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Japanese Woodblock Print Books

20 November 2023

Publisher unknown, Japan, c. 1850
Bib# 503828, UC Rare Books Collection


These two beautiful books are from a group of seventeen Japanese volumes, dating from 1840's to 1880's. Most of the novels are plays but they also includes some prose, and they represent works by the authors Kyozan, Mantei, Mitsuhiko Rittei, Senka Rittei, Rynentei, Rynkatei, Ryntei, Sansantei, and Takada. Almost all these books feature illustrations by Toyokuni Utagawa (1769-1825), a renowned Japanese woodblock artist.

Writing is thought to have spread from China to Japan in around the 4th century AD. Although the Japanese language is very different, it nonetheless borrowed many Chinese characters to form a new written script. Today the average Japanese person must be able to read and write some 2000 symbols, while the average European must recognize only around 52 alphabetic signs and symbols. 

Chinese characters
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