Japanese Woodblock Prints History

About a 和古書(Wakosyo)

To this site, the Wa-kosyo is defined as being “the book published in Japan at ancient times”(Wa is mean japan).
If it says more strictly, it will be the book published before Meiji Era (Edo period etc.) with the 和綴じ(Watoji),和装本(Wasoubon), etc.

The beginning of books can be traced back to a lithograph, a wooden tablet (bamboo writing strip), etc.
The foundations were hand-drawn although I thought in Japan whether it started in the form which descended from China.
Although reproduced by what is called handwriting, since a workload had a limit, there was no large thing appeared on the market like.
However, the publication by wood engraving spread through the Edo period, and the printed matter of various forms, such as a tile book print, was born.

That this site is collecting prepares the appearance of a book by such a flow, and it serves as a book.

The character written to the japanese old books

A character is important for being realized as a book.
With the old Japanese book, the character different from a present-day Chinese character and Japanese syllabary was used.
It is as follows if parts are enumerated.

  • Chinese word
  • Manyou of a kana letter
  • Variant form of a kana letter

Although it changed according to the situation of an author’s intention, the purpose, and its time, the more it became in the second half, the more two or more characters came to be used simultaneously.

If it enters an Edo term, Chinese character Japanese-syllabary mixture will also spread.
Probably, it was able to read, when it was people beyond the level of academic ability on fixed, although it related also to literacy of those days and study degree.

As for the old book currently exhibited at this site, the Chinese character and the variant form of a kana letter are used fundamentally.

Variant form of a kana letter

A variant form of a kana letter is a general term for the Japanese syllabary which was not enacted at the Meiji term.
It is said that it is also called the variant Japanese syllabary.

If it sees for the first time, it does not know at all that what is written, but if it sees thoroughly, imagination will come to stick.
Since the Japanese syllabary is the character born by breaking down the form of a Chinese character, if native Japanese reading of the Chinese character of a basis can be performed, it can read somehow.

However, unlike the present printing type, the character and the character have touched, and distinction is difficult in many cases and there is.
If it gets used, it can divide with feeling.
However, if it does not come out consulting a dictionary at first, it can hardly read.
In addition, it goes across the form which should be memorized since two or more language showing one sound exists variably.