Here are a few more publications statements, showing some of the variant ways of indicating edition/printing used by Japanese publishers.


This is a piece of anti-German propaganda published during WWI, written and compiled by J.W. Robertson Scott, and illustrated by Raemakers.

It was a listing for this book by a bookseller specialising in Asian books that got me thinking along the lines of creating this web page in the first place. The listing gives the date in square brackets as 1916. The square brackets indicate that the date is not given in the usual place but can be inferred from other sources. Another seller lists the book as being undated.

This is one of those bilingual Japanese books that has the English text starting from the inside of the left-hand cover (where English books usually begin) and the Japanese text starting from the inside of the right-hand cover (as most - but not all - Japanese books do). The two texts meet in the middle. The English text does not give a date of publication, though it has an introduction dated 1916, which explains

why these two sellers listed it as they did.
As is often the case with bilingual books - and, quite often, with books written in English but published  in Japan - the publication details are given in Japanese only. They show that it was first printed and published on December 15th and 18th respectively, in Taishou 5 (=1916). This particular copy has two further dates, one showing that the book went into a second printing on January 5th of the following year, and the final one - the one furthest to the left - indicationg a third printing (January 15th, Taishou 6 [1917]). This is the date which applies to this book.

As I say, even a specialised dealer from the West missed these publication details (though a Japanese seller listing the same book apparently had no difficulty identifying the printing), and that got me thinking that - limited and imperfect though my knowledge of Japanese is - perhaps I could fill a gap by creating a web page like this one.


Let's carry on with more examples of books that are
not first printings. That's probably more useful, in a way, than looking at ones that are. It shows what to look out for!

This is another example of a publication statement in which the details precede the date. Both columns begin with the characters for "new publication", but in the first column this is followed by the "first edtion" statement and in the second column it is followed by a statement saying "second printing".


This novel (Spring Snow) is the first of a series of four novels, so we get the title of the book (top right), followed by the title of the series and an indication that this is the first book in the series.

The actual publication details come on the left-hand side, showing the date of the first printing and (furthest left) showing this copy to be a fourth printing (Shouwa 44, 2nd month, 15th day = February 15th, 1969).


One thing that should be fairly clear by now is that if there are more than two dates given the book is almost certainly a later printing. This Meiji period Commentary on the Acts is a good example. The publication statement contains several characters that I haven't explained here, and (unusually) the dates show the year and month only, and the day is left blank, but the fact that there are three dates is in itself a pretty conclusive sign that the book is a reprint.

Confirmation of this can be found from the fact that, in the right-hand column, there is the number "two" after the date and before the character for "edition". This book was printed in the third month of the twenty first year of the Meiji period (= March 1888), and the first edition was in December, 1886.


There's a bewildering amount of information on this page (and this is just part of it!), and some of the characters are not familiar to us today. But the first thing that our eye should be drawn to is the character that indicates a reprint:

Once we've picked that out other details will fall into place.

Of course, that character is used to indicate repetition in various contexts, not only to indicate reprints, but there's a strong likelihood that this is our starting point. The first thing to do is to confirm that the column in which it appears does indeed contain a date. It has the symbol for "month", and something that looks very similar to the symbol for year, but the clincher would be to decipher the era name, which comes at the beginning of the date. We have only looked at the four latest era names so far, and this book precedes that. CLICK HERE to see a complete list of Japanese era names, and you will see that the date given here is from the Bunkyuu era  (1861-4). We can understand enough to work out that this book is a reprint from the sixth month of the second year of that era.

And that just about wraps it up. As you can see, I've tried to show books that the average collector might come across, rather than highly specialised - and expensive! - items. If you have further queries, I'm prepared to try to answer them, within reasonable limits (I already have a full-time job!).

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