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Less common binding methods

The video shows less common binding styles other than five main binding styles using examples. Watch Prof. Sasaki explains in details with rare books.

The video introduces the less common binding styles. Read the article below and watch Prof. Sasaki talk about them.

Tatamimono (fold-up books)

The fourth of the less common formats is the (d) tatamimono (fold-up books). Several sheets of paper are joined together to form a single large sheet, which is then carefully folded both vertically and horizontally to close it. Once folded, the covers are applied. (See below)

Kyō ōezu Fig.1 Example of Tatamimono: Kyō ōezu [Grand Map of the Capital]
Click to take a closer look

This format was used for maps, diagrams, and board games like sugoroku. Tatamimono are counted in ho.

Tan’yōsō (“single leaf” binding)

Another rarer format is the (c) tan’yōsō (“single leaf” binding), which consists in joining together whole sheets without folding them. (See below)

Genji kokagami Fig.2 Example of Tan’yōsō: Genji kokagami [The Little Mirror of the Genji].
Click to take closer look

Although it would seem to be the simplest of all methods, it never became popular. The covers are sometimes applied with thread, as in the fukurotoji, and sometimes tied according to the musubitoji method, so it’s impossible to tell the binding without looking inside.

Musubitoji (“knot” binding).

Some of the less common formats must also be mentioned. The first is the (a) musubitoji (“knot” binding). Rather than a distinct type of binding, it is probably more accurate to describe it as a particular way to apply the cover to the book. Pairs of holes are opened on both covers near the spine and bundled thread or string is passed through them from underneath the spine and then tied in a knot over the cover. (See Below).

Baien kishō Fig.3 Example of Musubitoji: Baien kishō [Baien Curiosities].
Click to take a closer look to a different version of the same book

It is very decorative, so it was used on both fukurotoji and tetsuyōsō-style books. Its use is documented as early as the 12th century. It is sometimes referred to as Yamato-toji (Yamato binding), which is also another name for the tetsuyōsō format, so caution is needed when using the term.

Hōhaisō (“wrapped-spine” binding)

Next is the (b) hōhaisō (wrapped-spine binding). Instead of the usual two pieces for the two covers (front and back), a single piece of material is wrapped around three sides of the book serving as front cover, spine, and back cover. (See below)

Embun hyakushū Fig.4 Example of Hōhaisō: Embun hyakushu [One-hundred Poem Sequence of the Enbun era]. Click to take a closer look

In some items, only the area of the spine is wrapped with the outer layer of paper. This method seems to have been particularly popular in the late Muromachi period (16th century). In terms of how to count such items, the best policy is to look at how the paper is joined together.

Summary of Binding Styles

To sum up, Japanese books come in many different formats, which were used according to the book’s content and purpose. I have already noted that scrolls were the most prestigious format, but it is worth adding that, especially in the case of beautifully written items made with superior quality paper, their value for textual research is also very high, as they tend to preserve the most accurate and precise version of the text. Book-style formats, on the other hand, tend to be less textually reliable. That is not to say that they are always necessarily poor from a documentary point of view. Even fukurotoji books, which were arguably the least carefully produced, were sometimes made under the direct supervision of the author. The point is rather that if books come to us in different bindings, we need to consider why they do and what the binding may tell us about the nature and content of that book.

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Japanese Culture Through Rare Books

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