The goal of our panel is to analyse an array of pre-Meiji Japanese literary texts by looking at their physical (bindings, formats, sizes, covers, etc.), material (paper, ink and pigments, etc.) and formal (layout, calligraphic hands, painting styles, etc.) features.
In recent years scholars of Japanese literature have begun looking afresh at premodern and early modern literary writings, embracing new approaches and research methodology. In particular, the study of the materiality of the book, as well as the theoretical tools offered by descriptive and analytical bibliography, appear beneficial to attain a deeper understanding of Japanese literary texts, their production and reception amongst contemporaneous readers. All written texts take shape and are passed down as material objects—booklets, scrolls, albums, broadsides, and other forms. Such textual artefacts are characterized by three pivotal elements: (1) the physical supports in which the text is inscribed; (2) the materials involved in the production process; (3) the formal and stylistic elements that determine the modes of representation of words and images. Literary writings are no exception, and it is only by studying their physical and formal elements that scholars can achieve a deeper understanding of these works, obtaining information about their production, reception, use and circulation. The goal of our panel is to analyse an array of pre-Meiji Japanese literary texts by looking at their physical (bindings, formats, sizes, covers, etc.), material (paper, ink, pigments, etc.) and formal (layout, calligraphic hands, painting styles, etc.) features. In the first presentation, Sasaki Takahiro will discuss selected examples of monogatari literature which circulated in manuscript format during the Kamakura and Nanbokuchō periods. In the second paper, Berenice Möller will analyse illustrated manuscripts of nō plays produced in the Muromachi and early Edo period. Finally, Alessandro Bianchi will investigate woodblock printed books published during the Edo period.