Chapter : 4. Print Culture and The Modern World

The First Printed Books

The First Printed Books
(i) Print technology was developed in China, Japan and Korea. From 594 AD onwards, books in China were printed by rubbing paper – also inverted there – against the inked surface of woodblocks. Chinese 'accordion book' was folded and stitched at the side, superbly skilled craftsmen could duplicate, with remarkable accuracy, the beauty of calligraphy.
(ii) The imperial state in China possessed a huge bureaucratic system which recruited its personnel through civil service examinations. Textbooks for this examination were printed in vast numbers under the sponsorship of the imperial state. From the sixteenth century, the number of examination candidates went up and that increased the volume of print.
(iii) By the seventeenth century print was no longer used just by scholar-officials, merchants used print in their everyday life. Reading increasingly became a leisure activity. The new readership preferred fictional narratives, poetry, autobiographies, anthologies of literary masterpieces, and romantic plays.
(a) Print Culture of Japan :
(i) Buddhist missionaries from China introduced hand printing technology into Japan around AD 768-770.
(ii) The oldest Japanese book, printed in AD 868, is the Buddhist Diamond Sutra, containing six sheets of text and woodcut illustrations.
(iii) Pictures were printed on playing cards, paper money and textile products.
(iv) In medieval Japan, the works of poets and prose writers were 'regularly published and books were cheap and abundant.
(v) In the late 18th century, in the flourishing urban circles at Edo (later to be known as Tokyo), illustrated collections of paintings depicted an elegant urban culture, involving artists, courtesans and teahouse gatherings.

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