Peter Kornicki - Emeritus Professor of Japanese Studies & Deputy Warden, Robinson College, University of Cambridge
This special lecture is the keynote presentation for Treasures from Japan: An International Conference on Pre-Modern Books and Manuscripts in the Yale University Library that will take place from March 5-6, 2015. For centuries woodblock printing was the only alternative to manuscripts in Japan, but at the end of the sixteenth century, the technology of printing with movable type was introduced to Japan more or less simultaneously from two very different sources; the European tradition in the form of the Jesuits, who brought a printing press to Japan from Macao and used it in Kyushu, and the Korean tradition, when Hideyoshi’s troops brought printing equipment and artisans from Korea, where printing with movable type had been practiced well before Gutenberg perfected printing in Mainz in the middle of the fifteenth century. As a direct result of this technology transfer, in the early decades of the seventeenth century, many more books were printed with movable type in Japan than with woodblocks. By the 1630s however, movable type was on the way out, and by 1650, nobody was printing with movable type any more. This seems like a technological reversion so why did this happen? Many explanations have been put forward, but in this lecture Kornicki shall put forward a new explanation that draws upon early medical texts for an understanding of the dynamics that led to the revitalization of woodblock printing.