View Full Version : Publishing date for Japanese texts

Joshua Lerner
4th June 2003, 15:19
Does anyone know how to estimate or verify the publication date of a text? I have an archery manual in four volumes that I got at a used bookstore years ago, and I've been wanting to figure out how old it is. The information I can tell you about it includes -

- it looks really old, though it isn't completely falling apart.

- the last page of the last volume includes the authors' names and what I am assuming is the date it was written (not published). Both the reign (5th year of Shotoku) and the stem and branch (yin wood sheep) point to 1715. It also gives what looks like the publisher's name.

As much as I'd like to think the manual is actually almost 300 years old, I'm not holding my breath. It certainly looks like it's over 100 years old. Does anyone know of any resources for dating texts?


19th June 2003, 22:05
Hi Josh,

No takers, huh?

I don’t want to tackle the "codicology" without a physical examination of the volumes’ binding, paper, etc (maybe on my next trip up your way?). I can see some detail of the quality of the paper from the scans you sent, but not enough to make a guess about age. However, the page design—characters per column, columns per page, calligraphy, reading marks (kunten), border—are all identical to a Japanese library holding of known date I was able to compare yours with. In fact, I can see some lighter patches in the library copy, probably indicating typical wear on the printing blocks. Your copy was likely an earlier impression in the run of the edition.

Coming at it from bibliography, I checked the colophon and other information you provided against standard and specialized catalogues and publishing references (BTW, those names on the final page are not the authors, but rather the publishers). The book only went through a couple Edo-period, and no Meiji or modern, reprints. The last was the year yours is dated. I think you’ve got a winner.

I’m going to mail you a synopsis of the comparative evidence and a list of Japanese libraries that own the book. I also translated the preface. You know, for kicks.