30; 32; 38; 40 folding leaves. Four vols. Large 8vo, orig. dark green patterned wrappers (some worming touching but not obscuring text), orig. block-printed title labels on upper covers, new stitching. Kyoto: Fushimiya Toemon, colophon dated “1683.”
First edition to be published in Japan of this important encyclopedic work, printed in Chinese with Japanese reading marks. One of the first encyclopedias compiled in China, it was written by Hua Zhang (232-300), statesman, book collector, scholar, writer, and protoscientist, who also wrote, with Xu Xun, the famous catalogue of the imperial library known as Zhongjing bu [Catalogue of the Palace Texts].
Bo wu zhi was first printed in China in 1505. “The Bowu zhi is a collection of 322 items divided into 37 subject headings. Most of the material consists of short anecdotes that are more descriptive than narrative. The first juan of the Song edition gives an account of the geography of the realm, including mountains, oceans, rivers, lakes, and unusual phenomena, ending with a rhymed zan (appraisal). The Bowu zhi is attested as early as the sixth century.”–Knechtges & Chang, Ancient and Early Medieval Chinese Literature, I, pp. 50-51 & see III, pp. 2156-63 for a biographical account of Zhang.
This is one of the earliest Chinese encyclopedias to be published in Japan. “Another influential text was Zhang Hua’s Bowuzhi, compiled by imperial commission at the end of the third century. Its ten volumes arranged all available information into different headings: geography; foreign lands and their populations; strange and wondrous beasts, birds, insects, fish, trees, and herbs; medicines; clothes and food; people, books, instruments of various kinds, and music; legends and myths; history; and miscellaneous. Zhang Hua was the first to employ the word bowu (hakubutsu in Japanese) to define the realm of all that is knowable in the universe. In Meiji Japan, the term came to be used as an equivalent for ‘natural history,’ but for Zhang Hua it covered not only the physical aspects of the world but also human civilization, legends, history, and mythology.”–Federico Marcon, The Knowledge of Nature and the Nature of Knowledge in Early Modern Japan, p. 77.
The final two volumes of our edition contain the supplementary writings of Shi Li (1127-79), compiled in the mid-12th century. Shi Li has followed the model of the Bo wu zhi, and much of the text is concerned with astronomy.
A very good set and rare, with the rare leaf of colophon in the final volume. This is a rare book, with WorldCat locating only the Harvard copy in North America.
Item ID: 7519