A Social History of the Chinese Book: Books and Literati by Joseph McDermott

By Joseph McDermott

This e-book bargains with a variety of concerns at the historical past of the publication in past due imperial China (1000 to 1800), generally involved in literati guides and readers within the decrease Yangzi delta.

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Commonly known, therefore, as “Song dynasty characters” (Songti zi) — this is the very term Milne uses to name the kind of characters written by transcribers in his analysis82 — this homogenized style is more accurately described by its alternative name of “artisanal characters” (jiangti zi). Nondescript and impersonal, it relied on the manipulation of a brush to form squarelike characters out of five kinds of straight, flat, and upright strokes ( I I I I=and ). 84 Predictably, the eyes of literati readers were not pleased.

The block cutters’ “only business is to follow their copy. Of this latter sort, there are many in China, females particularly (for they also cut as well as men), who cannot read a single word; and yet they earn their daily bread at this work. 63 Milne estimated that, over the course of a year, a good carver could cut on average 150 characters a day, and two Chinese workers, each printing from a separate block, will between them run off 2,000 paper copies a day. ”66 Yet, once again Milne shows a sharp awareness of the complexity of labor costs by noting the great range in Chinese carvers’ pay.

There are men who learn it of purpose, and devote themselves entirely to the labor of transcribing for the press. ”81 The transcribers were expected to write characters in a calligraphic style that blended and simplified the brushstroke styles of Tang dynasty calligraphers famous in the Song dynasty, such as Ouyang Xun (557–641), Yan Zhenqing (709–85), and Liu Gongchuan (778–865). Commonly known, therefore, as “Song dynasty characters” (Songti zi) — this is the very term Milne uses to name the kind of characters written by transcribers in his analysis82 — this homogenized style is more accurately described by its alternative name of “artisanal characters” (jiangti zi).

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