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2002 articles 1985 articles

Obiya Ihei, a Japanese provincial publisher

P. F. Kornicki


COMMERCIAL publishing came of age in Japan during the Tokugawa period (1600- 1868). Both at the beginning and at the end of this period there was a vogue for experimenting with movable type, but from the middle of the seventeenth century the burgeoning publishing industry relied almost exclusively on wood-block printing, and it continued to do so until the 1870s. The industry developed to such an extent that there was by the early nineteenth century a national, albeit informal, network of publishers and distributors and a national market for the printed book. So at the time of the opening of Japan in 1854 and the subsequent Meiji Restoration of 1868 there already existed in Japan the means of publishing and communication which could serve to inform the inhabitants of Japan about the world from which they had long been cut off. The first newspapers and magazines were predominantly wood-block publications, but soon after the Meiji Restoration wood-block printing began to lose ground rapidly to printing with movable type, which enjoyed the stimulus of newly imported Western technology. There can be no doubt, however, that the foundations of the Meiji publishing industry were laid in the Tokugawa period.

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