First Japanese Book Printed from Movable Type

Ariwara Narihira (825-880), 伊勢物語 (Ise monogatari or Tales of Ise) [S.l. : s.n., 慶長戊申 i.e. 1608?]. Second edition. Graphic Arts (GAX) 2008- in process.

“In 1593, in the wake of the Japanese invasion of Korea, a printing press with movable type was sent from Korea as a present for Emperor Go-Yōzei. …The printing press may have been offered to the emperor more as a curiosity than as a practical invention, but that same year he commanded that it be used to print an edition of the Confucian Kobun Kokyo (Classic of Filial Piety). Four years later, in 1597, a Japanese version of the Korean printing press was built with wooden instead of metal type, probably because of the difficulties of casting; and in 1599 this press was used to print the first part of the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan).

By this time printing was developing into the hobby of the rich … and many editions began to appear. These editions, associated with Emperors Go-Yōzei and Go-Mizunoo and with such figures as Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, were intended for presentation and not for sale. The finest printed books of the time were designed by the artist Hon’ami Kōetsu (1558-1637)… [and] the masterpiece of this press was the illustrated edition of Ise Monogatari (Tales of Ise) published in 1608.”

from Donald Keene, World Within Walls: Japanese Literature of the Pre-Modern Era, 1600-1867 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, c1976) East Asian Library (Gest): Western, PL726.35.K4

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