RENAISSANCE OF JAPANESE CLASSICS is currently on show at the Printing Museum, Tokyo
Japan in and around the Edo period (1603-1868) produced hand-copied books in vast numbers almost unparalleled throughout the world. Simultaneously, printed books saw an explosive increase in production. Printed books in Japan came in various forms.
One very widespread type of book was the seihan-bon, or bound woodblock-printed book, where the content of each page was carved in reverse onto a single block of wood for printing. Illustrations, also block-printed, were added to produce sumptuous volumes of literary classics and how-to books lining the shelves of Edo-period booksellers. The use of wooden movable type was an innovation that also gained currency during this period. Books printed in this method were called mokkatsuji-bon. Soon afterward came the boom of ukiyo-e prints—the single-sheet woodblock prints known today the world over.
The flourishing of printing and publishing in Edo-period Japan can be seen as a Renaissance that firmly and tangibly placed the country's language and literature into the hands of the general population—our ancestors, who, thanks to the advent of affordable block-printed versions, gained access to the Tale of Genji and other classics previously available only as hand-copied editions, along with works of popular fiction collectively referred to as kusazoshi, and in the 19th and early 20th centuries, works written in vernacular, colloquial Japanese.
The exhibition Renaissance of Japanese Classics is a fresh attempt to trace this development. It is hoped that the exhibition will inspire further new discussions and constructive feedback on the subject.
Printing Museum, Tokyo
Printing Museum, Tokyo
Born in Tokyo in 1945. Graduated from the Faculty of Letters at the University of Tokyo in 1965, and after completing the masters degree course at the university became a research assistant at the Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University in 1969. Became an assistant professor at the Faculty of Letters at the University of Tokyo in 1976, and later became a professor. Served as the Director-General of The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo from 2001, becoming Director of the Printing Museum, Tokyo in 2005, a position he still holds. His fields of specialization are Western history and Western cultural history.