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The status of manuscripts and printed books

In this lecture, we will explore how the spread of printing affected the relationship between 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)
(English Translation)
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)
(English Translation)
The trustworthy texts [of the Kokinshū] today are the ones that the aging Lord Teika copied late in his life, in Jōō 2 [1223] and Karoku 2 [1226]. 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;

  1. Kogetsushō
    Click to see the image and information
  2. Musukobeya
    Click to see the image and information
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Japanese Culture Through Rare Books

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