IDENTIFYING JAPANESE FIRST EDITIONS, ETC.

June 23rd, 2007. My thanks to Craig Harris for helping me to recover the images for these pages, which I thought had vanished without hope of recovery!

This is the short-page version, with links to each page. If you want to print it out, or if you prefer to view it all as one continuous page, click here to go to the long-page version.



TABLE OF CONTENTS


PREAMBLE: IS THE BOOK COMPLETE? (See below)


LOCATING THE PAGE WITH THE PUBLICATION DETAILS

EXAMPLES OF PAGES GIVING PUBLICATION DETAILS IN JAPANESE BOOKS


READING JAPANESE DATES (1)

INTERPRETING THE DATE

IDENTIFYING REPRINT EDITIONS

READING JAPANESE DATES (2)

IDENTIFYING BOOKS WHICH ARE PART OF A SERIES

OTHER PUBLICATION DETAILS

EXAMPLES OF PUBLISHING STATEMENTS (1)

EXAMPLES OF PUBLISHING STATEMENTS (2)


These pages are not for experts; they are for people who do not speak Japanese but who, for one reason or another, have an interest in books written in Japanese. The aim is to explain as simply as possible and with a minimum of technical terms how to identify points which matter to a book collector, like the date the book was published, and whether it is a first edition.

IS THE BOOK COMPLETE?

Just as important as identifying the edition is the matter of whether the book is complete. This is not as straightforward as it sounds. Prior to the 20th century most books were issued in a soft binding, with pages folded concertina-style and sewn at the spine (fukurotouji binding). If you have one of these in your hand it is at least a complete book (though check the section on books which are part of a series to see if it is one of a set). More recent books, however, are frequently issued in a slipcase and - even more common - with a wraparound band. To be complete, a Japanese book issued with such a band should still retain the band. To see what these bands look like, CLICK HERE.

Identifying First Editions

Identifying first editions of Japanese books is usually a fairly straightforward matter (most books carry a statement with details at the back). Books which do not carry a publishing statement are generally either reprints or single volumes from a series (often - especially in the case of older books - it is only the last volume of the series which carries the publishing statement).

Unlike Western publishers, Japanese publishers usually follow very similar conventions, and show not only the day, month and year the book was published, but whether it is a first printing or a later printing. The only thing they do
not usually tell you is whether the book has been previously published by another publisher. To find out whether a given publication is actually the first time the book has appeared in printed form you will need to have software to enable you to read and write Japanese and enter the details on the NACSIS website, but inputting the information will present difficulties unless you can get help with the transcription (i.e., you need to be able to know how it is pronounced in order to be able to type it). If you don't want to go into it that deeply, there is also a chance that you can find the book you are looking for in the western alphabet on the OCLC website, but again you need at least to know how the title is pronounced.

If you're going to take things that bit further, and try to work out some of the Japanese characters yourself, you'll probably want to whittle down the amount of work you need to do. If you focus on the page that gives the publication details you will probably be able to get all the bibliographical information you need. You'll also need some decent tools. Gakken publish a book called A New Dictionary of Kanji Usage,which covers the basic characters and their most common collocations, and once you get a bit more advanced Sharp do a kind of all-singing-all-dancing electronic dictionary called a Zaurus, that you can write the Japanese characters into and it will read them for you, tell you how they're pronounced, what they mean and how they collocate. It will even find all the characters that have a certain basic component (for those characters that are too complicated to write in accurately).

But that's all for the more serious scholar. For now, I just want to give enough information so that anyone who's got a passing interest in Japanese books can start to find their feet. If you're collecting the works of your favourite author in every language under the sun, or you have Japanese ancestry but no knowledge (or little knowledge) of the language, or you're fascinated by Japanese woodblock print books and want to own a couple of  examples, or whatever - this web page is for you. Study it for an hour or two, and you should be able to work out the date of most of the Japanese books that come your way.
          
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