36; 50; 25 leaves (each leaf consisting of two leaves pasted together at the fore-edge). 8vo (272 x 190 mm.), orig. wrappers, orig. manuscript title labels on upper covers (first label a little defective), new stitching. [Japan: between 1624-43].
A very rare movable type digest edition of the celebrated Tale of Genji. By the beginning of the 17th century, the Tale of Genji was not easy to read without a teacher. As a result, a series of digests or condensed versions, offering easier access to the text in more familiar language, were published. According to Peter Kornicki, seven movable type editions of the digest Genji kokagami had appeared by 1640 (see his fine “Unsuitable Books for Women? ‘Genji Monogatari’ and ‘Ise Monogatari’ in Late Seventeenth-Century Japan” in Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 60, No. 2 [Summer, 2005] pp. 147-93). All these editions were published in a relatively short period of time and reflect the considerable demand by the reading public for this classic text.
Our copy was featured in the 1960, 50th anniversary catalogue of the “Tokyo Kotenkai” (“Tokyo Booksellers’ Guild”), item 425, consigned by Sorimachi. In Sorimachi’s monumental catalogue of Japanese movable type books (1972), he describes another, rather stained, copy of the same edition (item 299), also with twelve lines per page and using the same hiragana and kanji fonts, and dated “mid-Kan’ei” (the Kan’ei period was 1624-43). Sorimachi states that he knew of only one other copy of our edition, at Yasuda Bunko. No copy of our edition is located in WorldCat. The copy listed by the British Library is a “married” set from several movable type editions.
The first printing of the Genji kokagami was a privately printed movable type edition issued at Saga in 1610 with nine lines to a page.
A very good set. There is some minor staining and very minor worming to all three volumes.
Item ID: 6625