3, 6, 67 folding leaves. Large 8vo, orig. yellow patterned wrappers (wrappers a little soiled), orig. block-printed title label on upper cover, new stitching. [Hansŏng: Mugyo sinp’an, 1869].
First edition of a rare anonymous manual for the general education of writers of classical Chinese from late Chosŏn Korea. The terms “bamboo slips” and “wooden tablets” originally referred to the material supports of writing in antiquity. In classical Chinese usage of later ages — and in this title — the phrases were used metonymically in reference to the implements and genres of classical Chinese writing. The Essentials of the Bamboo Slips and Wooden Tablets is a thematically arranged guide for letter writing. The table of contents lists occasions on which to write letters, beginning with “seasons greetings” category, such as “invitation for the new year” (wŏn’il ch’ŏng). Also included are phrases to aid in compositions on other themes, such as “political matters,” “marriages,” and “sojourning.” Other linguistic information provided includes classical Chinese measures, such as “bottle” or “pot” for wine. The book also contains physical-world information: distances of various locations within the Korean provinces and a list of military camps. Notably, it includes a list of “state taboos of our dynasty” (ponjo kukki), with biographical data on the Chosŏn rulers.
While focused on the acquisition of everyday writing skills in classical Chinese, this book brings to mind a larger genre of so-called “daily use encyclopedias” (Ch.: riyong leishu), which flourished in East Asia from at least the 16th century onward but had older antecedents. Those books provided readers, even from lower social strata, with information for use in a variety of areas. The present book, with its national viewpoint and inclusion of elements of elite writing such as classical Chinese verse, probably envisaged a rather more elite readership, or at least one that had aspirations of social advancement.
While our copy is undated, it appears to be the same edition as the Harvard and Columbia copies (WorldCat accession number 40443756).
A very nice copy. First few leaves with minor staining. With thanks to Prof. Marten Soderblom Saarela of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan.
Item ID: 8454