Japan in Print: Information and Nation in the Early Modern by Mary Elizabeth Berry

By Mary Elizabeth Berry

A quiet revolution in wisdom separated the early smooth interval in Japan from all earlier time. After 1600, self-appointed investigators used the version of the land and cartographic surveys of the newly unified country to watch and order matters similar to agronomy, medication, gastronomy, trade, go back and forth, and leisure. They as a result circulated their findings via quite a few commercially published texts: maps, gazetteers, kin encyclopedias, city directories, shuttle courses, legitimate body of workers rosters, and guide manuals for every thing from farming to lovemaking. during this unique and gracefully written booklet, Mary Elizabeth Berry considers the social tactics that drove the data explosion of the 1600s. Inviting readers to ascertain the contours and meanings of this modification, Berry offers a desirable account of the conversion of the general public from an item of nation surveillance right into a topic of self-knowledge.

Japan in Print exhibits how, as investigators accumulated and disseminated richly diversified information, they got here to presume of their viewers a customary of cultural literacy that modified nameless shoppers into an "us" certain by way of universal frames of reference. This shared area of data made society seen to itself and within the method subverted notions of prestige hierarchy. Berry demonstrates that the recent public texts projected a countrywide collectivity characterised via common entry to markets, mobility, sociability, and self-fashioning.

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Example text

Here the structural imagination of authors, who learned to organize such complex notions as citiness in a newly urbanized world, was as startling as their command of detail. The ambition of these undertakings was hard to miss, for many of them vaunted their reach with splendid titles and demonstrated it at heroic length. 1 Published in 1697 in twelve fascicles, it takes up over 1,800 pages in modern print (covering everything from animal habitats to cultivation practices, from local diets to local recipes).

Since even a single font had to include many thousands of pieces, a printer’s basic investment was high and expansion into multiple fonts prohibitively expensive for most, at least in a nascent market. And because a printer’s projects were necessarily confined to the number of fonts on hand, only the rare firm could work on more than one text at a time. The reissue of a popular title remained just as demanding as a new undertaking once the type had been broken down and diverted elsewhere. The problem of the character base was exacerbated, moreover, by a seemingly untamable taste for calligraphic variety—a taste that type could serve only if printers were able to keep and constantly redesign multiple fonts.

Early modern entrepreneurs moved aggressively into the domain between necessity and extravagance, offering both commoners and samurai a range of services and goods formerly provided only to affluent households by personal retainers. They worked as hairdressers, doctors, teachers, tailors, and entertainers. And they sold all kinds of ready-made furnishings, as well as used goods and novelties, from tobacco to spectacles. As city people broadened their habits of elective consumption, once rare enterprises became normal.

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