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Sokushin jobutsu gi [Becoming a Buddha in this Life]
19 leaves, six columns per page. 8vo (250 x 155 mm.), orig. brown paper wrappers, pasted paper leaf book (detchoso). [Negoro Temple]: from the colophon "Koryaku 1" [1379]. An extremely early and rare example of Japanese woodblock printing, a technology introduced by the Chinese in the 8th century. This is one of the earliest surviving publications of the great Negoro Temple in Kishu, founded in the 11th century. The earliest known printed work from this temple is dated 1378. In all, about twenty titles from Negoro Temple, ranging from 1378 to 1562, are known to survive. WorldCat locates no copy nor can we find another copy of the same edition in the Japanese union catalogues. In Japan, "printing in the centuries before 1600 was dominated by Buddhist institutions and it was used to print mostly Buddhist texts in Chinese. It was not centralized, however, and one characteristic of this period is the geographical diffusion, for in addition to the temples of Kyoto, Nara, Mt. Koya and Kamakura, some other provincial temples also engaged in printing, such as the Negoroji in the province of Kii, which printed many titles from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries."-Kornicki, The Book in Japan, p. 124. The first book printed at Mt. Koya known to exist is dated 1253. The Negoro-ji complex was influential and prosperous as the head seminary for the Shingi sect of Shingon Buddhism. In 1288 a group of dissident monks moved from Mt. Koya to Negoro; two of them brought along the technology of printing. They were interested in disseminating their religion and started a printing house at the temple, which eventually became known as "Negoroban." An active publication program was instituted and continued to 1585, when every building except the main pagoda, and a few others, were burnt down during the Siege of Negoro-ji by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. "These early and unadorned Buddhist texts seems to have been little sought or discovered by collectors outside Japan. Nothing of the sort exists in the Spencer collection of the New York Public Library, or the Chester Beatty collection in Dublin; Philip Hofer, most perceptive of collectors and a hawk for opportunity, seeking treasure in Japan of the 1950s, had his focus only upon manuscript. The Hyde collection formed at the same time, was an interesting exception."-Franklin, Exploring Japanese Books and Scrolls, p. 20. The binding is made of rough, thick mulberry paper. This is an early example of detchoso (or butterfly) style of binding, in which each sheet of paper is folded in half and bound together using glue on the folded ends of the sheets. Such detchoso books were the first truly bound books produced in Japan, where the leaves of texts were attached to the spine and cover. The calligraphy is bold and unsophisticated, reflecting the temple's distance from both Nara and Kyoto. The reading marks, in black ink, have been added by hand as well as the red ink punctuation and additional reading marks. This copy is in fine and fresh condition. There is some mostly marginal worming in the gutter and outer margins, occasionally touching some characters. From the library of Donald and Mary Hyde (their sale, Christie's NYC, 7 October 1988, lot 62). Preserved in a box. ❧ Kikuya Nagasawa, Kosho no hanashi [Tale of Rare Books] (1976), pp. 111-12-(who states that very little is actually known about the early days of woodblock printing of books in Japan).
      [Bookseller: Jonathan A. Hill, Bookseller, Inc.]
Last Found On: 2017-06-09           Check availability:      Biblio    


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