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New acquisitions at East Asia Library chronicling the development of Japanese printing

Pre-modern Japanese scroll. (UW library collection)

December 8, 2016

More than 75 new resources chronicling the development of Japan’s written word have been acquired for the Japanese Collection at the East Asia Library this year. These astonishing materials showcase the development of Japan’s written and printed word from the Tokugawa period all the way to the modern era in a collection that is unique to UW.

Each piece was individually found, authenticated, and purchased in Japan by Japanese Studies Librarian Azusa Tanaka and UW Professor Paul Atkins. Tanaka frequently visits Japan in search of new materials for the collection. Her latest trip took her to the Jinbōchō area of Tokyo, famous for publishing, where she acquired materials that show UW students and visitors unique examples of the development of Japan’s printing system. These include several samples of different binding styles that chronicle the movement in Japan from scrolls to thread-bound books, and on to glue-bound books. These materials will be used by Atkins in his research and teaching on Japanese literature.

Among these new acquisitions is a beautifully illustrated scroll from the Tokugawa period titled 十二箇月絵巻 (Junikagetsu emaki; 12-month scroll painting) by Fujiwara no Teika. Its 12 poems, each accompanied by an illustration, offer an ode to each month of the year. The collection also includes an example of a wooden printing block for part of a story called 治生草 (Suigiwaigusa). The block is from the late Tokugawa period and is exemplary of Japan’s early printing technology.

The Japanese Collection in the East Asia Library is one of the largest in the country with over 162,000 volumes as well as periodicals, microfilms, microfiche, videos, DVDs, and 4 online databases. These recent acquisitions will be on display at this year’s お正月会 (Oshogatsu Kai, or New Year’s Celebration) on January 12, 2017, at the East Asia Library. Look for event details on our website.

Scroll edited

 A poem featured in the new scroll by Sugawara no Fumitoki originally in the 和漢朗詠集 (Wakan rōeishū; Collection of Japanese and Chinese poems for singing) which was published in the mid-Heian period.

Palace warblers chirp in the dawn light” (translation by Paul Atkins)

By the western tower, the moon sets; songs among the blossoms.

In the central hall, the lamplight remains; sounds behind the bamboo.