace the old cover with one made of this very fine kind of silk with pattern woven in gold thread called kinran. The three books here all date from the Edo period. By this point it had become common to put silk covers on expensive books. The cover of the first example here is made of donsu (silk damask). The designs are made using not gold thread but threads of different colors instead. Moving on to this example here, it is exceptionally lavish.
The cover is made of an extremely intricate, expensive brocade called kinran-nishiki (golden brocade) made of gold thread of various tones. This item here also has a cover made of expensive, multi-color brocade (nishiki) Several things suggest that these two books were made by people close to the emperor and it was in such elite circles that these expensive silk book covers were used. The world of traditional textiles is as complex and interesting as that of paper and would require its own course. In the past, I have written on textiles in books for or about the tea ceremony, so please take a look if you have a chance.

本は必ずしも紙だけで作られているわけではありません。 例えば、ブックカバーはしばしば布で作られていました。裂(破片)は昔の生地の端切れです。


  • 羅(ら・うすぎぬ):薄い絹織物 。平安時代に表紙に用いた例が現存している。
  • 金襴(きんらん):金の糸を加えて模様を織り込んだ絹織物。中国製のものが鎌倉時代頃から輸入されるようになり、室町末ころから日本でも製作されるようになった。
  • 緞子(どんす):縦横で異なる色の糸を用いて模様を織り込んだ絹織物。金襴と同様に中国から輸入され、室町末ころから国産されるようになっている。
  • 錦(にしき):様々な色糸を用いて模様を織り込んだ絹織物の総称。5世紀には日本に伝わっており、奈良時代には国産が行われていた。
  • 金襴錦(きんらんにしき):金の糸を交えた錦のこと。




books on the table



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古書から読み解く日本の文化: 和本を彩る和紙の世界

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