A Social History of the Chinese Book: Books and Literati Culture in Late Imperial China

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Hong Kong University Press, 2006 - History - 294 pages
In this learned, yet readable, book, Joseph McDermott introduces the history of the book in China in the late imperial period from 1000 to 1800. He assumes little knowledge of Chinese history or culture and compares the Chinese experience with books with that of other civilizations, particularly the European. Yet he deals with a wide range of issues in the history of the book in China and presents novel analyses of the changes in Chinese woodblock bookmaking over these centuries. He presents a new view of when the printed book replaced the manuscript and what drove that substitution. He explores the distribution and marketing structure of books, and writes fascinatingly on the history of book collecting and about access to private and government book collections. In drawing on a great deal of Chinese, Japanese, and Western research this book provides a broad account of the way Chinese books were printed, distributed, and consumed by literati and scholars, mainly in the lower Yangzi delta, the cultural center of China during these centuries. It introduces interesting personalities, ranging from wily book collectors to an indigent shoe-repairman collector. And, it discusses the obstacles to the formation of a truly national printed culture for both the well-educated and the struggling reader in recent times. This broad and comprehensive account of the development of printed Chinese culture from 1000 to 1800 is written for anyone interested in the history of the book. It also offers important new insights into book culture and its place in society for the student of Chinese history and culture.

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About the author (2006)

Joseph McDermott is presently Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge, and University Lecturer in Chinese at Cambridge University. He has published widely on Chinese social and economic history, most recently on the economy of the Song dynasty for the Cambridge History of China. He has edited State and Court Ritual in China and Art and Power in East Asia.

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