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Broadsheets of Japan: the production of the Osaka bookseller Shioya Kihei



The world of ephemera in early-modern Japan (Laura Moretti)

This is a new research project that I have started after moving to Cambridge in 2012. It has been prompted by the identification of an extensive number of one-sheet prints in a private collection in Cambridge as well as the Cambridge University Library . A large proportion is occupied by broadsides issued by Shioya Kihei in Osaka around 1840-50. Their ephemeral nature makes them similar to the broadsheets that circulated in early-modern Europe.

Substantially unknown to Western and Japanese scholarship because of their intrinsic popular nature, these one-sheet prints constitute invaluable material in order to understand  Japanese culture during the Edo period.

In what format were they sold? Who were the publishers (apart from Shioya Kihei)? Where did they circulate? What are the contents of early-modern Japanese printed ephemera? Do they have any connection with the textual strategies applied in contemporaneous Edo-based gesaku? Why is parody widely adopted in these texts? What comic strategies are applied? What do we learn about Japanese society from these sheets? Why was 'ranking' so important in Japanese culture to the extent that parodies of ranking charts are one of the main features of these materials? Why practical knowledge is still applied as a preferred topic? What is this practical knowledge?

These are the main questions which lead the project. Preliminary results have been successfully presented at the Conference of the Association of Asian Studies (San Diego, 21-24 March 2013) and at the Japan Society London (17 February 2014,





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