A Social History of the Chinese Book
Books and Literati Culture in Late Imperial China
ISBN : 978-962-209-782-7
Understanding China: New Viewpoints on History and Culture
310 pages, 5.5″ x 8.5″
Also available in Hardback HK$175.00
In this learned, yet readable, book, Joseph McDermott introduces the history of the book in China in the late imperial period from 1000 to 1800. He assumes little knowledge of Chinese history or culture and compares the Chinese experience with books with that of other civilizations, particularly the European.
Yet he deals with a wide range of issues in the history of the book in China and presents novel analyses of the changes in Chinese woodblock bookmaking over these centuries. He presents a new view of when the printed book replaced the manuscript and what drove that substitution. He explores the distribution and marketing structure of books, and writes fascinatingly on the history of book collecting and about access to private and government book collections.
In drawing on a great deal of Chinese, Japanese, and Western research this book provides a broad account of the way Chinese books were printed, distributed, and consumed by literati and scholars, mainly in the lower Yangzi delta, the cultural center of China during these centuries. It introduces interesting personalities, ranging from wily book collectors to an indigent shoe-repairman collector. And, it discusses the obstacles to the formation of a truly national printed culture for both the well-educated and the struggling reader in recent times.
This broad and comprehensive account of the development of printed Chinese culture from 1000 to 1800 is written for anyone interested in the history of the book. It also offers important new insights into book culture and its place in society for the student of Chinese history and culture.
“A brilliant piece of synthetic research as well as a delightful read, it offers a history of the Chinese book to the eighteenth century that is without equal.” —Timothy Brook, University of British Columbia
“Writers, scribes, engravers, printers, binders, publishers, distributors, dealers, literati, scholars, librarians, collectors, voracious readers — the full gamut of a vibrant book culture in China over one thousand years — are examined with eloquence and perception by Joseph McDermott in The Social History of the Book. His lively exploration will be of consuming interest to bibliophiles of every persuasion.” —Nicholas A. Basbanes, author of A Gentle Madness, Patience and Fortitude, A Splendor of Letters, and Every Book Its Reader