Now let's take a look at some examples of publication statements from actual books. There are quite a few variations on the basic format I've already described, and I'll try to cover as many of these as possible.

Here, to start with, are the publication details from the four books whose publication page I have pictured so far.


This is the part of the publication page that we are interested in. I've highlighted the date and included enough of the context to make it clear that it is not one of a series of dates. This is the only date given, so this is the date we are interested in.

Before the date come the two symbols meaning "publication" or "distribution" (number 8 on the list above). Above it is the name of the book in Japanese, followed by the author's name in Japanese and the translator's name. Below it is the name and address of the publisher.

The publication details themselves are a little different to the basic layout I showed above. Typically, the date comes first, and the symbols for "printing" or "first edition" or "publication", etc., come after. Also, it's pretty sparse; there's usually something to say when the book was printed, usually a couple of weeks or so before it was published. Still, the message is clear enough. The book was published on October 30th, 1997, and this is the first edition/printing.


Again, the information is given in a single line. Here the date is in the Japanese style (Shouwa 25, 6th month, 30th day, i.e., July 30th, 1950), and the symbols for "first edition" and "publication" (numbers 1 and 8 on the list above) follow the date. This is the more usual order.

The publication details show that this is a first printing, but one thing Japanese publishers usually won't tell you is whether the book has been published previously by another publisher. To get that information I had to dig around on the NACSIS website (which you will only be able to do if you have a Japanese system or software enabling you to read and write Japanese), in order to ascertain that, while this was the first edition by this particular translator, the book had first appeared in Japanese in 1939, so this is the second edition of Hesse's work and the first by this translator.


This gives more complete details. The column at the extreme right shows when the book was first printed, and the one next to it shows when it was first published. In this case the two dates are just three days apart (the 14th and 17th of September, Meiji 33 [=1900], respectively).

The two columns on the left show the date of this printing and its publication (December 16th and 19th, 1900), i.e., this is the second printing. The thing to watch for is the symbol

This indicates a reprint. It is not unusual, especially in books of this period, to see a list of as many as twenty or thirty dates, showing the date of each reprint.


The publication statement on this book is interesting because it reflects the customs and technology of a different age. Instead of showing the date of printing, the column on the right shows the date on which the book was licensed to be printed, and the column on the left contains the symbol for woodblock printing.

In other words, although the actual characters used are different, the basic layout is the same. The right-hand column shows us what we want to know, and since there is no number or reprint symbol after the date in the left-hand column we can be fairly confident - even without interpreting the characters used - that it refers to a first printing.

The date of licensing (right-hand column) is Meiji 16, 6th month, 15th day (June 15th, 1883), and the date of printing is Meiji 16, 6th month, 25th day (June 25th, 1883). Note the variant way of showing "20" as a horizontal line with two vertical lines cutting through it.

There are other variant readings for the numbers and other characters, especially in older books. However, my aim is basically to show how to interpret the publication statements that are commonly found. Once you start to go back into the Meiji period and beyond you should either start to make a more specialised study of the subject yourself or, at the least, try and get some guidance from someone who knows what he/she is about (for collectors, that would normally include buying from a reputable specialist).

The next, and last, page of this series shows a few more examples, focusing on reprint editions, so you can see what to watch out for.

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