Japanese Book History: A View from USC Libraries


From the seventeenth century (during the Edo period), peace and political stability, the growth of a commercial economy, rising levels of education and literacy, and urbanization all led to the rapid development of a commercial publishing industry based on woodblock printed books. Indeed, "Japanese books were until the 1880s almost exclusively block-printed books" (Kornicki, The Book in Japan, p.26). Yet, moveable type (both metallic and wooden) was known, having been introduced first by Jesuit missionaries and then brought back from military campaigns in Korea. There was a fifty-year period in which moveable type was used extensively, before the older technology of woodblock printing took over. The continued use of woodblock printing (xylography) instead of moveable type printing represented a choice and scholars have shown there are several reasons why it was preferred. To summarize briefly, woodblock printing (xylography) allowed for flexibility in rendering the Japanese language; a calligraphic, or handwritten, quality to the text with less uniformity across books than would be achieved with moveable type; text-image integration on the page; and color printing including the use of multiple colors on one pageFor a detailed explanation see Kornicki, The Book in Japan, p. 26-30, 136-142.


This page has paths:

Contents of this path: